Text Resize

-A +A
Bookmark and Share

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 Experience

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. 

  • Elementary school: Students 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 receive a minimum of one semester of instruction in both music and visual art each year. 
  • 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.

Program Highlights

In addition to the arts programming embedded in the general curriculum, DCPS Arts continues to expand the arts experience in the district.

  • Turnaround Arts: DC: In 2015, DCPS was selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to become a Turnaround Arts site. Turnaround Arts is a model that uses the arts as a key lever in turning around struggling schools. Beginning in 2012, Savoy Elementary School participated as a pilot school in the program. In 2015, four new schools begin the three-year program. The participating schools include: Bunker Hill, Moten, Noyes, and Turner Elementary Schools.
  • Digital Media Arts: In 2013, DCPS Arts began the development and integration of media arts curriculum within the broader arts curriculum. In the first year, DCPS provided four schools with media arts labs and seven schools with digital cameras to begin photography programs. In the 2014-15 school year, DCPS Arts developed a digital imaging project-based curricular resource and partnered with the Hirshhorn Museum to provide a professional development series to 20 teachers focused on project-based learning in digital imaging and manipulation. DCPS Arts will continue to support the growth of media integration. In the 2016-17 school year, DCPS Arts created digital media labs in two high schools to support the generative development of digital integration in music and visual arts programs.
  • Partnerships: At both the district and school level, DCPS Arts partners with a broad range of organizations to bring exceptional arts experiences to students both in and out of the classroom.  Partners include: Washington Performing Arts, the Kennedy Center, the Washington Ballet, Young Playwright’s Theater, the Smithsonian institution, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Yamaha.
  • 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