Learning and participation in music, dance, theater, and the visual arts are vital to the development of our children and our communities. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and professional development, Americans for the Arts strives to provide and secure more resources and support for arts education. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Arts Education Network.

Earlier this week on PBS NewsHour, Condoleezza Rice was interviewed (along with former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein) about a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations that links education reform with national security.

While discussing the topic, the former U.S. Secretary of State and accomplished pianist was also asked about the state of arts education in America.

Here are Rice’s comments:

What do you think about her statements?

Katherine Damkohler

Katherine Damkohler

When visiting a foreign country, you are expected to know at least a few choice phrases, if not speak the language. In addition, you need to know local customs, pastimes, and the economic/social contexts of its citizens.

In much the same way, a school’s arts partner must also be aware of the academic environment they enter, and understand the perspective of the faculty and students. Of course, as arts partners we have something unique and important to contribute to the school (that’s why we’re there, after all), but speaking the language and understanding the challenges of the school make the connections so much richer.

We all talk about the power of the arts to engage students. Engaging students is vitally important, but it cannot be empty engagement—they must be engaged in a way that inspires learning and connections across the curriculum. By speaking the language of the school you help the school’s mission and your organization’s mission simultaneously.

Currently, and in the near future, the dialog within schools focuses upon the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The shifts that are required to implement the CCSS are vital for arts partners to understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller

For the arts lovers who want become arts fighters, many of you are probably saying, “Let’s fight to keep arts in our public schools! Umm…wait…how do we actually do that?”

Indeed, wanting to fight for a cause can be an awesome feeling. However, knowing where to get started can be daunting.

The best way to join the battle to keep arts education in schools is by getting involved with your local school board. Believe it or not, school boards are one of the purist forms of democracy we have in America.

Citizens of a community or district have direct access to school board members. That’s pretty major when you consider the subjects at hand:

1. Our children, our greatest resource  

2. Education, the great equalizer in this country

In general, the responsibilities of a local school board include maintaining the local school system structure; developing curriculum; meeting both state and federal standards for public schools; approving the school district’s budget; establishing educational objectives; being involved in the administration of the school district for accountability purposes; and serving as an open forum for the citizens’ input regarding education, reflecting the values and culture of their community.

Now that you know a little about how local school boards operate, how do you get involved? Read the rest of this entry »

Tricia Tunstall

When was the last time The New York Times ran four major articles, including one front-page feature, on arts education?

I can’t remember the last time that happened…before a few weeks ago, when suddenly El Sistema, the vast children’s orchestra program in Venezuela, was front-page news. The program has been growing steadily for 37 years, but only recently has it become a hot topic here.

Why has El Sistema made its unlikely leap over the media’s tacit barriers to news coverage for arts education?

It’s partly because Gustavo Dudamel, the Sistema’s most famous product, has become a celebrity conductor in Los Angeles, the crucible of celebrity. In fact, the first article in the Times series last month focused on Dudamel and his star status.

But I think it’s also because El Sistema is not a strictly “arts ed” story. At the very heart of this extraordinary program is a convergence of musical and social goals—a conviction that musical excellence and social transformation can be fused in a single mission.

The real news about El Sistema is that it has given new life and hope to hundreds of thousands of Venezuela’s neediest children, by following the precept of its founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, that “if you put a violin in a child’s hands, that child will not pick up a gun.” Read the rest of this entry »

Kristen Engebretsen

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading the various thoughts and stories from leaders across the country during our bi-annual Blog Salon (come back in September for our second one).

During the Salon, we heard examples of how folks are measuring quality, in terms of the effectiveness of their partnerships and their levels of student engagement:

We also heard some calls to action, by authors who wanted to push the field forward:

  • Seth’s ideas for shaking up education.
  • Jane’s call to let go of the notion that “models” from the “pockets of excellence” in the field will emerge and conveniently help us “scale up” and solve all of our problems.
  • Joyce’s simple reminder that creativity is the answer to this search for quality.

Thanks for following our salon on quality, engagement, and partnerships.

After reading all of these posts, have you decided on your own equation for quality in your community? I’d love to hear your final reflections in the comments section.

To view the salon in its entirety, please use this link: http://bit.ly/y9d2JV.

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

109. What great teachers have in common is the ability to transfer emotion

Every great teacher I have ever encountered is great because of her desire to communicate emotion, not (just) facts.

