National Coalition for Core Arts Standards updates

National Core Arts Standards live update – Wednesday October 3rd – 3:00 PM

Livestream link will be active on October 3rd at the link above.

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) Issues Media Arts Materials
The Media Arts Team has posted two documents on the site. One is “Media Arts Position Paper” and the other is “Media Arts Frequently Asked Questions.”

Lynn Tuttle, director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education and the president of SEADAE – State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education, gave an update on the National Core Arts Standards work at AEP’s (Arts Education Partnership National Forum September 13-14 in Chattanooga, TN. She emphasized that the writing teams are trying to make the process transparent and drafts of the standards will be out in the spring. The standards will have embedded some curricular design and they are working with Jay McTighe and his wife Daisy who is a visual art teacher to embed some common core assessment examples. There will be a show case of student art available on the web for assessment.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman also spoke at the Arts Education Partnership fall forum.

In his opening address he said the following: “Arts must start behaving like other subjects. Before you break the rules you need to know what they are. There are knowledge and skills you need to know. Standards and assessment don’t stifle creativity if done correctly, they enhance it.”

He also said we set our expectations low and often fail, “We have a saying on Broadway – aim low and miss.”

In a recent article in Education Week I was reminded of a way the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts affect the arts. This is a link to the article, “Common Core Reaches Into Science Classes, Survey Finds”

You can find the section of the common-core on Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects at the link below, by scrolling down to page 59. It includes standards for both reading and writing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post the arts are specifically mentioned as a “technical subject.”
Technical subjects – A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music  (p. 43 of Appendix A of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects)

Other good resources:
Americans for the Arts’ Artsblog has a good post from Lynn Tuttle, “Common Core is Here—Don’t Panic!”<

In the Teaching Theatre Journal Jim Palmarini interviews Jay McTighe regarding Cornerstone Tasks, Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.

ArtsEdSearch Launched!
AEP launched its new research and policy clearinghouse on April 12, 2012. ArtsEdSearch provides user-friendly summaries and overviews of arts education research focused entirely on student and teacher outcomes of arts learning in and out of school.

Arts and the Adoption of Common Core in Montana

On November 4, 2011 the Montana Board of Public Education officially adopted the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math. Due to its unique constitutional requirement, Montana is the only state to incorporate Indian Education for All into the new standards for English Language Arts and Math.

The next week I received an email from a high school teacher who teaches one of the performing arts.

Can you read through this stuff and either call me the villain, or educate me on how this is going to make my job of encouraging the next generation of Artists to be what our culture needs?  If not can the arts council through the NEA make a statement that will help us to see the arts not as a “technical subject” but as a core area of human thought and interaction.

Disturbed to the “Core”

This was triggered by an email from the district administration saying:

Yes, the Fine Arts is in the category of “Technical Subjects” specifically defined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  . . . .  I plan to review at our meeting how basically all subjects who have a specific content vocabulary, like the Fine Arts, are considered “Technical Subjects” within the CCSS requirements.

What I shared with the teacher is the following:

P21 Common Core Toolkit: A Guide to Aligning the Common Core State Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills – see page 35 – arts are listed as a core subject here

You also might take a look at the 21st Century Skills Arts Map

FAQs re Common Core from

Why are the Common Core State Standards for just English-language arts and math?
English-language arts and math were the first subjects chosen for the common core state standards because these two subjects are skills, upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.

Of course, other subject areas are critical to young people’s education and their success in college and careers. However, the NGA Center and CCSSO will not be developing standards in other subjects and are now focusing on implementing the standards in ELA and mathematics.

Technical subjects – A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music  (p. 43 of Appendix A of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects)

So I would say from the above information that “technical subjects” only refer to “technical aspects” of an arts course. This doesn’t mean the arts are technical subjects they are just included in that section of the English language arts or math common core. So perhaps your course or section on (xyz) will need to be aware of the requirements for “technical subjects” but that isn’t the definition of the whole study of (xyz) in high school. It doesn’t have anything to do with other aspects of (your discipline.)

