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Dance Education Standards

Educational standards are learning goals that outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. They identify the knowledge and skills that students should develop as they move through their educational experience.

A black female teacher dressed in all demonstrates a ballet pose, while young students in black leotard and pink tights mirror the pose behind her.

What is the difference between educational standards and a curriculum? 

Standards are not a curriculum, however, they can be used by teachers to help them develop their curriculum. Standards outline the “what” - the  concepts and skills that students will learn, while a curriculum outlines the “how” - the means through which  they will be taught.

What are dance education standards? 

Dance education standards outline the knowledge and skills that dance students should develop during the course of their dance education. They can include concepts and skills related to movement and dance technique, improvisation and creating choreography, observing and analyzing dance, and understanding dance in the context of culture and history.

There are many different dance education standards available. Some have been developed by national or international organizations like NDEO, while others are specific to state education agencies. NDEO created and endorses several sets of dance education standards, including:

These standards are not specific to one dance genre or style. They cover essential knowledge and skills that are applicable for teachers and students of most dance genres and styles and are designed to be used in a wide range of educational settings. 

Why are dance standards important in education?

In PreK-12 schools, dance education standards can help legitimize the field of dance education by creating parity with other academic disciplines. Standards can help community leaders, school administrators, and families of dance students better understand and relate to dance education. 

In the Independent sector, including dance studios, academies, conservatories, and community-based programs, dance education standards can help demonstrate commitment to safe and developmentally appropriate teaching practices. There is no national certification or accreditation in the United States for dance studios or programs in the independent sector. Aligning a studio or program’s curriculum with national dance standards is one way that teachers in this sector can advocate for safe and effective dance education in their communities.

Why should dance educators use standards in their teaching practice?

Dance education standards help ensure that students are learning concepts and skills that are appropriate for their age and development. They keep students progressing in their dance learning by providing goals, or educational outcomes, at each grade or skill level. When dance teachers use standards in their teaching practice, they make sure that students’ learning is sequenced effectively. This means that new learning is based on students’ previous knowledge and skills, without unnecessary repetition. The National Core Arts Standards in Dance, Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts age 5-18, and Standards for Dance in Early Childhood have been designed to ensure that students develop the fundamental skills, kinesthetic understanding, and strength to safely advance in their dance learning. This can help reduce the risk of injury, overuse, burnout, and other potential adverse effects of dance training. These dance education standards help teachers design a curriculum that enables their students to  progress through their education in a way that is safe and appropriate for their physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development

How can dance education standards help me as a dance teacher?

A black woman dressed in a tank top and a colorful wrap skirt has her arms in line with her shoulders and bent at the elbow.

You can use dance education standards to create learning experiences that are safe, appropriate, and effective for your students. Dance education standards help you ensure that your students are meeting learning goals that are right for their age. They allow students progress sequentially through their dance education, building on previous skills as they grow in dance knowledge and skills. You can use dance education standards to design your curriculum, create lesson plans, and develop assessments. When you use dance education standards, you align your teaching to a national vision of dance education that is safe, developmentally appropriate, and healthy for students.

What dance education standards are developed and endorsed by NDEO?

The National Core Arts Standards in Dance (Artistic Process Based) were developed by a working group of NDEO members in conjunction with the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards in 2014, with the goal of helping students achieve dance literacy. They are organized around four artistic processes: Creating, Performing, Responding, and Connecting.  The NCAS in Dance are most commonly used in PreK-12 schools, although they are also used by teachers in the independent sector as well.

The Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts, age 5-8 (Skills Based) were developed by NDEO in 2005, and outline general goals for dance learning, with content and skills appropriate at each level of achievement. These standards are skills-based, offering benchmarks for student achievement in specific movement skills by 4th grade/age 9-10, 8th grade/age 13-14, and 12th grade/age 17-18. The generalized nature of these standards allow individual teachers to design creative curricula based on community values and beliefs. Because they are skills-based, they are ideal for use in the independent sector or in classes that focus primarily on dance technique. They can also be used in conjunction with the NCAS in Dance, providing a comprehensive guide that includes both the artistic processes and skills.

Standards for Dance in Early Childhood provide guidelines for what children should know and be able to do each year from birth through five years of age in dance. The developmental progression of the standards is based on neurological development, motor development, social development, and cognitive development as well as artistic learning. These standards are outlined by age, arranged in a progressive chart, and listed in a rubric for assessment purposes.

Professional Teaching Standards for Dance Arts provides an industry standard for individuals teaching dance. The PTSDA describes the criteria expected of master dance educators. The PTSDA document is organized in two distinct sections: Section I, the Standards, details the eight content and achievement standards expected of an accomplished teacher and Section II, the Portfolio Checklist, provides types of evidence or acceptable documentation a teacher might include in a portfolio analysis to demonstrate successful achievement of the standards.

Opportunity to Learn Standards specify dance industry standards and resources necessary for student learning, practice, and performance of dance. OTLs in Dance provide information about effective and necessary curriculum and scheduling, staffing needs, materials and equipment requirements, safe practices, and facilities. They describe necessities for effective delivery of instruction and identify an environment in which learning dance can occur.


Photo Credits from Top: Ballet Hispanico; Monique Walker.