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.

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Last February, when my fellow Arts Education Council members and I agreed on “the trifecta of standards, accountability and assessment” as the topic of AFTA’s September arts education blog salon, I noticed how ominous those words sound. Sitting in the council meeting, I pictured a pitchfork stuck in the ground, with the three prongs of standards, accountability and assessment serving a dark warning to any arts educators who dare get close to it.

I happen to think that standards and assessment systems can be good things, so the fact these thoughts crossed my mind is testament to how much baggage the words carry, particularly in the arts. They are also, for better or worse, here to stay. Recognizing they are tools that can be applied well or applied poorly, how does an arts education community begin incorporating those tools into practice in a meaningful way?

Last year, in Los Angeles County, we decided to try and start a broad conversation about arts assessment. We invited the research firm WestEd, which a few years earlier had conducted a comprehensive study of the state of arts assessment across the United States, to deliver a full-day seminar on assessment strategies, open to as many people as we could comfortably cram in a large meeting room.

We also asked WestEd to deliver smaller, more hands-on workshop sessions focused on rubrics. Why rubrics? We conducted an informal poll of school districts applying to us for matching funds for artist residencies, asking in which areas of assessment they felt they needed the most support. Rubrics were by far and away the most popular answer.

This was the first time that Arts for All had ever offered broad-scale professional development on arts assessment, and the first time in a long while that we had offered professional development to arts organizations and school districts simultaneously. How did we do in helping our constituents sort through all that baggage? Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth Laskowski

Elizabeth Laskowski

I have been teaching instrumental music in the same small inner-city elementary school district for going on six years.  I’ve worked at several schools in the district, some of which have been supportive of the arts, and some have been less than supportive.  Even in the most supportive schools, however, my classes have always been considered not as important as the “real” subjects taught in the homerooms.  Presenting research on links between test scores and participation in instrumental music fell on deaf ears.  I frequently came to work to find that my classroom (on the stage) was being used for something, whether it was an assembly of some sort, school pictures, or a dance, and my objections were always met with a vague response detailing how next time they’d let me know in advance.  Students were often kept from going to my classes because their general education teacher needed more time with them.  This was deemed simply more important because they are tested in those other subjects and not in my class.  At one of my schools, I was even denied paper and pencils because the office manager had to “save it for the teachers.”

Enter our state’s NCLB waiver and the MCESA assessments.  Maricopa County Education Service Agency partnered with WestEd to come up with a series of brand new tests for non-tested subject areas such as Art, Music, Theater, PE and Dance.  So far, they have only created a computer-based standardized type test, so it does not yet encompass practical learning such as actually playing an instrument or singing.  Our students are tested at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year.  The results of the test will detail how effective we are as educators, and it will be wrapped into our evaluation score.

I have had three evaluations in five years of teaching.  Two of those were for my M.Ed. requirements a few years back.  Most years I simply get a filled out evaluation in my mailbox at work, which I am told I need to sign.  Some years I don’t get anything at all.  Administrators simply don’t feel the need to see if the band teacher is creating and implementing effective lessons.  With MCESA’s new evaluation and assessment process, not only will I be evaluated by my principal multiple times, I will be evaluated by a instrumental music instruction specialist from MCESA. Read the rest of this entry »

Magaret Weisbrod Morris

Margaret Weisbrod Morris

Assessment?  Let’s get real. Bringing this word up with colleagues in community arts education is like dropping a tadpole into the lemonade. They start checking status updates on their phone or make an exit to “feed the meter.” If this is you, take 5 minutes to read this. It might help. If not, you are only out the time it takes for Facebook to refresh on your phone.

Assessment undoubtedly brings value to arts education, but in the context of community arts education I can never escape the feeling that I missed an important memo. I read, search the web, talk to colleagues go to workshops & conferences, read the AFTA / AEP / NAEA / NEA news, stay up to date on research, and think. A lot. I am familiar with the plethora of solid tools, good research, and logical standards out there, but they never seem to get to the heart of what is happening here. It is like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Why is that?

