STEAM Leadership: 5 Things You Need to Know About the New National Core Arts Standards

5 Min Read  •  Leadership

As the new National Core Arts Standards were released in June 2014, individual states, organizations, and school districts are in the process of learning more about the new standards. All in an effort to determine what content skill gaps exist between their current state standards, and the new standards.  The arts always played a critical part in molding every culture around the world and our everyday lives.  Life would simply be meaningless without the arts. This current shift in a new set of standards makes it clear the arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for every child. Along with, creativity and innovation being key to our future. 

As school and district leaders begin to build awareness around this initiative below are five things you might find helpful to know about the new National Core Arts Standards. 

1. What are the National Core Arts Standards? 

The new standards are a framework for the critical knowledge and skills, processes and procedures that identify what we want all of our students to know and be able to do.  This serves as the foundation for improving teaching and learning with and through the arts as well as foster lifelong arts learning.  The new standards have been developed for the content areas of Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Theatre, and Media Arts.  In this case, Media Arts is often being confused with Library Media Services.

However, Media Arts is a unique art form and should be integrated as a complete arts eduction among all art forms as well as across content areas.  At the center of the new standards is an emphasis on improving teaching and learning through a deep understanding in the arts, evidence of student learning, and out-come based. Also, the new standards have an important emphasis on the social, emotional and cognitive development needs of students allowing them to make sense of their own world through connecting art to self, art to other art, and art around the world.

2. Are the National Core Arts Standards Mandatory or Voluntary? 

The new standards are voluntary to implement.  Many states are in the process of doing a formal review of their current standards in relation to the new ones. to determine next steps to voluntarily adopt, adapt, or drop the new national core arts standards.  This “shift” is ment to build awareness and initiate dialogue around the importance of artistic literacy in the 21st century among teachers, leaders, and community members

3. How are the National Core Arts Standards Organized?

One of the first things you will notice about the organization of the new standards are the four artistic processes.  For the most part each content area has the same three artistic processes (Creating, Responding, and Connecting).  Music, Dance, and Theatre include the artistic process of (Performing), while Visual Arts includes (Presenting), and Media Arts includes (Producing).

Below each of the four artistic processes are the anchor standards, similar in structure to the Common Core English Language Arts, then enduring understandings, essential questions, process components, and performance standards for each grade level from Prek-grade 8. Grades 9-12 are organized by proficiency level (proficient accomplished, and advanced).  Below is a brief definition for each organizational component.

National Core Arts Standards Organizational Structure 

  • Artistic Processes-the cognitive and physical actions by which arts learning and making are realized between the art and the learner.
  • Anchor Standards-describes the knowledge and skills that arts teachers expect students to demonstrate as students progress in their arts education.
  • Enduring Understandings-statements summarizing important “big idea” concepts that help students and arts teachers to organize information, skills, and experiences.
  • Essential Questions-broad complex questions that cause deeper levels of inquiry and allow students to conceptually connect and transfer their knowledge and understanding.
  • Process Components-actions artists carry as they complete each artistic process.
  • Performance Standards-translates the anchor standards into clear measurable learning goals by grade level in Prek-8 and by proficiency level in high school (proficient, accomplished, and advanced).

4. What are the implications for my school, district, or state?

The framework for the National Core Arts Standards should be used to build awareness and frame discussions and on-going dialogue among teachers, leaders, curriculum designers, and community organizations.  The impact on whether states decide to adopt entirely, adapt and modify with current state standards, or drop will have significant implications for curricula, instruction, assessment, classroom resources, and professional development for teachers and leaders.

5. What next steps should I take?

Get involved in a rich conversation about the new standards!  Seek out others such as classroom teachers, principals, curriculum specialists, and community members to begin a “deep dive” into better understanding the standards collaboratively.  This is a great way to seek clarity, provide feedback, insights, and recommendations to determine the potential future impact on state and local curricular frameworks. 

As you begin to analysis the gaps between your current standards and the new ones I would recommendation group reflection on the following essential questions to guide your discussion. 

  • Which of the (Visual Art, Media Art, Music, Theater, and Dance) artistic processes, critical content, and skills required in the National Core Arts Standards ARE included in the current state arts standards?

  • Which of the (Visual Art, Media Art, Music, Theater, and Dance) artistic processes, critical content, and skills required in the National Core Arts Standards are NOT included in the current state arts standards?

  • How similar or different are the National Core Arts Standards grade-level performance standards to the current state indicators?

  • What connections do you notice among the (Visual Art, Media Art, Music, Theater, and Dance) National Core Arts Standards and how might those connections be integrated across content domains with the Common Core? 

  • What gaps current exist between the National Core Arts Standards and the state arts standards and what recommendations need to be made in order to determine next steps?