Why the parenthesis and the general reference to the teacher who wrote to me?  
“I can probably get fired for sharing this info, . . . .” Whether this is true or not this arts specialist and surely others feel betrayed and vulnerable. What will they be teaching in their courses – a rigorous study of a centuries-old art form or will they just be a hand maiden to English language arts and math?

As the NORC Report on the Teaching artist Research Project states, “This is certainly a challenging moment for education in America. After three decades of effort to improve schools, three decades in which arts education has substantially declined, there has been too little progress in too few schools, particularly those serving low-income children. Now the recession has imposed harsh new constraints on school budgets. Arts education will continue withering in American schools if policymakers are unwilling to rethink the strategies that have dominated school reform. Or it could become a focus of bold new efforts to develop valuable resources that engage students, deepen learning, and enliven school cultures.” pp17-18

I don’t think the requirement that “technical subjects” address the Common Core Standards is a dire condemnation. I think there are tough times ahead for arts education in K-12 schools and I think we are “creative/innovative problem solvers” who will meet the challenge with style and grace.

Common Core Standards & the Arts

I just finished reading the March issue of Educational Leadership published by ASCD. The March issue deals with “What do students need to learn?” in the context of the Common Core State Standards. The two articles I underlined were by Grant Wiggins and David J. Ferrero.

Grant Wiggins is probably best known for being the co-author, with Jay McTighe, of Understanding By Design. In his article titled “A Diploma Worth Having” he makes the statement: ” There’s only one valid measure of the high school curriculum: How well does it prepare students for their adult lives?”

Here’s an excerpt:

Think about it: We are on the verge of requiring every student in the United States to learn two years of algebra that they will likely never use, but no one is required to learn wellness or parenting.

The current standards movement, for all its good intentions, is perilously narrowing our definition of education, to the great harm of not only students but also entire fields of study: the arts, the technical arts and trades, and the social sciences. Gone are excellent vocational programs—as powerfully described by Matthew Crawford in Shop Class as Soul Craft (Penguin, 2010), arguably the best book on education in the last five years. Threatened are visual arts, theater, music, and dance programs despite their obvious value. Indeed, there are more musicians in this country than mathematicians, but you would never know it from the work of standards committees.

Not Which Standards, but Whose Standards
At a meeting many years ago, I heard Ted Sizer respond to a proponent of national standards, “It’s not which standards, it’s whose standards!” In other words, don’t make this sound so objective. It’s a political determination, made by whoever has a seat at the table.

You should be able to read the whole article at:

David J. Ferrero is a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves on the board of directors for the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative in Washington, D.C.

“The Humanities: Why Such a Hard Sell?” is the title of his article.

The relevance of the humanities rests on a broader understanding of humanism, an orientation toward teaching and learning that goes beyond workforce competency and credentialing to encompass personal and civic dimensions of life. If educators take seriously the ideal of the whole child, we’ll need to work to preserve and perpetuate that humanistic spirit. Just don’t expect a lot of policy support for it.

Ferrero states that the Common Core State Standards “were developed out of a preoccupation with competitiveness and credentials. But a careful reading of the standards for the English language arts suggests that the architects consciously designed them to allow for legitimate diversity of aims and breadth of content.”

One such tool for working out these details is the set of curriculum maps developed by the coincidentally named Common Core, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 that is unrelated to the Common Core State Standards project.

Working in collaboration with teachers and content experts, Common Core the organization uses Common Core standards to create curricular units—six per grade for grades K–12— that tie rich humanities content to the standards. The online resources at include outlines, pacing guides, sample assessments, recommended works and artifacts, and other resources. The site includes a 5th grade unit called Clues to a Culture, which “focuses on clues to Native American nations/ cultures as revealed through pairings of literature and informational text,” . . .

I looked at several of the units on the Common Core site and thought, “Boy would I like to go back to school and be in a classroom that taught this!” The 5th grade “Clues to a Culture” referenced above has stories, poems, a speech, informational texts, art, and music examples from several tribes. The note at the beginning says, “The list of Native American nations below is illustrative—not comprehensive; please choose a local nation to examine in a similar manner.”

I encourage you to check out the curriculum maps on the Common Core site above. To read Ferrero’s whole article go here: