How to use the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning in the Arts Planning Process

The Challenge: How to introduce the Declaration and Model Resolution as part of the arts planning process so that the ideas and principles of the Declarations can be fully embraced in the Arts Plan.

The Strategy: Bring the resolution into the planning process as a way to guide thinking and support adoption of the plan!

The Story: A number of districts have adopted the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning and/or a Resolution supporting the Declaration based on the model available on CREATE CA’s website.  In our blog post last month, we highlighted The Amador Alliance for Arts Education, a local advocacy coalition working to increase access to arts education, and their local success in adopting the Declaration.

This month, we are looking at the process of where, when and how the Declaration might be used in the arts planning process. Here are some ideas to embed the Declaration into the planning process.

At different points within the arts planning process, the Declaration can be viewed as a set of best practices and aspirational goals.  It is recommended that teams have a thoughtful conversation as to how the Declaration might be applied in the local environment.

  • What are our challenges in terms of equity?
  • How can the Declaration address some of those gaps? 
  • What would it look like in our district?
  • How can we apply it to our own student populations?

At the beginning of the arts planning process…

Some arts planning Coaches have used the concept of a “Word Cloud” to allow their teams to unpack the meaning and values of the Declaration.  This allows the group to take out words or phrases that resonate strongly and see how they might fit within the local context. Word Clouds can be rendered by hand on chart paper – or generated through a Word Cloud generator as shown above.  Seeing the words arranged in a different way unlocks the group’s thinking and can inspire action!

In the middle of the arts planning process…

Teams can also use an adopted resolution as a guiding document within arts planning.  The Morgan Hill Unified School District adopted a Resolution in support of the Declaration back in June, 2017. Ramon Zavala, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Morgan Hill Unified School District, explains "I learned about CREATE CA's Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning at one of its symposiums. I proposed the resolution to Steve Betando, Superintendent of Morgan Hill USD and he immediately prepared the resolution for Board approval. On June 6, 2017 MHUSD Board of Education approved the arts resolution.”

When the Arts planning got underway in January of 2018, the team used the Resolution as a way to look at strengths and challenges in the district’s arts education program, as well as an entry way to new opportunities.  It provided another “lens” to ensure that the Arts Plan would be reflective of the district and the needs of every student. Since adopting the Resolution, Ramon Zavala says, “we have developed an extensive network of support in the arts: CREATE CA, Santa Clara County Office of Education, and California Alliance for Arts Education. We formed a district VAPA Curriculum Committee and have provided VAPA teachers professional development. CAAE is assisting us with developing a Strategic VAPA Plan. I anticipate more arts integration throughout the curriculum, more VAPA participation at the secondary level, and more support from the community."

Another point within the arts planning process is during the Practical Vision workshop.  Teams can check their vision elements against the Declaration and see if anything needs to be added to ensure that every student will be included in the Vision for the arts in that district.

At the end of the arts planning process…

Another strategic point occurs at the end of the planning process.  The Resolution, in support of the Declaration, can be brought to the School Board when the Arts Plan is up for formal adoption.  Bringing in the Resolution at that point is a way to strengthen the Board’s commitment to equity, and access to a high quality arts education for every student, regardless of circumstances. 

Some districts, such as Moreno Valley Unified School District, have brought student voice into the board room, having students announce and own the Declaration one by one, further sealing the commitment of the School Board.

However you choose to explore the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning in your district and community, you are raising awareness and giving voice to those who have not always been heard.  Throughout the State, districts are embracing the spirit of the Declaration, and making a custom Resolution that is truly reflective of their local values. 

Advocacy relies on honoring all voices, and the Declaration can be a powerful tool when brought into the conversations around arts planning.

For more information on the Arts Now Arts Planning Initiative, contact Peggy Burt, Arts Now Program Director peggy at


With thanks to the leadership shown in the photo above (from left)

Heather Nursement, Director of Supplemental Programs, Morgan Hill USD

Jeannine Flores, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator –STEAM, Santa Clara County Office of Education

Steve Betando, Superintendent, Morgan Hill USD

Ramon Zavala, Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services, Morgan Hill USD