It is because there are fundamental differences between out-of-school learning environments and schools.  Learning in any environment covers the same basic quadrants: knowledge acquisition, skill building, practical application, and extended learning. There a few elephants in the room on this topic, but the one I am going to acknowledge is failure. To achieve in school, students cannot fail. To fail means you are not learning. Conversely, out of school, students fail, make mistakes and change course. Here, failure does not hinder your success. To the contrary, it is part of the process, because to fail means you are actively pursuing an idea. Schools and out-of-school learning environments complement each other, but have an opposing focus. They are two sides of the same coin. Read the rest of this entry »

Ayanna Hudson

Ayanna Hudson

The NEA has required applicants to address assessment of student learning in their applications to the NEA’s Art Works Arts Education category for many years. In our guidelines we state: “The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to rigorous assessment of learning in the arts. High quality assessment of knowledge and skills is critical to improving arts learning and instruction.” In particular, we ask how applicant organizations use assessment aligned with state or national arts standards to measure learning.

Throughout the course of reviewing applications over the years, panelists and NEA staff observed that many applicants with wonderful projects serving children and youth were not clearly articulating their assessment methods. There seemed to be some organizations deeply committed to, and already expert at, authentic assessment of learning in the arts, but the majority of applicants spoke about assessment in broad terms, mixing up program evaluation and assessment, or citing assessment methods that did not seem authentic to the arts, for example mixing up the word “test” with assessment. Were people really assessing, say, music performance using a pencil and paper test? And what were organizations doing with the results of their assessment efforts; were they using the data to improve teaching, deepen learning, inform program design? Read the rest of this entry »

O.David Dietz

O.David Dietz

In an ARTSblog post by Erin Gough on July 23, 2013, teachers are encouraged to be champions for the arts in ways that are often not a part of college preparatory curriculum. Erin notes that “too often, teachers believe that as long as their students leave their class with a little bit of technical skills and a lot of inspiration, they’ve done all they can to prove their value.” She then continues to connect the role of student achievement in the arts, in the form of student performances, plays, musicals and visual art presentations, to the role of teachers as advocates for student achievement in the arena of public policy makers.As a retired music educator (one of Erin’s teachers, I’m proud to say!) I would concur that my experience with arts teachers would support the premise that these teachers shy away from the very people and decision-making opportunities that ultimately affect both their art and their ability to be employed. Advocacy for advocacy’s sake is not the realm in which these teachers thrive and provide leadership. However, arts teachers do thrive and provide leadership in a realm that is important to public policy makers at all levels: student achievement.

Current trends in educator effectiveness systems require that evidence of student achievement be attributed to teacher evaluation, often in equal proportion with teacher observation. Arts teachers have long known that student achievement is the primary focus of instruction, and they have provided evidences of that achievement in the ways that Erin describes: student performances, plays, musicals and visual art presentations. However, student achievement must now be examined from the perspective of each individual student that a teacher instructs, and not from the conglomerate success achieved by an art show or a music/theatre/dance performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Nancy Rubino

Nancy Rubino

Amy Charleroy

Amy Charleroy

In a recent survey conducted by the College Board of nearly 1000 K-12 principals and superintendents, more than 75% of respondents said that nationally, arts education should be given a greater priority level than it currently holds in American schools. They also indicated that they believe that the primary benefits of arts education are that they strengthen students’ creative thinking abilitiesbolster cognitive development, contribute to a well-rounded educational experience and enhance students’ emotional well-being. However, when asked what factors could most effectively work in favor of keeping arts programs in schools, school leaders responded the arts curricula need to clearly address state educational standards (in the arts as well as in other subjects), college admission requirements, and the Common Core standards. These two sets of answers at first seem unrelated, or at least as if they reflect completely different sets of priorities, but they are both true: the arts do provide significant and wide-ranging benefits including those cited by the administrators surveyed; recent research credits arts participation with bolstering creative thinking skills, increasing graduation rates, and improving students’ overall engagement with school. On the other hand, arts educators also know that the security and continuity of their programs often relies on their ability to draw connections between the activities of their classrooms and the content and skills emphasized in non-arts subjects. These kinds of connections don’t need to feel forced or artificial: arts experiences do authentically engage students in habits of problem solving, presenting their own original ideas, and analyzing and interpreting the ideas of others – all skills central to the Common Core, and to studies across the curriculum. Read the rest of this entry »

