A Strategy for Education Excellence in Illinois: Improving Arts Education Access, Equity, and Quality

Young boy playing piano


Arts education is crucial to developing the skills our students need to compete and prosper in the 21st century economy. The arts prepare students to become productive members of our globally-competitive workforce by teaching them to be innovative thinkers, creative problem-solvers, effective communicators, and collaborative team-builders. Arts education in schools increases test scores across every subject area, lowers dropout rates, and helps close the achievement gap regardless of socioeconomic status.


To bring about lasting, system-wide change so that every student in Illinois has access to high-quality arts education, Arts Alliance Illinois assembled the Illinois Arts Education Advisory Committee. This advisory committee brought together an impressive array of stakeholders including former Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, former Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Superintendent Chris Koch, P-20 Council Chairman Miguel del Valle, Illinois Arts Council Executive Director Tatiana Gant, and local school officials, advocates, funders, and leaders from education and arts education organizations across Illinois to establish a statewide policy agenda for arts education.


To strengthen arts education access, equity, and quality statewide, the Advisory Committee has identified seven essential goals and policy actions:

1.  Strengthen arts education policy implementation capacity in Illinois

  • Illinois General Assembly empanels a legislative task force to make recommendations on arts education staffing, mandatory minutes, exposure to multiple art forms, and local, state, and federal resources to support enhanced arts education

2.  Establish arts requirements for all secondary and post-secondary institutions

  • Define and implement a high school graduation requirement in the arts
  • Define and implement an arts requirement for admission to public higher education institutions

3.  Include arts education data in relevant education data systems

  • ISBE prepares public report on arts education using data from the Longitudinal Data System
  • Secure research partner to assist with qualitative analysis of arts education in Illinois schools
  • Include arts education in the Illinois 5Essentials Survey

4.  Increase local stakeholder knowledge of access, equity, and quality

  • Reflect arts education status in school improvement plans
  • Include arts education in school, district, and state report cards
  • Explore statewide deployment of the Creative Schools certification

5.  Strengthen teacher recruitment, retention, performance, and professional development

  • Work with ISBE to reduce the burden of documentation for pre-service education students
  • Promote content-specific professional development for arts educators
  • Engage in re-design of teacher evaluation processes

6.  Improve school leadership knowledge of arts education

  • Incorporate demonstrated knowledge of arts education into the principal endorsement
  • Incorporate demonstrated knowledge of arts education into the superintendent endorsement

7.  Update and utilize state-level arts learning standards

  • Adopt the new National Core Arts Standards as Illinois Learning Standards for Fine Arts

Going forward, the Alliance will continue to work with stakeholders and partners to advance the policy recommendations contained within this agenda, driving critical improvements to arts education access, equity, and quality in Illinois.

Meet our Illinois Arts Education Advisory Committee members

Download our draft Arts Education Policy Improvement Agenda


Image credit: Flickr user CarrieMonster