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updated: 8/28/2014 12:14 PM

State seeks to revamp arts, social studies standards

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State education officials are seeking to revise standards for arts and social studies to improve students' college and career readiness.

This latest review follows the Illinois State Board of Education's implementation of new learning benchmarks for mathematics, English language arts, physical education and science.

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"It's essential to review our learning standards to ensure they are up to date, rigorous and relevant to what students need to be ready to succeed in college and careers," State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said this week. "We began the process of reviewing our standards with the adoption of new math and English language arts standards in 2010. It's important that we review all subject areas to ensure we have high standards for well-rounded students who can think critically and creatively, collaborate and communicate effectively."

Illinois adopted new learning standards for physical education in 2013 and science earlier this year.

Koch has asked two committees to study the current arts and social studies standards, review standards of other states, and make recommendations for improvements.

Arts Alliance Illinois, a statewide advocate for arts education, will lead the review of the arts education standards. The group will convene a committee, including teachers representing all arts disciplines, administrators and community partners, to review the National Core Arts Standards released in June. The committee will review existing state standards, analyze public input, evaluate research and best practices in arts education, and finally make a recommendation to the state board for adoption and implementation of new statewide arts standards.

"Illinois students need high-quality arts education to reach their fullest potential," said Ra Joy, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Illinois. "The lessons learned in arts education classrooms transcend the subject matter, teaching skills that have a profound impact throughout our lives."

A task force, led by the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, will help develop the new social studies standards. It will comprise teachers representing various grades and disciplines, such as civics, economics, geography, history and sociology.

The task force will review the College, Career, and Civic Framework published last fall by the National Council for the Social Studies. It also will draw from what other states have done.

"This is a promising step in reviving the civic health of our state," said Shawn Healy, chair of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition and the Civic Learning and Engagement Scholar at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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