Standards for the Arts
They Need Clear, Specific Content Too
After receiving the Spring 2008 issue, a handful of readers wrote to American Educator to say that while they agreed that state standards lack content, they were disappointed that the issue did not discuss the arts. Joanna Astor Bergelson from H.C. Crittenden Middle School in Armonk, N.Y., had this to say: "Over my 11 years as an art teacher in New York state, my colleagues and I have often discussed the ridiculous generality of the state standards in art. They are helpful (if one can call it that) only in so far as one can make an argument that pretty much any lesson meets them. I felt great sympathy for the 'second-year teacher'; I too felt overwhelmed and at times paralyzed by the lack of content guidelines provided by the state in my first year or two."
We certainly agree that art and music teachers, as well as their students, deserve strong, rich standards. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any comprehensive reviews of state standards for the arts. So, we turned to the Core Knowledge Foundation for a model of the type of clear, specific, knowledge-building art and music standards that we believe all states should have. Below, we've posted the complete visual arts and music portions of the Core Knowledge Sequence for both kindergarten and grade 5, as well as corresponding samples from the teacher handbooks: "Elements of Art" from the kindergarten handbook and "Listening and Understanding" from the 5th-grade handbook.