Once More, From the Top

Posted by Laura Reeder On September - 16 - 20101 COMMENT

Laura Reeder

I have been reading and re-reading So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools by Chicago-based education reformer Charles Payne. In this book, he describes with kindness and clarity the cycle of good intentions that come into schools through professional development, curriculum design, and school improvement measures. Arts education advocates cannot possibly read this book without seeing our own efforts as part of what he describes as the “predictable failures of implementation” (p.153).

The heartfelt desire that we all have to improve education through the arts may shift when we pay closer attention to the struggles of literacy education, science education, technology education, etc. These topic groups have also formed advocacy and grassroots measures and campaigns to change the way we do school. Perhaps we should remember the words of Maxine Greene (2001) who said, “We are interested in education here, not in schooling.”

Are we advocating for school reform with our arts education campaigns or for education change? Read the rest of this entry »

Sarah Collins

In my previous post, I cited the dog-eared pages of my composition notebooks as the source of inspiration for my list of essential readings for 2010.

Each comp book is a creative space to pose tough questions and big dreams for my development as an arts education action agent.

And so I just came across a page from a late night brainstorm in February: ideas for the blog I never got around to writing. The ideas were actually just titles for prospective posts such as “The Art of Multivariate Regression Analysis,” “The Rebel Teacher as an American Folk Hero,” and my personal favorite “Jane Remer is Trying to Break My Heart.” While I don’t quite remember what Jane Remer had done to cause such heartache, the post-that-never-was provides a convenient (if not humorous) transition to my first entry in the second installment of my essential arts education reading list for 2010. 

From Lessons Learned to Local Action: Building Your Own Policies for Effective Arts Education, by Jane Remer. In the January 2010 issue of Arts Education Policy Review, Jane Remer unwraps over 40 years of experience to take a fresh look at the possible futures for arts education policy. While acknowledging the increasing federal and state role in our education system, Remer’s focus is on invention and implementation that are spurred by grassroots leadership. Based on lessons learned about effective arts education programs, we find an intellectual framework and action agenda for developing local policy at the classroom, school, or district level. While the article generated a number of questions for me, my reflections aren’t half as provocative as the questions Remer poses to her audience. Definitely an essential read. Read the rest of this entry »

Rachel Evans

When the pre-service theater teachers I advise do their final semester of student teaching, Kean University’s College of Education requires them to be observed leading one lesson that uses technology.  In the past, I have been known to say something like, “You don’t need to use real technology to fulfill this requirement. I’ll accept the stuff of theater as our technology.  That’s more important.”  I found myself encouraging the use of technical theater tools and theater design materials as acceptable substitutes for what the requirement was intended to encourage.

My philosophy, however, has forever shifted.  After participating in a self-designed summer of technology-based professional development, I’ve come to see how very wrong I was for justifying my own bias and shortcomings.  I see that this requirement is not only one of the most relevant student teaching mandates, but that blending technology and pedagogy should be guiding instructional design for more than one out of 75 days in the pre-service teacher’s classroom.

In my mind, the fact that my students were teaching theater was a legitimate “out”—that somehow the arts were exempt, immune to the craze of incorporating technology into lesson plans.  I realize how short sighted my justification was. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

As I began writing this blog post, which is serving as both the regular weekly “Arts Canvas” piece for Arts Watch and as one of 29 blog entries that will make up our Arts in Education Week Blog Salon on ARTSBlog, I have my office door closed and my portable iPod speaker is quietly playing the music of an independent singer/songwriter who happens to be from my hometown in Southern New Jersey. It’s one of those days when I need help focusing and Matt Duke’s music is helping.

And that got me thinking about the influence that music has had on my life over the past 30 years. It just so happens that I just moved out of my twenties over the past weekend and I’m in a reflective mood.

If you don’t mind the indulgence, I’d like to leave the serious arts education policy discussions up to the very capable (and excellent) other arts education bloggers for the week and explore those thoughts.

Now… back to my original point.

