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Regents adopt new standards for K to 12th-grade arts education

Chris Rogutsky Bleecker, principal at the Long Island

Chris Rogutsky Bleecker, principal at the Long Island High School for the Arts in Syosset, in the campus' dance center on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Credit: Steve Pfost

Advocates say the arts are enjoying a comeback in public schools on Long Island and elsewhere — a point underscored Tuesday with the state’s adoption of comprehensive arts standards for preschool through 12th grade.

The state Board of Regents voted unanimously for the new guidelines, which cover dance, music, theater, visual and media arts. The standards will go into effect with the 2018-19 school year.

Roger Tilles of Great Neck, who represents the Island on the policymaking board, described the new ground rules as the foundation of a broader system that includes diploma credits for students focusing on arts courses.

“School districts were cutting back on the arts five years ago, and now on Long Island, it’s coming back,” Tilles said.

The observation is supported by Newsday surveys of local districts that show many in recent years have restored elementary school choruses and other music programs cut after the 2008 recession.

In 2015, the Regents took an initial step toward greater recognition of arts education when they approved the diploma credit.

Under that arrangement, high school students passing college-level Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams in the arts were allowed to substitute such credits for one of two required state Regents exams in social studies.

A state advisory commission co-chaired by Tilles now is reviewing potential ways of expanding diploma credits by including assessments of actual student performances. The group hopes to make recommendations to the Regents in less than a year, Tilles said.

In Nassau and Suffolk counties, students’ access to high-quality arts training often is a matter of whether they live in school districts that offer such services.

One well-known school offering professional training on a regional basis is the Long Island High School for the Arts in Syosset, which is run by Nassau BOCES.

Students, by law, must seek permission from their local districts to attend the arts school, and some districts have been reluctant to pay the attendant tuition costs.

Parent volunteers in recent years have campaigned in an effort to expand the school’s enrollment, now about 125 students, according to BOCES officials.

Chris Rogutsky Bleecker, an educator of nearly 20 years’ experience who became the arts school’s principal in July, said she is heartened by the Regents’ latest action in promoting “21st century” arts education.

“It’s very exciting that this has happened,” she said.

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