A teacher wrote to me recently, “I teach first grade and while I have my mandated curriculum, I also teach my students how to think and not what to think.

I tell them to question everything they will read and be told throughout the coming years.

I insist they are to find out their own answers. I insist they allow no one to homogenize who they are as individuals (the goal of compulsory education).

I tell them their gifts and talents are given as a means to make a meaningful difference and create paradigm changing shifts in our world, which are so desperately needed.

I dare them to be different and to lead, not follow. I teach them to speak out even when it’s not popular.

I teach them ‘college’ words as they are far more capable than just learning, ‘sat, mat, hat, cat, and rat.’

Why can’t they learn words such as cogent, cognizant, oblivious, or retrograde just because they are five or six? They do indeed use them correctly which tells me they are immensely capable.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Wilt

In part one of our two-part post, Alex Sarian and I asked an important question:

In trying to keep up with for-profit ‘heavy-hitters’ that arguably boast of greater resources than the average nonprofit, from which of the three areas (quality, engagement, and partnerships), if at all, do you find yourself most cutting corners?

In light of a very recent and rather candid op-ed in The New York Times, we chose to spin our question to incorporate the story of Greg Smith, who this week boldly resigned from his position as executive director at Goldman Sachs after making startling connections between the “success” and the “community” of an organization; a connection that, in many ways, affects all of us who are surrounded by a culture in which we are asked to do more with less.

Smith writes:

“…culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.” Read the rest of this entry »

Merryl Goldberg

TELL! (Theater for English Language Learners) is a National Endowment for the Arts funded project in Arts in Education.

The program provides 120 fourth grade students at Maryland Elementary in Vista, CA with theater experiences aimed at increasing language acquisition and reading comprehension.

Here are the demographics for the students of Maryland Elementary: 62 percent are homeless, 72 percent are English language learners, and 96 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I was at the school just this week and am simply awestruck by the enormous potential the kids all have and show via this program. As you can read by the demographics—kids at this school come into learning with a fair amount of challenges. Many at 10-years-old have responsibility for watching over younger siblings. Many of the kids come into the program having not been afforded previous arts experiences.

TELL! begins with a chapter book: Clementine, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I chose this book and series because it is extremely engaging and funny, and most kids can identify with the main character, Clementine, who is always getting into trouble, and believes since she was named after a fruit, her brother should be named after a vegetable and therefore only ever refers to him as celery, radish, spinach, broccoli, etc.

Despite being in the principal’s office nearly every day, and constantly getting into trouble for things like cutting her friend’s hair (but it looks wonderful!) Clementine‘s world is full and filled with supportive adults. Read the rest of this entry »

Michelle Burrows

The school is buzzing. Classrooms are alive with children moving, singing, working together, learning.

In this room, kindergarteners are creating “movement mountains,” their growing understanding of addition facts becoming clearer with every new, non-locomotor “mountain” they create.

In that room, third graders are using iPads to film each other’s first-person perspectives, discussing things such as voice quality and communication.

Down the hall, fifth graders have created “mini Mondrians”, using the work of Piet Mondrian to discuss area and perimeter.

And over there, fourth graders are creating lyrics—chorus and verses—for their “escape” songs, modeling cultural songs of slavery.

Were those kindergarteners trying out their “mountain” dance moves in dance class? Were the fourth graders learning song writing vocabulary in music class? Were the perspective videos taking place in the drama room? Nope.

All of these art-filled lessons were taking place in the regular classroom. Arts integration at its finest.  As we toured several elementary schools in the North Carolina A+ Schools Network, the value and importance of this key piece of arts education was plainly visible.

A+ Schools will tell you that there are three key parts to a true education in the arts: quality, exposure, and integration. Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

17. Reinventing school

If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.

Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:

Homework during the day, lectures at night

Open book, open note, all the time

Access to any course, anywhere in the world

Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction

The end of multiple-choice exams Read the rest of this entry »

Sahar Javedani

As some of you may know, after seven years of working in New York City in arts education, I have recently moved to Philadelphia and am excited to join the creative workforce there!

Just after moving to Philly, I was encouraged by fellow arts ed colleagues to reach out to Varissa McMickens, director of ArtsRising, and she welcomed me with open arms, sharing valuable resources and orienting me on the current arts education scene and its’ wonderfully diverse programs.

On February 28, I had the great pleasure of joining 50 other representatives of Philadelphia arts & culture organizations in “Growing Stronger Together : Center City Student Forum & Conversation.”

