NJ Arts Standards Adoption Process Begins

The New Jersey State Board of Education (NJSBOE) initiated the adoption process for the revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts. The revised arts standards were presented to the State Board of Education today at their monthly meeting. This begins the final chapter of what has been a more than five-year process to update the visual and performing arts standards. Department of Education staff further outlined the timeline and process for the adoption of all standards.

The new arts standards were warmly received by all. Several members of the NJSBOE commented on the quality of the draft Arts Standards and mentioned the importance of arts education for all students. Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet took this occasion to trumpet New Jersey’s role as the first state to document universal access to arts education for all students. NJSBOE member Ron Butcher invoked the name the late Don Gephardt (former member of the Arts Ed NJ Steering Committee) when commenting on the importance of this work and shared his concern that there needs to be more focus on how district are actually implementing programs to meet the standards. NJSBOE President Kathy Goldenberg mentioned how the arts can be used to connect with STEM subjects and encouraged the state to focus on STEAM.  

What happens next?

Here is the key dates in the formal adoption process.

  • Feb 1, 2020 – Registration Opens for Public Hearings
  • Feb. 10, 2020 – Arts Standards Published for Public Comment
  • Feb. 24, 2020 – Public Hearing, Warren County Technical School
  • Mar. 4, 2020 – Public Hearing, NJDOE Building
  • Mar. 10, 2020 – Public Hearing, Camden County College
  • Apr. 10, 2020 – End of Public Comment – Feedback Incorporated
  • May 6, 2020 – Revised Standards Presented to NJSBOE
  • June 3, 2020 – NJSBOE Formal Adoption of New Arts Standards
  • Sept., 2020 through June 2022 – District Curricular Revisions
  • September 2022 – All Districts Complete Curricular Alignment to New Standards

Public Comment Closes on March 30, 2020 

Arts Ed NJ will provide additional updates and action steps for the field so everyone may have the opportunity to review and comment on the standards, register and attend public hearings and other ways to engage in the process. In addition, Arts Ed NJ, in collaboration with the professional arts education associations, will develop a series of presentations and training sessions to aid in the adoption of the standards.

Lastly, the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Arts Taskforce convened by Arts Ed NJ and SEL4NJ will be completing their work on aligning the new Arts Standards and the SEL Competencies and will be released as a companion product to assist arts educators and administrators with the intentional inclusion of SEL within the arts education practices.

The entire arts education community owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Dale Schmid (NJDOE) and the members of the Arts Standards Revision Team. The team members are: Latasha Casterlow-Lalla, Deborah Cella, Lisa Conklin, Laura Craig, Cindy Domino, Mary Collen Foley, Ellen Hargrove, Ron Heller, Kenneth Hess, Kacie King, Jennifer Khoury, Julianna Krawiecki, Jason Leshowitz, Pamela Massimini, Christina Marte, Kelli McGovern, Danielle Miller, Bob Morrison, Amanda Nagy, Daniel Paolucci, Meagan Ruland, Michelle Sayh, Jeff Santoro, Kerri Sullivan, Andrew Teheran, Lisa Vartanian, and Adam Warshafsky. 

Watch this space for further updates.

Robert Morrison's Testimony

Good evening,

My name is Robert Morrison, and I am the director of Arts Ed NJ. I am here to speak in favor of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts (NJSLS-VPA) with some modifications. Arts Ed NJ has engaged with the revision process of the NJSLS-VPA since 2014. The revision process started with the release of the National Core Arts Standards in 2014 – the first revision to the arts standards since the original standards released in 1994.


The process here in New Jersey began with a crosswalk between the National Core Arts Standards and what was then the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts to determine how our future standards may be developed – and to identify alterations that would be required based on NJ structures our approach to learning standards.


Some items of note in the new arts standards I would like to highlight today:


  1.   Structure: The structure of the newly proposed New Jersey Student Learning Standards largely parallel the NCAS standards – with alterations to meet New Jersey’s circumstances.  One point of departure is that the proposed arts standards adhere to grade band clusters rather than grade-specific expectations in the national arts standards. Given the number of districts in the state and their autonomy for creating a curriculum that is responsive to the needs of their students, the Review & Revision committee felt this was appropriate and consistent with the other content standards in New Jersey.

Another departure from national arts standards is that the New Jersey dance standards have greater specificity when it comes to the acquisition of dance technique. This seems appropriate given the fact there is a higher saturation of dance programs in the NJ schools than nearly anywhere else in the country.


  1.   The addition of Media Arts: We in the arts community celebrate the fact that with the inclusion of Media Arts standards, we are more likely to mirror/pair student interest and in-school opportunities for learning. It is a given fact that many students already engage in media arts production outside of the school day. We believe the introduction of Media Arts standards to be timely, relevant, and essential for our students. It’s our position that any additional means of attracting students to, and engaging with, the arts is a good thing. Meeting students “where they are” when it comes to the use of media in artistic creation brings us squarely into the 21st Century.

We also envision Media Arts as a means of connecting CTE and the arts standards, recognizing that many appropriately knowledgeable faculty members teach Media Arts through their specific disciplinary lens. This is appropriate so long as the instructional approach is from an aesthetic foundation and maps to the Media Arts Standards. This might include dance, music, theatre, and visual arts teacher and CTE certified teachers, who provide Media Arts instruction within approved programs of study in the Arts career cluster, that hold a Media Arts related CTE credential.


  1. Elementary and Middle Schools & Ensemble Standards Modification: The area of modification we are requesting is in the Elementary and Middle Schools & Ensemble Standards. The current standards formatting creates the perception that there are no elementary and middle school ensemble standards. This perception is not what is intended and is creating great concern across the music education community. The model proposed in the new NJSLS-VPA for music is based on proficiency levels (these include novice, intermediate, proficient, accomplished, and advanced). These proficiency levels are designed to be appropriate for the elementary and middle school (A novice is a novice, regardless of whether they start a course of study in 4th grade or 11th grade). The flexibility that is offered through proficiency-based standards promises to expand rather than limit opportunities for students to participate in music ensembles. This flexibility will only occur if these proficiency levels are clearly outlined (novice and intermediate) and presented as standards for elementary and middle school level music programs.

The approval of these new Visual and Performing Arts standards will empower our arts educators to focus on further developing the quality and diversity of artist course offerings for the students of our state.



In closing, I want to publicly recognize and thank the Visual and Performing Arts Standards Review and Revision Team lead by Dr. Dale Schmid from the NJ Department of Education. I also want to publicly thank the New Jersey State Board of Education for their long-standing and steadfast support for arts education for all students. It is because of your support that New Jersey became the first state in the nation to provide universal access to arts instruction in all of our schools.


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