National Arts Education Policy

Making Policy

One of the things that make a difference in our world is our ability to take good ideas and make good policy from them. How hard is that? Very. Good ideas have been eaten by bad policy for years! Making policy is the formal agreement to craft policy, and crafting policy leads to taking the best part of good ideas and changing, cherry-picking, adapting, re-writing and otherwise transforming the original good ideas into public policy! It is much easier to make sausage and that has been deemed difficult by chefs everywhere!

Making Policy in the Arts

On the local level, where school boards make policy, the arts are a useful reminder that including them in any cost/benefit analysis proves very beneficial for school children everywhere: For the cost of one art teacher, most of the school’s children can experience art’s engagement and their creativity. At the district level, working on arts integration policy pushes professional arts teachers into peer-to-peer professional development supports for regular classroom teachers. And at the national level, arts education policy can support whole districts and states to change and improve school reform agendas. When teachers learn arts integration from other teachers, student engagement academic achievement go up (Southworth et al., 2017).

Making Policy from our Arts Research

Our work (Southworth, Gardiner & Westervelt, 2017. Measuring the Effect of the Arts on Academic Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations) with the Rochester Public Schools raised the level of arts engagement for every student, raised test scores by 40% and supported a high poverty school district through a very cost effective arts education school reform policy:

Significant Arts Education Results. This research evaluation shows that Rochester’s RAISE Model succeeded in integrating arts strategies through elaborated residencies that built the capacity of regular teachers and students to increase student achievement in disadvantaged populations. The average effect size in year 3 was 41.4% more students receiving arts integration passed the ELA Test, and 38.0% more students passed the Mathematics Test. This closely replicates the 40% average of the effect of integrating any type of curricula (Hattie, 2009, p. 298). This research found that arts integration helps students gain an academic advantage in a deliberate effort by students to improve performance through the overlap acquisition of skills such as elaboration, rehearsal of meaning, generation, enactment, oral production, effort after meaning, emotional arousal and pictorial representation.

New Arts Education Policy Needed. The current research on integrating the arts into core curriculums has at least three implications for defining policy in arts education and school reform: [1] Disadvantaged students who experience quality arts integration in ELA and Math are likely to perform better intellectually and increase achievement academically and [2] teachers who experience job-embedded arts integration teaching strategies with their own students are more likely to improve their teaching practice, and, [3] Arts integration as a school reform strategy should be employed across the nation’s K-6 schools to boost creativity and student achievement.

A National Action Agenda for the Arts

So this year, the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) is holding their yearly policy forum and it is worth our collective review as the action agenda—from the way forward, to four priority areas—point to very good ideas in arts education policy in the next few years.

AEP’s 2020 Action Agenda

The Way Forward

The arts are an essential part of a complete and competitive education for all students, regardless of where they live or go to school. AEP is committed to ensuring that every young person in America has an opportunity to create, perform, experience and learn about the arts in all their many forms. The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success: A 2020 Action Agenda for Advancing the Arts in Education provides arts and education leaders and other like-minded stakeholders with a blueprint for collective action and systemic change. It establishes an ambitious set of goals and strategies that articulates the role and contribution of the arts in education improvement efforts. This Action Agenda is founded in AEP’s belief that all students need and deserve the chance to reach their fullest learning potential in and through the arts, to leave high school as an artistically literate citizen, and to be comprehensively prepared to succeed in college, career and life. Indeed, the future prosperity and well-being of our nation, in fact, may depend on it.

PRIORITY AREA I Raise Student Achievement and Success

Through the adoption of higher learning standards and the implementation of new accountability systems, states across the country are rethinking what it means for students to be ready for college, career and life. AEP partner organizations are working to ensure the arts are integral in the deliberations and actions pertaining to higher learning expectations for all students, the systems designed for assessing growth toward those expectations, and the structures for ensuring that expectations are met. Arts in Education Goal I Position the arts as essential in the definition and implementation of college, career and citizenship-ready standards and comprehensive assessment and accountability systems. Strategies • Incorporate learning in the arts as a part of a comprehensive definition of college, career and citizenship readiness. • Promote valid and reliable application of the arts in standards-based assessments of college, career and citizenship readiness. • Include student learning in the arts as a component of comprehensive school, district and state accountability systems. Indicators of Progress • State assessment systems expand flexibility for multiple methods of assessment including assessment methods that are arts-based or incorporate the arts. • State and local accountability systems ensure that student achievement in the arts is incorporated in measures of school success.

