Visual and Performing Arts
Throughout time, the arts have served as a distinctive vehicle for self-discovery and a means of understanding the world in which we live. As the state of New Jersey continues to transform public education to meet the needs of a changing world and the 21st century workforce, capitalizing on the unique ability of the arts to develop creativity, critical thinking, and innovation skills is critical to the success of our students. A well-designed sequential arts program promotes responsible decision making, enhances self-awareness, builds self-esteem and self-management skills, and helps students build relationship and collaboration skills; all of which are essential to prepare New Jersey students for postsecondary success.
2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards
for Visual and Performing Arts
Intent and Spirit
The NJSLS-VPA reflect the National Core Arts Standards and emphasize the process-oriented nature of the arts and arts learning by:
- Defining artistic literacy through a set of overarching philosophical foundations and lifelong goals that clarify long-term expectations for arts learning;
- Placing artistic processes and anchor standards at the forefront of the work;
- Identifying creative artistic practices as the bridge for the application of the artistic processes and anchor standards across all learning; and
- Specifying enduring understandings and essential questions that provide conceptual through lines and articulate value and meaning within and across the arts discipline.
The development of artistic literacy is dependent on creating an environment in which students are encouraged to independently and collaboratively imagine, investigate, construct, and reflect.
To empower students to develop creative and critical thinking, social-emotional competencies, and intellectual and expressive abilities that will allow them to become active, contributing members of a global society.
All students will have equitable access to a quality, arts education that leads to artistic literacy and fluency in the artistic practices of the five art disciplines (dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and media arts) as a mechanism for:
- Performing, presenting or producing, as artistically literate individuals, by expressing and realizing creative ideas and implementing essential technical skills and cognitive abilities significant to many aspects of life and work in the 21st century;
- Responding to artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and cognizance of the ability of the arts to address universal themes, including climate change;
- Creating new artistic work reflective of a variety of ethnic, racial, and cultural perspectives; and
- Connecting and evaluating how the arts convey meaning through all arts and non-arts disciplines and contexts of our global society.
The vision of all students having equitable access to a quality arts education is only achieved when the five arts disciplines are offered continuously throughout the K–12 spectrum.
The NJSLS-VPA are comprised of artistic processes, anchor standards, practices, and performance expectations. The artistic processes: creating, performing/presenting/producing, responding, and connecting, are the foundation for developing artistic literacy and fluency in the arts. These processes are the cognitive and physical actions by which arts learning and making are realized across the five arts disciplines.
Eleven anchor standards describe the general knowledge and skills that students are to demonstrate throughout their education in the arts. These anchor standards are parallel across arts disciplines and serve as the tangible educational expression of artistic literacy. As illustrated below, each of the anchor standards is derived from one of the five artistic processes.
- Anchor Standard 1: Conceptualizing and generating ideas.
- Anchor Standard 2: Organizing and developing ideas.
- Anchor Standard 3: Refining and completing products.
- Anchor Standard 4: Developing and refining techniques and models or steps needed to create products.
- Anchor Standard 5: Selecting, analyzing and interpreting work.
- Anchor Standard 6: Conveying meaning through art.
- Anchor Standard 7: Perceiving and analyzing products.
- Anchor Standard 8: Applying criteria to evaluate products.
- Anchor Standard 9: Interpreting intent and meaning.
- Anchor Standard 10: Synthesizing and relating knowledge and personal experiences to create products.
- Anchor Standard 11: Relating artistic ideas and works within societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards- Visual and Performing Arts focus on nurturing artistic literacy through student engagement in the four Artistic Processes. The Artistic Processes are the cognitive and physical actions by which arts learning and making are realized:
- Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work
- Performing / Presenting / Producing:
- Performing (dance, music, theatre): Realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation
- Presenting (visual arts): Interpreting and sharing artistic work
- Producing (media arts): Realizing and presenting artistic ideas and work
- Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning
- Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context
The practices reflect the steps that artists undergo in the process of creating, performing, responding and connecting to works of art (i.e., the artistic processes). To become artistically literate, it is essential that students are provided with the type of learning experiences that will enable them to engage in these practices as part of their art making processes. There are subtle differences in the practices that reflect the nuances of each of the respective arts disciplines.
Are all K-12 students required to participate in a visual and performing arts program that addresses the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards?
Yes. In order to meet the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) for the Visual and Performing Arts standards, all K-12 students must have regular sequential arts instruction in the five arts disciplines included in the standards of the following: dance, music, theater, visual and media arts.
At the K-5 level, students must participate in standards-based instruction in all five arts forms. This means that students should engage in learning about dance, music, theater, and visual art, as well as performing and creating works in each discipline (e.g., instrumental music, performing in plays) with the expectation of achieving basic literacy in the arts.
What are the requirements for middle school students?
In grades 6-8, students should gain greater depth of understanding in at least one of the arts disciplines. Students must continue to have opportunities to create and perform, as determined by student choice, with the expectation that they achieve competency in their chosen discipline. All five arts disciplines must be made available to middle-level students.
What are the requirements for high school students?
In grades 9-12, all students are expected to communicate at a basic level in the arts and demonstrate proficiency in at least one arts discipline. This specialization allows for student choice which means that all five arts disciplines must be made available to students. All high school students must successfully complete five credits in at least one visual and performing arts course in order to receive a state-endorsed diploma.
Should students be assessed in the arts? Should they be graded on their work?
