Thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Arts Council, the state will develop its first standards for the visual and performing arts.

Creating standards for the fine arts will help level the playing field for arts education, said Suzanne Wise, executive director of the council.

“We feel that this is the one area of curriculum where there hasn’t been a standard,” she said. “As studies show, having fine arts within the curriculum prepares students for the 21st century. They have to be creative. The arts teach you to be creative.”

The department will use the $46,100 grant to develop standards that will be used to guide schools. The state won’t give assessments based on the standards, as it does with core subjects of math, writing, reading and science.

“It’s just good practice to have standards and a sense of direction in the state,” said Donlynn Rice, administrator of curriculum, instruction and innovation at the Nebraska Department of Education.

The state has had guidelines for arts education, but no standards. Rice said eventually the department also would like to develop standards for world language and coordinated school health education, though budget restraints make that difficult.

The arts standards will include dance, media arts, music, theater and visual arts. The state Education Department hopes to have the standards finished by August 2014.

Wise said the standards would help schools measure what students are learning and will help arts organizations tailor their programs to be useful to schools and teachers.

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That’s particularly important today, when teachers are so focused on the core subjects, she said.

“It just helps make the connection between the arts organizations (and the schools),” Wise said. “It assures on both sides that they’re bringing something to the partnership that will be beneficial to the students.”

-- Margaret Reist

Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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