All I have to do is hear the first few notes or words of a song on my iPod, on the radio, or even as part of the soundtrack of a movie, and I can be instantly transported back to a certain day or short period of time in my life. I’m sure it is the same for most of you. Read the rest of this entry »

Zack Hayhurst

I recently returned from an extended stay in Cooperstown, New York. No, I wasn’t there for the Baseball Hall of Fame, or the charming Amish handicrafts. Rather, I was there from mid-May through the end of August on an arts administration internship with the Glimmerglass Festival. Specifically, I worked with the Young American Artists Program (YAAP), and its phenomenal director, Michael Heaston.

When one thinks of upstate New York, first class opera typically isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Rolling hills, yes. Charming valleys and cool springs, sure. To some, it is the ideal reprieve from city life and a chance to reconnect with Mother Nature. For burgeoning young opera singers, interestingly enough, it is also an ideal opportunity for them to get away to a place where they can focus and refine their craft, and take their careers to the “next level. Glimmerglass Festival provides this environment.

I learned of the creation of National Arts in Education Week in the midst of working on the details of a master class to be facilitated by composers John Corigliano and Mark Adamo.  It immediately occurred to me that arts education typically has a certain connotation – that of art taught in K-12 classrooms and/or through the educational outreach programs of arts organizations. Seldom do we think of arts education in terms of furthering an artists’ artistic and professional growth. Glimmerglass Opera’s young artist program does exactly that. Read the rest of this entry »

Assessing a Teacher’s Value?

Posted by R. Barry Shauck On September - 15 - 20101 COMMENT

Barry Shauck

On September 6, 2010, The New York Times published an article by the same name as this posting.  It discussed the ‘value-added’ approach to assessing teacher performance that is gaining a foothold in American education. This approach is based upon what students have learned in a certain period measured by what they were expected to learn in light of the speed of their past progress. Teacher evaluation at its best does more than ascribe to following a plan whether that plan is yearly, unit, or lesson. Teacher evaluation at its best recognizes and rewards surprises, deviations from plans in teaching and learning; rather than regarding surprise as a performance advantage. Such measurement and regard reduces students to commodities calculated in economic metrics on a quarterly basis.

Quality in education depends on what teachers can personalize – not on standardized performance. Leadership itself depends upon establishing fundamental relationships so that the best that teachers have to teach can be handed along to their students. If connoisseurship is used to draw a larger picture of a teacher’s qualities, the stories that a teacher has to tell to students, and the value that is added to the experience students take away from learning can be described in an artful and lasting way. There are no metrics or modular responses that are appropriate when connoisseurship is used to appraise teacher quality. Descriptive substitutes, plug-ins, or narratives describing the particular qualities of teaching cannot be interchanged from one modular phrase to another. The narrative of connoisseurship depends upon one’s abilities to discern particulars to school environments, situations, students, and teachers. Read the rest of this entry »

Defining a Good Arts Education

Posted by John Abodeely On September - 15 - 20104 COMMENTS

John Abodeely

The KC’s got a couple great opportunities coming up to bring some national attention to your local community. We host two national competitions: One for schools and one for districts.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Schools of Distinction in Arts Education awards highlight five schools annually that have developed exemplary arts education programs. Though we recognize the importance of federal, state, and local policy makers in providing arts education, this award recognizes of the role individual school leaders, educators, and communities play in providing a creative learning environment for outstanding student achievement. The award garners media attention for the winning school and for the nominating member of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, and it comes with a $2,000 unrestricted cash award. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Innovation in the South

Posted by Allen Bell On September - 15 - 20101 COMMENT

Allen Bell

While many states in the South rank low for high school graduation rates and education levels, the region boasts a number of excellent arts education programs that are pushing the envelope to improve schools in their states.

Two of those arts education programs produced by state arts agencies in the nine-state region served by South Arts have received U.S. Department of Education Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants.

One of those programs is the Whole Schools Initiative administered by the Mississippi Arts Commission. The other is Value Plus Schools administered by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative started in 1991 with six pilot elementary schools. The program takes an arts integration approach to redesigning schools to encourage collaboration, transparency, and deep learning. The Whole Schools Initiative is currently being implemented in 15 schools, while a total of 50 schools have participated during the history of the program, including elementary, middle, and high schools. Read the rest of this entry »

Sarah Collins

When I was first asked to participate in the Arts Education Blog Salon, I did what any good graduate student would do. I did a little background research. From the cinderblock depths of my basement office at the University of Oregon, I poured over posts from previous salons to get a better idea of what I was getting myself into. I was humbled before the collection of knowledge and experience shared here by some of the leading voices in the field of arts education. I was left wondering what I – knee deep in lit reviews and composition notebooks – could possibly contribute to the conversation.

