The Standards for K-12 Students in the Arts

The Standards for K-12 Students in the Arts

As of 2000, the arts are considered a core subject. The 1994 standards from the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations set out a consensus for what students should know and be able to do at the end of grades 4, 8 and 12. Covering history/culture, appreciation and basic criticism as well as performance/production, they are designed to produce graduates with a basic acquaintance with all the arts and proficiency in one. (Advanced standards for grades 9-12 set goals for students with arts electives.) In the process, the standards build various literacies, encourage teamwork and give students tools to view problems in new ways and make decisions in a world where issues are seldom clear-cut.



The music standards equip students to interact with music throughout their lives, including the possibilities of performing and composing. A scale of 1-6 is used to indicate difficulty of music.


Standards 1 and 2

The first two achievement standards involve singing and playing. Students begin simple from Kindergarten (K) through grade 4: making patterns, maintaining pitch and tempo, and beginning to follow a director. By grades 9-12 they will make music in multiple parts with correct technique.

Standards 3 and 4

These standards deal with improvisation and composition. K-4 students create variations on familiar tunes and improvise using various sounds. Grades 9-12 move on to harmonizing and composing/arranging. Standard 5 works on reading music, beginning with basic note values/time signatures and reading pitches. By twelfth grade, students are sight-reading and notating music in both clefs.

Standards 6 and 7

These standards address analysis and evaluation. At K-4, students recognize specific instrument sounds, describe different styles, and respond with movement. They begin to think about how to judge a performance and articulate their own musical preferences. By the end of grade 12, they will evaluate music (including their own) and describe its use of elements.

Standards 8 and 9

Music is related to other content areas and to history and culture. K-4 students begin by making connections such as science facts about sound and identifying music roles in our culture. At grade 12 they are comparing and contrasting the use of elements and principles, classifying and making comparisons within and across periods and cultures, and recognizing characteristics of great music. They can follow the development of American genres and know important musicians.



The dance standards build on children’s love of movement. They will learn dance as a language for expressing ideas while building viewing skills.

Standard 1 involves movement. Young children learn to bend, hop and move in various directions, create shapes in space and respect personal space while moving to a beat. By twelfth grade, they will practice balance and alignment and learn extended sequences with complex steps in different styles.

Standard 2 uses movement elements in choreography. Young students create a sequence with beginning, middle and end and work on leading and following. By twelfth grade they will demonstrate elements like call and response, specific dance forms, and will choreograph a duet.

Standards 3 and 4 deal with conveying meaning and with critical and creative thinking. K-4 students understand what makes movement a dance, and present and compare dances. High-school students comprehend how dance communicates ideas and the effect of music, lighting and costumes. They create dances as well as criteria for evaluating them.

Standard 5 addresses periods and cultures. Young children learn dances from various cultures and times, using community resources. By twelfth grade, they study classical and contemporary dance forms and can describe the context of a dance they present.

Standard 6 makes connections to health. Students begin early to set goals for improvement in dance and discuss the impact of healthy living. Older students create warm-ups and discuss injury prevention, as well as lifestyle choices and body image.

Standard 7 connects dance with other content areas. Students respond to dance in another medium, do cross-curricular projects connecting themes and concepts (e.g. pattern), and discuss the impact of technology on the presentation of a dance.



Theatre teaches children about life. The standards build on students’ experience with pretending and with watching television and movies.

Standards 1-4 teach roles, beginning with script writing. Young children improvise and record their dialogue. Older students write with action and conflict and work with actors to improve scripts. Acting moves from changing voice/movement to analysis and consistent characterization. Students practice skills like projection and learn acting methods. Young designers think about visuals and sound and work together with materials, emphasizing safety.

Older students understand physical properties of costumes and makeup, scenery and props, lights and sound. They analyze scenes for production needs and create the necessary elements. By grade 12 they are dealing with business plans and stage management. In directing, students move from planning improvisations to rehearsing scenes to creating interpretations, making production choices and working with a cast. Standard 5 applies research to these functions: K-4 students explain characters, setting and plot, while older students research and apply findings to productions.

Standard 6 explores connections among the arts. Young children compare visual, auditory and kinesthetic elements and incorporate another art into a scene. Older students compare interactions of artist and audience and depiction of people, places and actions. They produce presentations integrating the arts.

Standard 7 addresses meaning, beginning with connecting to characters and discussing likes and dislikes in K-4. In grade 12, students evaluate collaboration, develop criteria for critique, and relate meanings in drama to their personal and societal environment.

Standard 8 looks at media in cultures past and present. Young students discuss how theatre reflects life and why people watch dramas. High-school students examine universal themes and theatre’s reflection of culture, explore the development of American theatre and discuss the skills and traits required to pursue this art form.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Visual art teaches how images can show ideas and feelings and helps develop coordination and perseverance. It begins with children’s observation and experimenting, responding to art and sharing their work.

Standards 1-3 focus on media and technique, purposes and subjects. Young children experiment with different techniques and observe how effects vary, while older students analyze effectiveness and intentionally use certain media to create works with a specific impact. Students study visual structures and functions of various art, and eventually use chosen structures to solve artistic problems and achieve a variety of purposes. K-4 students choose ideas and subjects for their art, and by grade 12 students integrate symbols and themes and recognize how differences among works reflect cultural and historical factors.

Standard 4 expands on art, history and culture. Students begin by linking works to their time and place and move on to comparing art across periods and cultures, exploring the effect of available resources on art and examining the meaning of art for different civilizations.

Standard 5 introduces critique. Young children explore different purposes for and responses to art, as well as the impetus of experiences for its creation. Older students analyze meanings of specific works and compare interpretations, relate meanings to cultural context, and explore the implications of various purposes for creating art.

Standard 6 links art with other content areas. Students begin by making connections and contrasts with other arts and content areas. Later they compare art forms in historical and cultural terms, compare processes across the arts, and explore connections between art periods and the humanities and science.

Experience with all four arts disciplines helps prepare students for a society where arts are used for various ends. Complex problems demand creativity, and multiple cultures bring different ways of looking at the world. Students are empowered to express personal responses to life, arrive at their own artistic values, and make contributions to the world.