This forum was organized by partner organizations: Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, ArtsRising, and PhillyRising.

Here’s a great description of the event from the ArtsRising website:

“Growing Stronger Together, a focus group with approximately 20 local high school students and representatives from the organizations mentioned above, was really about hearing the students’ voices. Read the rest of this entry »

Joyce Bonomini

As a practitioner, I have often taken quality, engagement and partnership for granted: they are a given. How could you live without any of them?

In fact, none of these factors exist without the other. Think about it. Think about how life would be…

I know that I am expanding the definitions in my head. I am not just talking about partnership of organizations here but individuals; such as teacher to student or the partnership a person has with their instrument, writing pen, script, or experiment.

I am talking about life with or without connection of self to others. I am not sure how quality of any level can exist without connection.

WOW, what an “AHA!” moment I just had because that is what we ask hundreds of thousands of students to do every day in the classrooms across this country.

Can we stop asking WHY students are dropping out?

I mean, don’t we know why they are BORED, feel unengaged, and often have no connection to either their instructor or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

Access to arts education is one of the civil rights issues of our time. I’d like to use brain science to explain why.

Our brains operate using two types of behavior: automated and mediated. Automated behavior puts a premium on reliability and efficiency. The brain achieves this by pruning: It streamlines the neural circuitry required to complete a task. Automated behavior can be innate, like breathing, or learned, like recognizing the alphabet.

Automated behavior is almost always unconscious. Throughout our lives, we develop and greatly rely on a host of automated skills. That’s why we don’t like backseat drivers—they force us to think about actions we’d prefer to remain unconscious.

We share the ability for automated mental behavior with all other animals. But as neuroscientist David Eagleman explains in his new book, Incognito, the human brain also has an advanced capacity for mediated behavior.

The goal of mediated behavior is flexibility and innovation. Mediated behavior depends on multiple brain circuits working on the same problem—what Eagleman terms “the team of rivals.” Instead of dedicating a limited neural network to a task, the brain tolerates redundancy and promotes networking. It’s what we mean by “keeping an open mind.”

Mediated behavior can also involve conscious awareness: We overhear and participate in the internal conversation of our thoughts. The vigorousness of our mediated behavior is unique in the animal kingdom. It is what defines us as human beings. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

I’m often confused about the difference between collaboration and partnership.

We seem to use the terms interchangeably when in fact they are different. This Blog Salon is, in part, about partnerships and engagement. But are we all talking about the same thing?

I once had it explained to me that there is a continuum of engagement that includes, in order: affiliations, collaborations, partnerships, and mergers.

Moving from left to right each becomes more involved depending on the risk and resource contribution each party makes. So an affiliation requires the least amounts of risk and resources and a merger requires the most.

In a collaboration, each operates independently and has complete control over the individual resources they bring to the table. In a partnership, however, there is more of a co-mingling of resources and a separate structure is developed to oversee or manage the engagement. Sometimes what starts out as a collaboration becomes a partnership. (For more in-depth information see Collaboration: What Makes it Work by Mattessich, Murray‐Close, & Monsey, 2001.)

I think this distinction is an important one in response to Lynne’s post. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Bransom

Bringing people together to partner on a hot-button issue such as quality is tricky. And that, my friends, is an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?

When navigating these waters it’s important to chart where you’ve been and how you arrived where you are.

Over the past two years Big Thought, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, has digitally documented our community’s quality teaching and learning work at Creating Quality. We hope this site will serve as a place for community dialogue and sharing, both locally and nationally.

All of the material in the Tools and Resource Library (e.g., letters, reports, templates) that were created in Dallas can be downloaded and edited per your needs. This is because we don’t imagine that quality looks the same in any two places.

Ownership of quality is essential. And, ownership only comes when you, as a fully engaged partner, have defined quality in terms that you are prepared to support. Then, and only then, can you assess and make investments to advance quality.

This is how the Dallas arts community embraced and folded-in district and community educators from the other four disciplines: English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Ask For More?
Just like kids need to have good nutrition on a daily basis, kids need to have their daily serving of the arts. Chances are, though, that your kids are not getting enough art—in or out of school. The arts are much more than just fun "extra" activities for kids. Studies have shown the far-reaching benefits of an arts education. Visit The Arts. Ask for More. Public Awareness Campaign Website.

 

Facebook Cause

 

Subscribe to the Arts Education blog

RSS feed

By Email:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Get Involved

 

Questions?
Email artseducation@artsusa.org