Nelle Stokes

Nelle Stokes

Film historians are still arguing about who invented the motion picture camera in the late 1890s. Depending perhaps on the birthplace of the historian, it was either Thomas Edison in America, or the Lumiere brothers in France. More recently, the digital revolution has resulted in an explosion of online media production by homegrown filmmakers of all ages, across the globe. Every sixty seconds, another 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

It should come as no surprise to the arts education world that Media Arts has been announced as the ‘fifth arts discipline’ that will be part of the new National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). Due to be released in 2014, the standards will cover dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts for grades PK-12.

These new standards are designed ‘to affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum, support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, and help ensure that all students are college and career ready.’ I’ve been honored to be a part of the Media Arts Writing Team—a diverse group of dedicated educators, administrators and practitioners from around the country, working in the fields of video, gaming, design, theatre, media, film, animation, and digital imagery. Read the rest of this entry »

Kristy Callaway

Kristy Callaway

Jim Palmarini

Jim Palmarini

Since the Neolithic Revolution, apprenticeships were the career pathway towards master artist status. In addition, one had to have a patron to provide access to the resources of their craft. Twelve thousand years later, we have codified the artistic learning experience into a matrix of what students should know and be able to do, through specific benchmarks known as standards.

The first National Standards for Arts Education were issued in 1994. A coalition of national arts and education organizations will issue a twenty-first century update of the standards in early 2014.

Kristy Callaway (Executive Director of the Arts Schools Network and member of arts education council at Americans for the Arts) interviews Jim Palmarini (Director of Educational Policy at Educational Theatre Association and member of the leadership team of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards) about the process of updating the national arts education standards.

Kristy: Please set this up for me. What is the back-story of the writing teams? How were they selected and assembled?

Jim: We have five writing teams working to rewrite the national standards in the content areas of dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. In October, 2011, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) leadership issued an online application process. We had more than 360 applicants, most of who were highly qualified and experienced in one or more arts discipline. What we were seeking in each team was a balance of individuals who had expertise in teaching, standards and curriculum writing, assessment, and, of course, practical knowledge in their area of expertise. The leadership of NCCAS selected the team members. The College Board managed the selection of the media arts team. Read the rest of this entry »

State Standards Spree!RSS Feed

Posted by Lynn Tuttle On September - 9 - 201311 COMMENTS
Lynn Tuttle

Lynn Tuttle

Read along and test your knowledge of standards, state policy and state level arts education as I take you through some of the oft-heard questions regarding state arts education standards.

  1. What are standards, and why do we have them? Part of the Educational Reform movement of the 1990’s, standards are descriptions of what students should know (knowledge) and be able to do (skills) in a particular content area. The first set of national standards was developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989; the arts standards were the second set of national standards, published in 1994.
  2. So – we have national standards? But your title talks about state standards…I’m confused… National standards are voluntary standards with no accountability or “teeth” in the educational system until they are either adopted or adapted at the state level. They are guidance, whether the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, or the soon to be released updated National Core Arts Standards.
  3. OK. What states have arts standards now?  48 states officially have arts education standards for K-12 at this moment in time. One state, Nebraska, is in the process of writing arts education standards as we speak. Can you guess which state doesn’t have state level standards?[i]
  4. How do states get or create arts standards?  The answer is… it depends. In my state, the State Board of Education, a board appointed by the Governor and including our directly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, approves or adopts standards for our state. In other states, the legislature most vote to adopt standards. Regardless of the state, your SEADAE representative –the person who handles arts education for your state department of education – is the worker bee (or bureaucrat!) who shepherds arts standards through the appropriate process. Read the rest of this entry »

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the newsletter for the National Art Education Association, and has been reprinted with permission.

