State Board of Education adopts new fine arts standards for Iowa schools

DES MOINES – Members of the State Board of Education today adopted new fine arts standards for students in preschool through 12th grade.

The board adopted, based on an Iowa’s team’s recommendation, the National Core Arts Standards, which are used in 22 states and were developed by an alliance of national arts and arts education groups. The standards are optional for Iowa schools.


Fine arts generally include visual arts, music, theater, dance and media arts.

“Iowa students deserve a quality learning experience in all subjects, including fine arts,” said Charles Edwards, president of the State Board of Education. “Standards are a fundamental part of great instruction. The development of statewide standards will strengthen arts education in Iowa.”

Unlike Iowa’s required academic standards – which outline expectations for what students should know and be able to do in English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and 21st-century skills – fine arts standards focus on artistic processes. Those processes include creating, responding, presenting and connecting.

Iowa educators have clamored for fine arts standards, said Ronda Sternhagen, a member of the Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team, which reviewed and recommended the new fine arts standards.

“Well-designed courses and activities in fine arts teach students life skills in addition to the obvious technical skills and appreciation for the arts,” said Sternhagen, a visual arts teacher in Grundy Center and a visual arts consultant at Central Rivers Area Education Agency. “These fine arts standards will serve as a guide for Iowa educators as they develop curriculum, courses and classroom activities locally.”

The adoption team sought public input on the National Core Arts Standards through an online survey as well as public forums. A majority of comments expressed support for the standards, as well as their connections to careers, consistency, and rigor. The Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team recommended minor edits to the standards for clarity in the areas of general music and theater in its final report to the State Board of Education.

The Iowa Department of Education convened the fine arts team earlier this year in response to public support for offering statewide standards that go beyond the mandatory subject areas.

For more information on the Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

For more information on the National Core Arts Standards, visit: