Why were the National Arts Standards updated?

Are they part of Common Core?

How do I implement them into my program?

In the second part of my interview with Dr. David Gaines, President of NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association), we covered these questions about the update to the National Arts Standards and more. (You can catch the first part of my interview with Dr. Gaines here.)

David Gaines headshot

The New National Arts Standards, as explained by Dr. David Gaines.

The New National Arts Standards

The driving force behind the update to the Arts Standards was a coalition of music, art, theatre, dance, visual media teachers called the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). This group worked for 2 years to develop and create the new standards, that were released June 4, 2014. It has been 20 years since NafMe (then MENC) developed national standards, and it was time to acknowledge the use of technology as well as different approaches to teaching.

The interesting thing is that for New York State teachers,  the new national Arts Standards are closely aligned with the 4 state standards that were developed in 1996. Dr. Gaines states that there is a lot of overlap between the two, the main difference is in the presentation. These new standards are “evergreen”, meaning that they can be updated and adjusted much easier.

The standards are really now considered artistic processes, and consist of the following areas: Creating, Producing/Presenting/Performing, Responding and Connecting. Within each of these, there are 11 anchor standards (similar, but not affiliated with Common Core) that run across all disciplines and all grades. These are like the guiding principles for what we are teaching. Within the 11 anchor standards are the real nitty-gritty specifics, where educators can see grade-specific, form-specific (i.e. specific ensembles) that identify with them.

Dr. Gaines suggests sitting down, taking one's time and just reading through the new Arts Standards. Educators will start to notice that they are essentially teaching these artistic processes already, and do not need to panic. He also suggests finding other teachers/administrators who are familiar with the standards and setting up time to discuss and understand them better. If there's no access to teachers who are well versed, filter down to the areas that you teach and start from there.  For example, if you teach Elementary Band, locate the ensembles section and search for the grades you teach.

The new Arts Standards also give music educators the opportunity to speak with their non-music administrators in language they can understand that relates to Common Core. We all are experiencing some form of cuts or lack of recognition of music and arts programs due to the erroneous belief that music is not a core subject. Starting to get familiar with some of the Common Core language, like “enduring understandings”, and using that with your administrators can help support your music programs.


The new standards (or arts processes) are more inclusive of current teaching practices as well as technological advances since the mid 1990's when the first set of standards were devised. Besides music, all arts disciplines are included in this one document that can be easily updated and tweaked to fit your program. Commonalities in language with Common Core can help you advocate for your music program in your school with your school administrators.

Action Steps:

  1. Listen to my interview with Dr. Gaines here on the BAM Radio Network.
  2. Start to look at the new National Arts Standards here, and let me know in the Comments below if the updates are the same or different for how you teach music.
  3. Have you joined NafMe yet? This national organization helps support music teachers and programs across the country through advocacy and offering a variety of services and programs. Click here to join today.