Arts education receives a push from CA policymakers

Arts education receives a push from CA policymakers

(Calif.) The California State Board of Education’s recent adoption of new arts education standards is being hailed by state education officials as an important step forward in improving student outcomes.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond called the step critical–if not long overdue–in enhancing children’s creativity and preparing students to participate in the state’s “creative economy.”

“Creativity and appreciation for the arts is important for all students to have a well-rounded education, exposing them to new ideas and perspectives,” Thurmond said in a statement this week. “Arts education boosts school attendance, academic achievement, and college attendance rates; improves school climate; and promotes higher self-esteem and social-emotional development.”

Indeed, research has long been shown to improve soft skills as well as social-emotional and academic outcomes among children who participate. Students exposed to various art programs tend to demonstrate higher levels of self-confidence, imagination, cooperation, communication skills, memory, empathy and tolerance.

Multiple studies from the U.S. Department of Education show that students with a history of in-depth involvement in the arts also tend to have better academic outcomes even beyond graduation, have higher career aspirations and are more civically engaged. When focusing on at-risk students, achievement levels of those with extensive arts experiences are much closer to that of the general population compared to those with little history of in-class or extracurricular arts experiences.

The last update to California’s arts standards was in 2001, but recent legislative changes pushed policymakers to reexamine arts education in schools throughout the state.

In 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring the California Instructional Quality Commission to recommend revised visual and performing arts standards. A separate bill, meanwhile, mandated the addition of media arts as a fifth discipline.

Media arts include an array of categories, such as photography, digital imaging, video, animation, sound production, web design, graphic design, virtual design, interactive design, multimedia and virtual reality.

The output from those in careers related to media and traditional arts is significant. California’s creative economy generated $407.1 billion in economic output and 1.6 billion jobs, according to a report released last year by the Otis College of Art and Design, which resulted in $141.5 billion in wages earned statewide.

Researchers noted that in the Los Angeles region alone, the creative economy generated $198 billion in economic output with $59.6 billion in wages earned.  

“Proficiency in the technology related to creative work is becoming an important skill for students as they progress into college and career,” Thurmond said.

In addition to adding of media arts, the new standards also include updated teaching approaches to the artistic disciplines of dance, music, theatre and visual arts.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signaled with his first budget proposal released last month that he will continue to support arts education.

The proposal included an ongoing $10 million increased general fund allocation for the California Arts Council–the state agency charged with providing effective and relevant arts programs and services, and fostering accessible arts initiatives. Newsom has proposed allocating more than $26 million for the arts council in Fiscal Year 2019-20.

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