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News Release from Arts|Learning: Major Advances for Massachusetts Arts Education!

State education leaders praised for adopting measures to increase arts access and visibility

BOSTON, March 29, 2017-The Arts for All Coalition today praised the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for adopting new guidelines that will prioritize arts education for students across the Commonwealth. The new guidelines were written in response to a new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which emphasizes every student’s access to a well-rounded education, including the arts.

Under the new DESE plan, every school district will report arts education access and participation data on their school and district “report cards.” This will give transparency to parents, students, and communities as to the status of arts education in every community in Massachusetts. State education leaders have also committed to revising the Arts Curriculum Framework, which was last amended in 1999. Curriculum frameworks are the guides districts and schools use to develop local curricula and to determine a quality education in each subject area.

“Business leaders consistently report that new hires are lacking in creativity, innovation, and other 21st-century skills that the arts help to develop, so we’re proud to see Massachusetts leading on this front,” said Arts|Learning Executive Director, Jonathan Rappaport. “These new guidelines will ensure that arts education is something that is necessary for every district and school in the state.”

Passed by Congress in late 2015 with overwhelming bipartisan support, ESSA includes instruction in the arts in the federal definition of a “well-rounded education.” In preparation for implementation of ESSA for the 2017-18 academic year, each state must revise its accountability plan for school districts to reflect this new definition. In addition to test scores, accountability standards must include other indicators of school quality, such as measures of participation in arts instruction.

DESE officials spent 10 months researching district needs for the new guidelines and meeting with key stakeholders. The Arts for All Coalition, which consists of MASSCreative, Arts|Learning, Edvestors, Boston Public Schools, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Young Audiences of Massachusetts, MassINC, and Project LEARN-Lowell, engaged in the process providing research and public input on the importance of arts education in a well-rounded education. One of the state’s educational challenges identified during this process was that six percent of elementary students (over 35,000 students!) and 50 percent of high school students do not have the opportunity to engage in quality arts instruction.

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