Art Prerequisites? Who Needs ‘Em!


Traditionally, the schedules of high school art classes have been linear. Art One was a prerequisite for Art Two, Art Two for Art Three and so on. Recently, some districts have adopted a new, less linear model. The traditional numbered classes have been replaced with levels based on skill such as Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced. Using this model, students have the option of skipping to higher level classes based on portfolio reviews rather than completing the prerequisites.

The Pros:
The students are placed in appropriate classes for their skill sets. They are tasked with more challenging lessons and they may also feel more comfortable working with students who are at the same level.

The Cons:
Although the students may feel they already know everything from the prerequisite courses, the teacher may believe there are still basic concepts that the students will miss by skipping over a class. These teachers believe that reviewing the basics is never a bad idea.

The concept of skipping prerequisites could be thought about in other ways too. For example, if students are not required to to take a beginner class in order to take the advanced class, can the prerequisite be eliminated entirely? In addition, traditionally Art One has been a prerequisite for specialty classes such as Sculpture, Painting and Computer Art. There are definitely pros and cons for lifting the prerequisite on these classes as well.

So, what do you think? Are pre-requisites necessary to create student success? 

Should students be able to skip classes if they have higher level skills? 

Anyone work at a school that has already done away with prerequisites?  How is it working?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Ian Sands

Ian Sands, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. He is a co-author of The Open Art Room and believes art teachers shouldn’t make art—they should make artists.

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