Dennis Inhulsen

Dennis Inhulsen

Nearly one thousand art educators from all parts have reviewed and provided feedback to our Next Generation Visual Arts Standards. I am pleased to report that reviewers have supported our work as “agree” or “highly agree” with 85% to 92% approval in all categories.  As chair of the team of art educators writing the standards, I am proud and amazed by their perseverance and professionalism demonstrated throughout the process. While still a work in progress, we are on a positive path to support art education for all students and the teachers that serve them.

 

What are Standards?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative define standards as:

Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.

Source: http://www.corestandards.org

Further, educational standards, are developmentally appropriate, assess with reliable measures, and pay close attention to the gaps of demonstrated learning for all students. Standards in education can be traced to the early 1980’s when a “Nation at Risk” was published prompting legislation by congress through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Standards for Arts Education were first published in 1994 after the standards movement in education was well underway. Since the birth of the standards arts teachers have been increasingly held accountable to them. Our new standards reflect new practices in art education aligned to new challenges teachers face such as demonstrating growth in art for teacher effectiveness ratings and to help teachers with qualities that matter most transferring learning into adulthood. NAEA in partnership with the National Coalition of Core Arts Standards in the local autonomy of teachers and is striving to write standards that can be adapted to a wide variety of teaching and learning conditions. The standards further make the case for more learning in and through the arts.

Through feedback review it was noted that there is a fine line between standards and instruction & curriculum. Indeed, standards in the new Common Core for English Language Arts & Math oftentimes have a tone suggesting “how” to teach not “what” to teach. Like our standards, they are a hybrid of sorts providing enough detail for teachers to assimilate for unit planning. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

When I pulled out of my driveway on Tuesday last week, I saw one of the most indelible signs of fall: the yellow school bus stopped on the corner picking up a gaggle of children for their first day of the school year.

Most parents, if not all, sent their children off with backpacks filled with a bevy of school supplies their child’s school suggested they need to have a successful start to the year—notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, etc. But how many of those schools suggested parents arm their children for the school year with another essential set of learning tools: musical instruments, paints, brushes and dancing shoes? Sadly, not as many as we would like.

Education policies almost universally recognize the value of arts. According to the Arts Education Partnership website, 48  states have arts education standards, 44 have instructional mandates for arts in elementary schools and 32 states list the arts as a core academic subject in their education code. Nevertheless, the availability of arts education in our nation’s schools has been on the decline for more than 30 years. Frankly, that’s unacceptable. And it’s a threat to America’s future prosperity.

We need our schools to prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century—both for the students’ sake and for the sake of our economy and our society. These demands cannot be met without comprehensive arts education in our nation’s schools. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

If you take a minute to reach out and feel the pulse of the arts education landscape around the country, I’m willing to bet you’ll hear the phrase “Community Engagement” a lot more than you’d expect: cultural institutions in every state provide education programs that engage the community through the arts; schools across the nation fight for arts programs that engage their students both in and out of the school day – and don’t expect to receive any money from the philanthropic sector unless “community engagement” is at the center of your argument.  And it should be.  In the arts (and even more in the world of arts education) we are in the business of engaging audiences (and students), so we need to constantly be in-tune with what makes them tick.

But do we often stop to talk about demographics?  No.  So let’s…

One of the highlights of my year (so far) was listening to Manuel Pastor discuss the demographic shift in communities around the US and how they will inherently affect those of us who claim to work to serve community needs.  In my opinion, some of the most important facts to come out of his research are:

-          In the last decade, the number of Latinos in the US has grown by 43%, whereas the number of African Americans has grown by 12%, and the number of Non-Hispanic Whites by 1%.

-          Statistics show that in 2010, the number of Non-Hispanic Whites dying was greater than the number being born.

-          Studies indicate that the “net migration” from Mexico is “0” – almost at a standstill.  Which indicates that the growth of the Latino community is a result, in large part, of family planning: the average Mexican family is 3-5 times larger than the average American family.