N.J.A.C.6A:8-3.1(a)3 requires district boards of education to assess and publicly report on the progress of all students in developing the knowledge and skills specified by the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, including content areas not currently included in the statewide assessment program. In order to provide the local board of education with this information, the local curriculum should outline how student achievement of the standards will be assessed and how student progress will be reported to students and their parents. The design of the assessment and the grading process is a local decision.
Can an elementary classroom teacher teach the visual and performing arts?
Yes. Elementary classroom teachers must possess either a P-3, K-5 or N-8 license. These certifications permit the holder to teach any of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards subjects (including the five arts disciplines) as long as such instruction does not constitute more than one-half of the teacher's assignment. This means that an elementary classroom teacher can teach any of the arts disciplines to students in his/her class. It also means that a full-time elementary certified teacher can teach dance, music, theater, or visual art for one-half of his/her assignment. It does not mean that an elementary certified teacher can be hired to teach music, art, theater, or dance as a half-time or part-time teacher.
Who is authorized to teach the visual and performing arts in grades 6-12?
N.J.A.C. 6A:9-9.2 establishes the following authorizations and endorsements for the visual and performing arts:
- Art: This endorsement authorizes the holder to teach art in all public schools with the exception of approved vocational programs.
- Dance: This endorsement authorizes the holder to teach dance in all public schools with the exception of approved vocational programs.
- Music: This endorsement authorizes the holder to teach vocal and instrumental music and related theory in all public schools.
- Speech Arts and Dramatics: This endorsement authorizes the holder to teach speech arts and dramatics in all public schools with the exception of approved vocational programs.
- Theater: This endorsement authorizes the holder to teach theater in all public schools with the exception of approved vocational programs.
- Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communications Career Cluster Endorsements: These endorsements authorize the holder to teach only within NJDOE-approved Career and Technical Education programs. Authorization is limited to the teachers’ state-approved occupational experience or degree.
Can a teacher certified in English teach theater courses for arts credits at the middle and high school levels?
No, English teachers cannot teach theater courses for arts credits. English teachers may use the literature of the theater within the context of language arts literacy instruction.
Can a teacher certified in physical education teach dance for arts credit at the middle and high school levels?
While dance may be easily incorporated into the elementary physical education curriculum, the arts standards at the secondary level require a higher level of dance instruction that does not align to the physical education standards. At the secondary level, the dance standards require more sophisticated understanding of dance forms, as well as the ability to teach choreography. Without additional training, physical educators do not have sufficient dance training to help students meet these standards. Secondary teachers of dance must hold the appropriate New Jersey endorsement.
Do I need to be certified in theater to direct school plays?
No, as long as the play is offered as an extracurricular activity and students do not receive arts credit for participation. However, if the play is part of a theater course, then the director must hold the appropriate teaching license.
How many credits in the visual and performing arts does a student need to graduate? What courses count?
Every high school student must successfully complete at least five credits in dance, theater, music or visual art. The department does not approve courses to meet any of the graduation requirements. However, districts should ensure that courses are clearly aligned to the visual and performing arts standards and are taught by an appropriately credentialed teacher.
Can credits be counted towards multiple graduation requirements?
Credits for courses are based on seat time as defined in N.J.A.C. 6A:8. A credit is defined as a course meeting a minimum of 40 minutes per day, five days a week; therefore, a year-long course that meets five days a week is equal to five credits. In a seat-time system, a district cannot award credit for more than one course using the same time.
If a student participates in visual and performing arts activities outside the school, can the child be excused from in-school arts education?
Option Two is available to high school students and permits a local board of education to approve alternative activities (e.g., participation in a dance company, community theater) to achieve the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Administrative code does not provide regulations or guidance on similar options for elementary and middle school students. Local boards of education that wish to pursue this option for elementary and middle school students should consult with their board attorney.
Can dance be used as a substitute for physical education?
No. The dance standards are very specific and require a high level of dance execution. Therefore, they are not easily aligned with the physical education standards. For example, a standards-based physical education program may utilize dance forms as part of instruction, but its focus is on fitness and wellness, while a dance class may address various dance techniques and styles. While there are some common elements, it is unlikely that the curricular objectives will align sufficiently. Courses in dance should be used to achieve arts credits. Activities such as Tae-Bo and aerobics should be used to achieve the physical education standards. Furthermore, in grades 6-12, teachers must be considered content specialists and be certified to teach health and physical education. Similarly, teachers who hold a K-12 physical education license may only teach PE. A certified elementary school teacher in grades kindergarten through five can teach any of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards subjects, including health and physical education or dance, as long as the courses do not exceed half of their teaching load.
Can a creative writing class be used for visual and performing arts credit?
If the course is taught as part of the English/language arts literacy curriculum and is taught by an English teacher, then the course would not be eligible for arts credit. However, if the course is in playwriting and is taught by a theater-certified instructor, then the course can count.
Can courses in photography, graphic arts, costume design, or jewelry-making be used for arts credit?
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) define the visual and performing arts as dance, music, theatre, visual and media arts. Courses such as photography, graphic arts, costume design, or jewelry-making may fulfill the graduation requirement if they are aligned to the cumulative progress indicators articulated in the NJSLS for the Visual & Performing Arts. Teachers must be certified in the specific arts domains for which they are delivering instruction. All three of the above conditions must be met in order for the course to receive arts credit.
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