PRIORITY AREA II Support Effective Educators and School Leaders

As part of the transition to higher learning standards for students, states are also rethinking their systems of preparation, support and evaluation for educators and school leaders. AEP partner organizations are working to ensure that all levels of the educator workforce are ready and able to engage the arts as a core academic subject, as a key instructional resource across all disciplines, and as a strategy for school turnaround. For this Action Agenda the definition of “educator workforce” includes certified arts specialists, teachers of subjects other than the arts, school leaders and community-based arts educators. Arts in Education Goal II Strengthen the role and contribution of the arts in the preparation and support of educators and school leaders. Strategies • Incorporate the arts as an essential component of all educator workforce preparation programs. • Engage the arts as a part of high-quality support and professional learning programs for the entire educator workforce. • Support evaluation, assessment and research to inform a process of and track progress toward continual educator improvement. Indicators of Progress • Educator preparation programs provide standards-based arts teaching methods and assessment tools. • Professional learning programs support the continuous development of all educators and align with evaluation systems that authentically incorporate the arts.

PRIORITY AREA III Transform the Teaching and Learning Environment

States are employing a wide array of innovative approaches to personalize students’ learning experiences and transform the learning environment. AEP partner organizations are working to explore and expand arts-centered and arts-based solutions and strategies for using time, resources and technology in new and innovative ways to ensure the learning environment supports student success for all children and young people. Arts in Education Goal III Leverage innovations in the education environment with arts-based and arts-integrated teaching and learning strategies that meet student needs. Strategies • Leverage research, policy and practice to expand the opportunities for and effectiveness of arts learning in student-centered teaching and learning. • Articulate the role and contribution of the arts for transforming the climate and culture of low-performing schools. • Identify, support and promote the effective use of technologies and media across all teaching and learning environments. • Promote opportunities for high-quality arts-based and arts-integrated expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) that align with goals for college, career and citizenship readiness. Indicators of Progress • Student-centered learning initiatives ensure equal access to arts education for all students. • The arts are engaged as an integral aspect of school improvement efforts. • ELOs engage arts and arts-integrated programming to address state and local goals for college, career and citizenship readiness.

PRIORITY AREA IV Build Leadership Capacity and Knowledge

To carry out the work outlined in the Action Agenda, state, local and national arts and education leaders need easy access to a wide range of timely, useful and accurate information that can support their efforts. AEP partner organizations are working to ensure that all arts and education policy leaders as well as other key stakeholders and decision makers have the knowledge and resources needed to engage the arts as an essential component of a complete and competitive education for all students. Arts in Education Goal IV Equip state, national and local arts and education leaders with the knowledge, skills and capabilities to effectively incorporate the arts as an integral component in education improvement efforts. Strategies • Engage and build relationships with key arts and education stakeholders invested in education improvement. • Identify existing and develop new resources on the role and contribution of arts in education to inform education improvement efforts. • Disseminate and support the effective use of tools and resources to inform education improvement efforts. Indicators of Progress • New resources on arts in education target the identified needs of arts and education stakeholders. • Arts in education strategies and approaches are an integral part of education improvement discussions and initiatives.

About the Arts Education Partnership (AEP)

AEP, a center within Education Commission of the States, was established through an interagency agreement between the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education. For more than 20 years, AEP has served as the nation’s hub for individuals and organizations committed to making high-quality arts education accessible to all U.S. students, improving arts education practice and researching how art influences and strengthens American education. For more information, visit the AEP website at

The 25 AEP Advisory Committee and Other Lead Partner Organizations that Participated in the Development of the 2020 Action Agenda

Americans for the Arts; Arts Education Collaborative; Association of Art Museum Directors; Big Thought; College Board; Council of Chief State School Officers; Dance USA; Education Policy and Leadership Center; Educational Theatre Association; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; League of American Orchestras; Lesley University; Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education; National Art Education Association; National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; National Association for Music Education; National Dance Education Organization; National Endowment for the Arts; National Guild for Community Arts Education; North Carolina A+ Schools; OPERA America; State Education Agencies Directors of Arts Education; U.S. Department of Education; WolfTrap Foundation for the Performing Arts; Young Audiences Arts for Learning. Bolded names indicate organizations whose leaders served as Chairs or Vice-Chairs of the Action Agenda Working Groups. The AEP Staff Jane R. Best, Director; Scott D. Jones, Senior Associate; Kate Wolff, External Affairs Coordinator; Jennifer Glinzak, Policy Researcher; and Nick Eppard, Communications Specialist.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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