Op-edHere’s Why California’s New Arts Standards Will Work

September 2, 2019by Create CA0

In early 2019, the California State Board of Education passed the California Arts Standards for Public Schools, Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve without much fanfare, yet the measures are essential to preparing students for life after high school.

In recent years, creativity went from #10 to #1 in skills ranked by the World Economic Forum as necessary for jobs; in California, creative industries provide 2.6 billion jobs, and as more and more careers become automated, the value of people with the creative skills to innovate, problem solve and think outside the box increases each year.

The new Arts Standards, based on the National Core Arts Standards written in 2014, replace the previous CA Standards adopted in 2001. Not only were the old standards, well, ancient, but they didn’t reflect innovative teaching strategies, diverse art forms, and approaches, as well as the latest technologies and art forms.

The new Arts Standards will work because:
  1. They’re process-based, so students learn by doing: Second-grade students learn about scenic design for theatre by conceptualizing scenery for a specific story with their peers. Research shows a hands-on approach not only makes lessons more engaging for students but also improves academic outcomes, especially for those furthest from educational opportunity. For more about experiential learning, click here.
  2. They align with common core and encourage arts integration. The new CA Arts Standards promote the inclusion of other subjects, a practice documented to have a positive impact on student cognitive skills, engagement, and attitudes about learning, particularly for low-performing students, diverse learners, and students with special needs. Making connections between subjects also helps students to go beyond linear coursework and develop in-demand creative skills for current career paths.
  3. They foster collaboration between arts disciplines as they share the same Anchor Standards. Teachers shouldn’t be isolated because they are the only educator on campus working in a specific art form: a theater teacher can collaborate with a music teacher on ‘Responding’ standards and create interdisciplinary connections while gaining support. Students can apply what they learn to digital media or a dance or music performance. This allows students to see similarities between multiple arts disciplines and multiple subject areas.
  4. They recognize Media Arts as a subject field. Sequential, Prekindergarten to Grade Twelve standards for Media Arts has been adopted in California’s new standards, supporting photography, graphic design, film, animation, technical theater, and more. Digital Media Arts are ever-evolving and now has its own criteria to build from rather than looking to visual arts and theater for anchors. Students of all levels now incorporate technology into their studies, and Media Arts standards apply to all teachers, not just Career Technical Education (CTE) and Arts, Media, and Entertainment (AME) sectors.
  5. Standards are written to reach all learners through Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a research-based framework for improving student learning and outcomes through careful instructional planning focused on the varied needs of all students, including students with disabilities, advanced and gifted learners, and English learners. The needs of all learners are identified and planned for before a lesson even begins. Teachers can easily facilitate this by having students’ choice in the topic of their video documentary in a media arts classroom.
Where can you find the standards?

Visit the CDE VAPA website for pre-publication drafts of the standards.

What’s next?

The CDE will be moderating the  California Arts Framework development process until adoption by the State Board of Education in May 2020. The Framework will guide the HOW to implement the standards, while the standards are the WHAT students will know and be able to do. The Framework will be open for public review October 1 – December 1 2019. Find more information here.

How can I get more information?
  1. Join the listserv by emailing join-vapa-revisions@mlist.cde.ca.gov
  2. Attend a training in your area. Check with your local County Office of Education for offerings.

Jeannine Flores is the Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator at the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s arts education initiative, Artspiration. She has 22 years in education and has taught music in the public schools for 19 years.

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