This guest post comes from Susan McGreevy-Nichols, executive director, and Shannon Dooling-Cain, special projects coordinator, at the National Dance Education Organization.
Dance — when taught by a qualified dance educator and integrated into the K-12 curriculum — keeps students engaged in school, enhances academic learning, instills 21st century skills and improves overall school culture. However, dance is not included as a universal discipline in K-12, in part because there is no national teaching examination that serves as an entry point for certification and subject-matter competency. Without an exam that verifies teachers’ content knowledge and instructional abilities, many states are unable to support a dance credential.
In 2012, the National Dance Education Organization, in partnership with the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education and supported by two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, began developing the Dance Entry Level Teacher Assessment (DELTA). NDEO and SEADAE sought to build national consensus around baseline competencies that ensure entry-level, K-12 public school dance educators enter the field with the content knowledge and skills (aligned with the National Core Arts Standards) necessary for success. The DELTA can serve as a pathway to dance certification, providing one measure of subject-matter competency, requisite knowledge and skills needed by dance educators. Used alongside other assessment methods, such as portfolio reviews and student teaching, the DELTA can help ensure that prospective dance teachers are prepared to enter the studio.
Colleges and universities can also use the DELTA to assess their dance programs. As NDEO Past President Dale Schmid attests, “The vision for DELTA is that it becomes both a gateway to dance licensure and mechanism for ongoing programmatic improvement of preservice education.” For Nikki Flinn, professor of dance at Hope College in Holland, Mich., the DELTA provides a way “to evaluate, redesign and measure competency for the teaching readiness of our dance education students.”
At the time of this writing, several states — including Maine and Delaware — have adopted the DELTA as a required pre-service examination for dance teachers. Policymakers in Arkansas, Michigan, New Jersey and Utah, among other states, are currently discussing the adoption and/or endorsement of the DELTA. The analysis of field test data shows solid evidence to indicate that the DELTA serves as a coherent, valid and reliable instrument for measuring subject-matter competency. As this exam is implemented widely, colleges and universities will be able to better evaluate their teacher preparation programs and encourage more states to implement a dance credential for their K-12 educators — expanding the presence of dance in K-12 education. As a result, more dance educators will be better prepared to enter the field and serve more students, who will reap the many benefits of dance education.