Pastor’s findings indicate that the largest demographic shift in the US today is affecting the youth population: there are currently 4.3 million less Non-Hispanic White people under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago; and there are 4.7 million more Latinos under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago.  By the year 2020, the majority of people under the age of 18 will be people of color.

So what are we doing as a field to engage the ‘new’ American community? Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Phillips

Lisa Phillips

There are many things I don’t know about life and how the world works, but there are two things I know for certain. The first is that young people are less prepared for the working world than they were 20 years ago. The second is that there is something we can do about it!

Don’t get me wrong, young people today are energetic, caring about the environment and passionate about social justice. However, when it comes to the skills they need to conquer the competitive nature of the working world, there is some work to be done. Success skills such as effective communication, accountability, finding solutions to challenges, and adaptability are just some of the areas that the current generation is lacking.

So where can they learn them?

In those “nice to have, but not need to have” programs that our school boards seem to be cutting like they were last year’s fashions…THE ARTS!

If parents, educators and policy makers would just LOOK and see what I see, they would recognize an untapped opportunity to catapult 21st century students toward achieving their goals in life. I would like to offer 6 reasons why the arts offer excellent opportunities to develop these vital success skills.

1.     The Arts Don’t Focus on Right & Wrong

The simple fact is, if we learn mainly in an environment in which we pump out answers that are either right or wrong, with no middle ground or room for creativity, we will begin to see the whole world as black and white. We will expect every problem to have a right answer. Participation in the arts opens up our mind to the possibility that the world is full of color and there is more than one way to achieve a goal. When the pressure of needing to find the right answer is removed, it becomes easier to take a risk and try – and trying is the only way to succeed. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.

Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.

These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.

Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.

As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Happiness Is The ArtsRSS Feed

Posted by Stephanie Milling On August - 14 - 20133 COMMENTS
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

The last couple of weeks, two interesting news stories that shared conflicting perspectives of the arts were reported on the NBC Nightly News. The first report told the story of a failing school in Boston that was turned around when the principal chose to eliminate the funding that customarily subsidized the security force and invest it in the arts. This move that some considered controversial at Orchard Gardens , a school in Roxbury, MA, resulted in one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The other anecdotal evidence that students, teachers, and the principal shared during the report reinforced evidence that arts advocates have always had statistics to support: students who study the arts in school perform better in the classroom and demonstrate more prosocial behavior. As an arts advocate, this feel good story tugged at my heart strings. I was satisfied that this principal’s quest to prove the value of the arts in education proved fruitful. As a former teacher in schools like Orchard Gardens, I was delighted to see a failing school turned around.

The second report featured the retailer, The Children’s Place, and the demands to stop selling a girls t-shirt after complaints that it portrayed a sexist stereotype. The shirt said “my best subjects,” and featured checkboxes next to shopping, music, dance, and math. The boxes next to shopping, music, and dance contained checks while the box next to math was empty. While the controversy surrounding the shirt was motivated by individuals who viewed the shirt as sexist—and I am not denying that it was sexist–I was also bothered by the fact that it trivialized dance and music as core subject areas. By selling such a product, The Children’s Place and the t-shirt designer communicated that young women are intellectually inferior to their male peers and that studying the arts is equivalent to shopping.

While the first news report portrayed the type of story that supports the work arts advocates do in this country, the second illustrates the need for continued dialogue with those who fail to understand the value of the arts in education—even if the faux pas was unintentional. While there are many ways to approach the dialogue of why students benefit from studying the arts with statistics and research to support this perspective, lately I have been thinking of a more straightforward point of entry into the conversation that might resonate with multiple audiences: engagement in the arts can lead to happiness. While approaching a conversation about the value of the arts in education with the idea that it makes us happy might sound facetious, I think it might help develop some common ground between those advocating on behalf of the arts and those who need to be more receptive to the idea that engagement in the arts leads to success in other academic subjects and life. 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.

 

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