Surrounded by student musicians, dancers and members of the choir at Elk Plain School of Choice, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal on Wednesday formally adopted new standards that will govern arts teaching in Washington schools.
The Spanaway school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, part of the Bethel School District, offers an arts-rich curriculum that includes dance, visual arts, theater, music and more.
“Education involves the whole child,” Reykdal said. “The arts are part of that.”
The new standards build on ones that were first adopted in 2011, then updated in 2014. Those standards included four disciplines: dance, music, theater and visual arts.
The version adopted Wednesday adds a fifth discipline to the mix: media arts. That includes arts that have evolved from new digital technology, including computer animation, video game design and video production.
Some schools across the state have been teaching those skills for a while, but until now, they followed guidelines written mostly for visual arts, said Lisa Jaret of the Washington State Arts Commission.
“Now, they have been elevated into their own section,” she added.
Education involves the whole child. The arts are part of that.
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
Those areas are gaining in importance, and the new standards for teaching them “take us to the next level,” said Anne Banks, arts program supervisor in the state superintendent’s office.
Beginning with the class of 2019, Washington high school students will need to earn two credits in the arts to graduate.
Reykdal said the current legislative debate over full funding for basic education is important for arts education. He said that because education has been underfunded by the state for so long, many school districts now pay for arts education primarily with local levy dollars.
He said full education funding will help districts that struggle to raise sufficient local levy funds.
The new standards offer teachers practical suggestions for how students can demonstrate their understanding of the arts, everything from composing a song to creating a product ad campaign.
For each discipline, the standards touch on specific artistic processes, including creating, performing (also called presenting and producing), and responding to artworks.
At Elk Plain, those processes are evident. In the library, in the hallways and throughout the school, student artwork is on display. On Wednesday, students from the choir, orchestra and jazz band were among those who entertained visitors. Students are preparing to perform an adaptation of the musical “Hairspray” in April.
Kids say they were drawn to the school, which serves students from throughout the Bethel District, in part because of how it integrates arts and academics.
Eighth-grader Emmaline Schmidt said Elk Plain is where she discovered a passion for musical theater.
Classmate Marley Ray added: “How many 14-year-olds can say they’ve been in multiple musicals, created murals and can dance like there’s no tomorrow?”