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Defining Proficiency in the Arts


We envision a Rhode Island where all children and youth have access to rich and challenging arts learning opportunities in their homes, schools, and communities, thus enabling them to become creative and critical thinkers, effective communicators, responsible citizens, and knowledgeable adults. This mission of the Rhode Island Arts Learning Network has focused and driven our work across the state. Through our network structure, we support and connect the three worlds in which children learn--home, school, and community.

The need to examine the role of the arts in education reform was originally raised at the Brown University/ Providence Journal Public Policy Conference on the Arts, held in February 1997. State policymakers, including then Governor Lincoln Almond, articulated the need for a more systematic look at how the arts are serving the public in Rhode Island, including the education of our children.

The Governor’s Literacy in the Arts Task Force

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Almond established the Task Force on Literacy in the Arts (Executive Order, March 25, 1999), a joint effort of two state bodies — the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). The Governor specifically charged the Task Force "to examine the relationship between education reform and the arts, and to make policy recommendations on how the arts can have a significant impact on the educational agenda of Rhode Island."

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education, and the Rhode Island Department of Education have worked in partnership on issues of arts and education for over a quarter of a century. This task force presented an opportunity to continue that tradition. Nineteen leaders from the arts, education and business communities were then appointed by Governor Lincoln Almond to serve on this Task Force. The Task Force was chaired by Dr. Warren Simmons, Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

After 18 months of work, a full report was issued in 2001.
[To read the full report, please visit Task Force]

Three goals emerged which are the foundation of the work of the RI Arts Learning Network:

  1. All children and youth will have curricular experiences in school that will allow them to demonstrate proficiency in one or more art forms by graduation.
  2. All children and youth will have ongoing access to community-based arts learning to enrich and extend their knowledge and skills.
  3. All children and youth will have ongoing access to professional arts experiences that are school-linked and community-based.

These goals are in direct response to the findings of the Task Force, that:

  1. Arts learning across home, school, and community is critical to the success of Rhode Island's "All Kids to High Standards" agenda.
  2. There is a lack of equity across the state in physical and programmatic access to arts learning opportunities for children and youth, both in and out of school.
  3. The state lacks a strong, capacity-building infrastructure that would support quality arts learning opportunities for all young people across the state.
  4. In spite of Rhode Island being an arts-rich state, there is no statewide coordination of arts learning for children and youth across the sectors of home, school and community.

As a result of these findings, the RI Arts Learning Network was created, based on existing structures and resources. This infrastructure is ensuring that the goals of the Task Force are met.

The RI Arts Learning Network has successfully advocated for a proficiency-based arts graduation requirement that applies to all students; the state's Basic Education Program to include the arts, and for Arts Grade Span Expectations. These three policy cornerstones are now integrated into the Regents regulations with the force of law. In order to support this change and the state's educators who must implement them, the RI Arts Learning Network (ALN) has continued to grow and to build an infrastructure to support its goals. The Network created proficiency teams in the visual arts, dance, music and theatre. Broadly representative, the teams began in January 2003 to define what proficiency for 'all kids' might look like at graduation. Work on proficiency and Arts Grade Span Expectations continues through statewide professional development and programs such as Arts GSE Teacher Fellows. We also engaged a team of regional reps -people around the state familiar with, and advocates for, arts learning for all kids in and out of school. The reps have documented the arts learning in their regions found in the Arts Map section of this site. (Click here for Arts Map, to find information about arts learning opportunities and resources.) In September 2006, the on-line Arts Passport program began-- providing free access to professional and higher education arts events and exhibits for high schools students to use in meeting the graduation requirement.

- ARTS Map
- Defining Proficiency in the ARTS
- Full task force report (Printable Downloadable File)