By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – During the past 20 years with slashed school district budgets, the arts were the first cuts. No Child Left Behind focused on reading and math and there were penalties for not making annual yearly progress. Although that law has not been replaced, there have been waivers; however, changes in curriculum happen mostly at the local level.

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Now, New Jersey is believed to be the first state in the nation to include visual and performing arts among the items it tracks in its annual report cards and these subjects are included in the 2013 school performance reports posted by the state education department. Before graduation, all students must take one class in the arts and almost 200,000 students, about 47%, took one course last year, with music and visual arts being most popular.

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With this important mandate, the arts join academic achievement, college and career readiness and post graduation plans in its reporting.

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Read more in Education Week‘s News in Brief.