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Art: Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts


The arts are a function of being human, as they have been in every culture across time. Arts education in DC Public Schools cultivates students’ ability to create and empowers them to use their voice with courage. DCPS Arts develops the critical problem solving and communication skills of students that are vital in creating today’s complex society. The Framework for Arts Learning is a curriculum that encompasses all arts disciplines, aligning student investigations and experiences from the youngest school age to graduation. Throughout their time in DCPS, students increase their ability to address complex issues and to explore multiple perspectives through the arts. Students of DCPS arts education will be innovative in their approach to contemporary society’s most pressing issues, as they become savvy consumers and producers of culture.

Student Engagement

The DCPS Arts curriculum, the Framework for Arts Learning, sets out a vision for arts education in DCPS. This vision includes creating a forum to discuss arts education across disciplines as a space for exploring and investigating universal human themes. While providing flexibility in execution to account for the range of environments in which students are educated, the Framework for Arts Learning makes clear expectations for the student experience in an arts learning environment, defining the role of the teacher as a facilitator and the student as a creator.

Students’ experiences in DCPS Arts include opportunities for critical thinking and building digital literacy at early ages. Students are offered a variety of arts instruction across all grades. In each grade and across the district, students have the opportunity to create, perform, respond and connect to works in a range of arts disciplines.

While there are no specific guidelines regarding instructional minutes from PreK – 8th grade, DCPS Arts suggests the following:

  • Elementary school: Students should receive a minimum of 45 minutes of music and visual arts instruction each week, and, through partners and local schools, have opportunities to experience museums and performances throughout the city.
  • Middle school: Students should receive a minimum of one semester of instruction in both music and visual art each year.

In High school, students are required to take a minimum of a half credit in both music and visual art in order to graduate. To fulfill that requirement, students are able to choose from the following (based on local school availability):

  • Music – General Music, From Bach to Rap, Concert Band I, Concert Choir I
  • Visual Art – Art, Imaging, Ceramics, Sculpture, Drawing & Painting, Cinematic Arts

Additionally, based on local school availability, students may have the opportunity to take courses in a wide range of arts disciplines.

Student Enrichment

DCPS Arts works to identify partners throughout the city whose vision intersects with our own. We work collaboratively with these arts organizations to develop and execute programming that connects the classroom curriculum with external experiences. Many of these enrichments are a part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that supports foundational student experiences present in all schools across the district. The following are examples of the deep, mutli-year collaborations that create transformative student experiences in DCPS Arts.

  • DC Keys – a collaboration with Washington Performing Arts and launched in 2017, DC Keys is the elementary instructional model that places the keyboard as the central instrument of instruction in DCPS music classrooms.
  • EverydayDC – a collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting, EverydayDC is a digital visual literacy program in middle grades program that provides students with experience as a photojournalist and asks them to take control of their own narrative. The program culminates in a student-curated citywide exhibition.

Student Experience

In addition to the arts programming embedded in the general curriculum, DCPS Arts continues to expand the arts experience in the district. DCPS Arts builds connections between schools and partners to ensure our students have the opportunity to take advantage of being educated in a world-class city. Students are provided with exposure to a wide range of art forms through field trips, residencies and assemblies. Additionally, DCPS Arts manages requests and supports opportunities for students to perform at various events and venues throughout the city. Our students have performed at venues such as the White House, the Anthem and the Kennedy Center.

Fillmore Arts Center: Fillmore Arts Center is an award-winning District of Columbia Public School program providing instruction in dance, music, theater, visual arts, and digital/media arts. In 2017-18, Fillmore will provide an in-depth arts education program to students from Key, Ross and Stoddert Elementary Schools. Fillmore’s curriculum is child-centered and sequentially structured in accordance with the goals of the National and District of Columbia Standards for Arts Education. The core of Fillmore’s philosophy is a belief that all children should receive a skill-based, quality arts education. Many of the Fillmore teachers are professional working artists.

Contact Information

Heather Holaday, Deputy Chief, Arts, Global Education, Health, Physical Education
Nathan Diamond, Director, Arts
Margaret Meenehan, Director, Fillmore Arts
Kristy Esparza, Specialist, Visual and Digital Arts
Ray Mueller, Specialist, Music
Kat Park, Local Program Director, Turnaround Arts: DC