From dewey to no child left behind: The evolution and devolution of public arts education

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Heather Cole, Angélica Aguilar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This historical narrative tracks the evolution and devolution of visual arts education from Dewey’s progressive era pedagogy and the theory of the arts as experience through the modern accountability movement. Archival material, state curricular documents, and conversations with policymakers show an increasing focus on core subject areas of reading, writing, and mathematics at the expense of arts education. Texas House Bill 3, the third generation of accountability legislation in the Lone Star State, provides a case study of the status of arts education after more than fifteen years of high-stakes testing and accountability. Policy considerations are offered for arts education and its future standing within the public educational curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalArts Education Policy Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The efforts of those who envisioned a role for the federal government as a possible positive influence on local decision making gained momentum in the 1960s (Commission on the Humanities 1964). The United States Office of Education (USOE) supported research and curriculum projects in the visual, literary, and performing arts between 1963 and 1968. These projects generated arts education policy concepts and framed the arts as a subject for curriculum-based instruction (Chapman 2000). The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1963) published a lengthy report stressing the necessity of arts programs for all schoolchildren and focusing on the importance of designing and allocating art spaces in schools in which such programs could be delivered. In 1965, a new federal agency emerged to represent and promulgate the arts’ interests. At times powerful, at other times less so, but always integral to the arts in the modern era, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), especially in its earliest years, became for many the symbolic location for the arts and arts education policymaking in America (Bauerlein 2008; Chapman 2000). Public funding from the newly created NEA and state arts agencies, coupled with continuing financial support from major foundations and individuals accelerated and sustained the growth of arts-producing organizations (Zakaras and Lowell 2008). In arts education, the NEA and the state arts agencies focused on arts-in-school programs rather than established programs led by specialist teachers.


  • Accountability
  • Arts education
  • Curriculum
  • Education policy
  • High-stakes testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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