From the Music Educators National Conference:
The Value and Quality
of Arts Education
A Statement of Principles
We, the undersigned representatives of professional education associations, share a deep concern about the nature, role, importance, and future of arts education in the schools where our members teach, administer, supervise, and make and implement education policy.
We are unanimous in our agreement that all Americans who share our concern about the quality of education in general, and of arts education in particular (dance, visual arts, music, theatre), should understand the value of arts education for every child, and we encourage those who will work with us to enhance and support arts education in our nation’s schools. To that end, we invite all Americans, both within the professional education community and outside it, to join us in support of the following principles.
First, every student in the nation should have an education in the arts.
This means that all PreK-12 students must have a comprehensive, balanced, sequential, in-school program of instruction in the arts, taught by qualified teachers, designed to provide students of all ages with skills and knowledge in the arts in accordance with high national, state, and local standards.
Second, to ensure a basic education in the arts for all students, the arts should be recognized as serious, core academic subjects.
The arts should not be treated as extracurricular activities, but as integral core disciplines. In practice, this means that effective arts education requires sequential curricula, regular time-on-task, qualified teachers, and a fair share of educational resources. Similarly, arts instruction should be carried out with the same academic rigor and high expectations as instruction in other core subjects.
Third, as education policy makers make decisions, they should incorporate the multiple lessons of recent research concerning the value and impact of arts education.
The arts have a unique ability to communicate the ideas and emotions of the human spirit. Connecting us to our history, our traditions, and our heritage, the arts have a beauty and power unique in our culture. At the same time, a growing body of research indicates that education in the arts provides significant cognitive benefits and bolsters academic achievement, beginning at an early age and continuing through school. (See appendix for supporting examples.)
Fourth, qualified arts teachers and sequential curriculum must be recognized as the basis and core for substantive arts education for all students.
Teachers who are qualified as arts educators by virtue of academic study and artistic practice provide the very best arts education possible. In-school arts programs are designed to reach and teach all students, not merely the interested, the talented, or those with a particular socioeconomic background. These teachers and curricula should be supported by local school budgets and tax dollars, nurtured by higher education, and derive direct professional development benefits from outstanding teachers and trainers in the organizations we represent. Several national education associations identify the arts as essential learning in which students must demonstrate achievement. (Breaking Ranks, NASSP, 1996, Principal magazin e, NAESP, March, 1998.)
Fifth, arts education programs should be grounded in rigorous instruction, provide meaningful assessment of academic progress and performance, and take their place within a structure of direct accountability to school officials, parents, and the community.
In-school programs that are fully integrated into state and local curricula afford the best potential for achieving these ends.
Sixth, community resources that provide exposure to the arts, enrichment, and entertainment through the arts all offer valuable support and enhancement to an in-school arts education.
As a matter of policy or practice, however, these kinds of activities cannot substitute for a comprehensive, balanced, sequential arts education taught by qualified teachers, as shaped by clear standards and focused by the content of the arts disciplines.
Seventh, and finally, we offer our unified support to those programs, policies, and practitioners that reflect these principles.
On behalf of the students we teach, the schools we administer and work in, and the communities we serve, we ask all Americans who care deeply about making the whole spectrum of cultural and cognitive development available to their children to join us in protecting and advancing opportunities for all children to receive an education in the arts.