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Visual and Performing Arts Guidance

Information for implementing and improving visual and performing arts programs including policies, professional learning, and funding opportunities.

Visual and Performing Arts Information

The California Department of Education (CDE) provides leadership, technical assistance, and support for state and local educational agencies (LEA), professional organizations, and collaborating partners to implement high-quality visual and performing arts education programs, pre-kindergarten through grade twelve.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has partnered with a broad-based statewide coalition of agencies and organizational partners on an education reform movement, CREATE (Core Reforms Engaging Arts to Educate) CA, that views arts education as an essential part of the solution to the problems facing California schools.
The California Department of Education (CDE) is joined in CREATE CA by the California Arts Council (CAC), the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE), the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), and many other groups statewide. It was inspired and launched through our state’s participation in the National Endowment for the Arts' Education Leaders Institute (ELI), which awarded California (through the CAC) one of five grants nationwide to attend an ELI convening in Chicago in May 2011.

These efforts are guided by the California Challenge identified by the ELI team: Ensure each student reaches his or her full potential by broadening California’s educational vision, policy, and practices to promote innovation, economic development, and creativity.

To learn more about CREATE CA's External link opens in new window or tab. current arts education activities, and view the newly released – A Blueprint for Creative Schools, please visit the CREATE CA web site.

The CDE staff provides assistance to school districts and county offices of education in the planning and implementation of comprehensive programs in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts based upon the Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards (pre-kindergarten through grade twelve) and the Visual and Performing Arts Framework (kindergarten through grade twelve).

The CDE staff provides information on arts education developments. They are supported in their efforts to disseminate pertinent information by California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) External link opens in new window or tab. and the California County Superintendents Arts Initiative External link opens in new window or tab., and The California Arts Project (TCAP) External link opens in new window or tab..

Legislation and Policies for Arts Education

There are a number of statutory provisions, policies, and guidelines regarding the teaching of the visual and performing arts. Districts need to be aware of these to continue and build strong arts education programs. These statutory provisions cover such topics as inclusion of the four disciplines of dance, drama and theatre, music, and visual arts in the curriculum; use of hazardous materials; areas of study; and adoption of standards.

Arts Education Legislation

  • Education Code Section 51210 External link opens in new window or tab. (Grades one through six)
  • Education Code Section 51220 External link opens in new window or tab. (Grades seventh through twelve)

Content Standards, Framework, and Instructional Materials

  • Content Standards
    The Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards (PDF) describe what every pre-kindergarten grade twelve student should know and be able to do in the visual and performing arts. The content standards address the four art disciplines of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. The standards are approached through five strands: artistic perception; creative expression; historical and cultural context; aesthetic valuing; and connections, relationships and applications developed for each grade level pre-kindergarten through eight, as well as proficient and advanced levels in high school.

  • Framework
    The Visual and Performing Arts Framework (PDF) is a guide to the development of curriculum and instruction for teachers to ensure that all students meet or exceed the content standards in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. The frameworks provides guidance in implementing and evaluating an arts education program in a school or school district. Additionally, the framework provides information on the role and forms of assessment in arts education, details on teacher preparation and professional development for each arts discipline, and criteria for the evaluation of instructional materials kindergarten through grade eight.

  • Instructional Materials
    Visual and Performing Arts instructional materials can be found at the Instructional Materials web page that list programs adopted before the suspension of this process, report on the process by the State Board of Education, K-8 Standards Maps, and art and craft material that should not be purchased.

  • Note: Assembly Bill X4 2 (Chapter 2, Statutes of 2009-10 Fourth Extraordinary Session) signed on July 28, 2009, suspended the process and procedures for adopting instructional materials, including framework revisions, until the 2013-14 school year. Senate Bill 70 (Chapter 7 of the Statutes of 2011) extended that suspension until the 2015-16 school year.

