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Maryland school systems have recognized the value of arts experiences in schooling for many years. In 1985, a comprehensive state plan for arts education was developed cooperatively by the Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland Alliance for Arts Education, and the Maryland State Arts Council. This plan articulated goals in three areas that continue to provide direction for program development and implementation. These goals are to:
Current initiatives in arts education reflect a concern for providing every student in Maryland an opportunity to learn in and through the arts. These skills and knowledge will reinforce 21st Century learning needs. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a creative think tank composed of top business leaders and educators, states that certain skills are essential for the workplace of the 21st Century. Those skills include creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, global awareness, and media management. All of these skills are reinforced by the arts, thus making the arts an essential element to any curriculum.
In 2008, the Maryland State Board of Education accepted The Voluntary State Curriculum in the Arts. This curriculum defines what students must know and be able to perform within the arts disciplines and across grade levels. Also in 2009, The Maryland State Department of Education is working on a redevelopment of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) for the Fine Arts. COMAR ensures that students meet the content requirement for the Voluntary State Curriculum and ensures that students across the state receive equal access to fine arts instruction.
Maryland school systems believe that partnerships are an essential ingredient in advancing the goal of improved arts instruction. Schools, cultural and community organizations, and artists are all working together to enhance the arts programs in Maryland schools. One key organization in these partnerships is the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS Alliance). Their efforts have led to a Maryland Arts Integration Network, the Maryland Artist Teacher Institute, a Teaching Artist Institute, and many programs to support schools in bringing the arts to the forefront of the curriculum.
On April 22, 2010, Nikki Rittling, a physical education teacher and team leader for the Integration Team at Willards Elementary, a Title I school on the Eastern Shore, testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the topic "ESEA Reauthorization: Meeting the Needs of the Whole Student." Willards has been recognized by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts as a Maryland School for Distinction. Click here to listen to Nikki Rittling's testimony (testimony starts at 43:08 minutes). Click here for a transcript of her remarks.