September 3, 2020
#WeAllDeserveArts: An Arts Education Policy Perspective
The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. AEP is part of Education Commission of the States (ECS) and has been supported since 1995 by the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Department of Education. ECS is a non-partisan education policy organization, and AEP’s home within ECS means we monitor and report out on policy activity related to arts education.
As COVID-19 continues to move across the country and new hot spots emerge, states and school districts are individually making decisions about how they are going to serve students they are charged with educating. AEP updates its policy tracking website, ArtScan, every year as a reference for education officials and others.
Through ArtScan, AEP tracks thirteen different state policies related to arts education, from instructional requirements to requirements for teacher licensure. The 2020 update found all 50 states plus the District of Columbia had academic standards in the arts. On the other end of the spectrum, 14 states had requirements for assessment in the arts. As the 2020 school year continues to unfold, information from ArtScan may serve as a reminder to include the arts in state and district reopening plans.
In education reopening plans, states are outlining considerations for school districts as they reopen their schools. Some states are releasing arts-specific guidance, either in separate documents or integrated into existing plans, to attend to the unique nature of arts classrooms. For example, the Arizona Department of Education published AZ Arts and Physical Education Re-Entry Guidelines, and the South Carolina Department of Education included the arts in both a section on well-rounded education and an appendix – Guidelines for Classroom Safety and Student/Teacher Health in the Arts – in its AccelerateED Task Force Guidance and Recommendations. AEP will be releasing an updated information request analyzing and reporting out on state reopening plans soon. You can find that information request on AEP’s website.
As we continue to talk about children’s access to arts education during times of uncertainty, it’s important to reference existing policies, adapt them to a new context and learn from states and districts that are prioritizing arts learning. Arts education results in valuable student outcomes that are important in navigating an unpredictable world, including increased empathy, emotional regulation and sense of community. Strong policy is one step to ensuring equitable access to arts education for children across the country.