Art Works Blog

Taking Note: The National Arts Education Standards

First pointe shoes by flickr user .Dianna.

The College Board, in partnership with the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS), recently released two research reports designed to support the revision of the National Arts Education Standards. Building upon the 1994 National Standards, which were the result of a collaboration of professional associations representing dance, music, theater, and visual arts teachers, the next generation of arts education standards will describe what students should know and be able to do as a result of a quality curricular arts education program. According to the NCCAS wiki, the new standards will “support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, help ensure that all students are college and career ready, and affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum.”

Twenty-first century skills are frequently discussed these days in educational circles as essential for preparing today’s students for success in the global economy. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is one of the leading organizations advocating the need to address this set of learning and life skills---which include critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation---in the nation’s schools. The Partnership recognized the role of arts education in teaching 21st-century skills when it released the 21st Century Skills Map for the Arts last year. The Map demonstrates how 21st-century skills can be taught through an arts curriculum.

The College Board’s new report on the Arts Education Standards and 21st Century Skills offers an analysis of the alignment between the 1994 National Standards and the skills, lesson examples, and outcomes included in the Partnership’s Map for the Arts. In its analysis, the College Board found that the 21st-century skills most aligned with the current National Standards are communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. Collaboration and technology literacy were two examples of 21st-century skills that were least aligned with the National Standards. The analysis was not intended to be judgmental---the fact that the 17-year-old National Standards were not aligned with technology literacy skills is not surprising considering the Internet was just beginning to gain public popularity at the time of the Standards’ publication. However, understanding how the National Standards are aligned with 21st-century skills does point to areas for improvement in the next edition of the standards.

Similarly, the College Board’s report on The International Arts Education Standards: A Survey of the Arts Education Standards and Practices of Fifteen Countries and Regions also highlights areas of potential focus in the next generation arts education standards. This report describes arts education standards and practices and identifies trends and commonalities in a diverse set of educationally advanced countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Finland, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela. The arts standards of these countries were identified for NCCAS as exemplar resources for its revision of the National Standards.

The work undertaken by NCCAS and the College Board is foundational for the next generation of National Arts Education Standards, which are scheduled for release in December 2012. For more information about the standards revision process, visit the NCCAS wiki at


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