  • Career Technical Education (CTE), Arts, Media, and Entertainment (AME) industry sector, CTE Model Curriculum Standards External link opens in new window or tab.
    Of all the career industries, the Arts, Media, and Entertainment sector requires perhaps the greatest cross-disciplinary interaction because the work in this sector has a propensity to be largely project-based, requiring both independent work and interdependent management skills for career success. Helpful tools in this section include a matrix located at the end which shows connections to content area standards and Common Core State Standards.

  • National Core Arts Standards (NCAS)
    The pre K-12 standards, which were developed by a variety of national arts-focused groups and educators and went through several periods of public review External link opens in new window or tab., emphasize four artistic processes in each arts discipline: creating, performing, responding, and connecting. The standards are housed on a NCAS External link opens in new window or tab. web site that is designed to let teachers create their own customized handbooks based on the grade-levels and subject they teach. For each arts discipline, there is a "standards at a glance" page.

Professional Learning

Successful implementation of the arts content standards, curriculum development, and instruction depend on teacher preparation and on long-term professional learning. As described in the Visual and Performing Arts Framework, ongoing professional learning should be planned for all teachers who teach the arts, classroom teachers, and arts specialists and should take place locally and regularly. Effective professional learning is long-term and focused on increasing teachers' knowledge of and practice in the arts and their ability to teach the arts. All professional learning programs in the arts emphasize the effective implementation of the state content standards, the guidelines presented in the framework, and training on the use of state-adopted K-8 visual and performing arts instructional materials. The California Arts Project (TCAP), the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) along with the four California arts professional educator associations, are excellent professional development resources. Newly developed online professional learning modules for the Common Core State Standards addressing the visual and performing arts, Content Literacy for Technical Subjects External link opens in new window or tab. can be found on the Digital Chalkboard.

  • The California Arts Project
    The California Arts Project (TCAP) External link opens in new window or tab. one of California's Subject Matter Projects, provides high quality professional development for arts educators at the pre-kindergarten through post-secondary levels. Participation in TCAP fosters the development of knowledgeable arts educators who take responsibility for the development and implementation of standards-based comprehensive and sequential programs in all the arts and at every educational level. Their programs and activities are designed to deepen teachers' knowledge of the dance, music, theater, and visual arts and to enhance teachers' instructional strategies in the teaching of those disciplines.

  • California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)
    The CCSESA Arts Initiative, sponsored by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is taking a leadership role in providing support, technical assistance, and services for teachers, administrators, and parents. The CCSESA Initiative is designed to build capacity and provide continued support to schools and districts by offering a full complement of services utilizing the statewide county office of education infrastructure. Under the grant, county superintendents work with the business community and the arts community to begin a systemic state (research, resources, support) and local (data gathering, education, courses of study, and professional development) approach to bringing the arts into the classroom at every grade level. Visit the Creativity at the Core External link opens in new window or tab. web site for new professional learning modules developed by the Regional Arts Leads and arts organization partners.  There are 15 new modules connecting arts learning to the Common Core State Standards.

  • California Common Core State Standards Professional Learning Module for the Visual and Performing Arts on the Digital Chalkboard
    Professional Learning Module: Content Literacy for the Technical Subjects External link opens in new window or tab.
    This module is designed to introduce educators to the intent and instructional implications of the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/ Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy) and how the standards impact instruction and learning in the technical subjects. Information and activities within the module support educators in integrating literacy instruction into technical subject content to support the learning of all students. The Visual and Performing Arts are considered to be “technical subjects.”

Advocacy, Funding, Grants and Awards

The CDE no longer provides grant funding specifically for the arts.  However, the CDE initiative, CREATE CA External link opens in new window or tab., works as a partner to network schools, arts organizations and funders, providers, and other supporters.  

  • California Distinguished Schools Programs, Exemplary Arts Schools
    The program honors some of most exemplary and inspiring public schools. Schools selected for the Distinguished School Award demonstrate significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap. The award will recognize middle and high schools in 2019 and elementary schools in 2020. Additionally, schools may submit an application for Exemplary Arts Education with the Distinguished Schools application.

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Questions: Diane Crum | | 916-319-0270 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 20, 2019