Yet flipping through my comp books, I find reactions to journal articles, notes from conference sessions, URLs, call numbers, quotes, big ideas, and bigger questions. So that is where I begin, with an earnest curiosity, a student of arts and education policy. Reflecting on the dog-eared pages of the past year, recalling what has had the greatest impact on my understanding of this field, I present my essential arts education reading list for 2010: Part 1. Read the rest of this entry »

Academic Advocacy

Posted by Laura Reeder On September - 15 - 20102 COMMENTS

Laura Reeder

I have recently stepped from arts education advocacy into arts education academia after twenty years as a teaching artist and arts administrator. The advocacy work continues, but, I have been able to view it with a new perspective. The thing that has remained unchanged in this short step is my understanding about the role of the teaching artist in contemporary education.

In arts education advocacy, the compelling stories that we bring to policy makers almost always include an artist-educator (as one human being) or an artist-educator partnership. The teaching artist appears in our tales as a full-time educator in a school, as a visitor who sparks a new energy in the classroom, or as a community mentor who engages learners outside of the school setting. The teaching artist also appears in the halls of the legislature each year when we are lobbying for policy change.

In arts education academia, with the focus on individual students who will go out and become the great teachers and artists of the future, we recruit newcomers and increase endowments with glossy images and passionate speakers who each embody the seriousness of education with the rebel promise of creativity. The teaching artist also joins the campaigns for new programs and new funding when it is time to make institutional changes. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Saunders

I sat in an Americans for the Arts conference session in Baltimore this year and listened to a panelist state, “we don’t need to save arts education when eight-year-olds are making their own videos.” To that I say “cultural participation is NOT arts education.”

Just because a student is able to use computer software doesn’t mean he or she knows how to create a storyline, understand lighting and visual effects, include music that helps convey their story, etc. It’s like saying that I didn’t need arts education at that age because I could create cool pictures with my Lite-Brite!

I know this might sound smart-alecky, but it really is a concern of mine.

Young people these days have access to so many modes of creative production via computers as well as traditional tools. Parents are so proud of “Junior” because he can use the software.

But do they understand what an education in the arts really means?

Here in California our Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards include things like Artistic Perception; Historical and Cultural Context; and Aesthetic Valuing among others. If “Junior” was able to have standards-based arts education as part of his core learning, these things would be included in his lessons. By applying what he learns in class to the creation of his videos, his work would “pop” as they say. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Armstrong

Now more than ever, professionals of multiple generations have knowledge and skills to share with one another.  The strategy suggested in the green paper to best share these assets to further the field is a collaborative and participatory leadership structure versus a top down hierarchical structure.  In the proposed strategy, not only is leadership developed at all levels within an organization – strengthening the individual, organization and field – but it also helps to prepare for smoother transitions and successions at any level at any moment.  It seems like such a logical approach, so what stands in its way of success? People.

It always comes down to people.  Our capacity to learn. Our capacity to change. Our capacity to communicate.  Our capacity to share.

Learn – More leaders in executive positions need to learn how this system might work and be successful for them.  How can we make this model and training more available and attractive to execs? Has collaboration been taught and cultivated in all of us? How can we strengthen that skill across all levels of leadership? Read the rest of this entry »

Testify for Arts Education

Posted by Joan Weber On September - 14 - 20102 COMMENTS

Joan Weber

The answer given to most people who want to help increase arts education in our community’s public schools is, “Write to your elected representatives.”

Yes, it’s a good idea. It increases the buzz that the official’s constituents think arts education is an important thing, but I don’t think it accomplishes much. I don’t mean to be cynical, but realistically, think of the path that letter takes. The elected official probably never sees the letter. A staffer reads it and the subject matter is noted in a database with the topics of all the other letters that the elected official receives.

The second popular answer is, “Donate to organizations that advocate for arts education.” In other words, hire your own lobbyist through donations. A lobbyist knows the internal processes of the lobbied officials.

Nonprofits have a political calculation to make. When an organization wants to partner with a school system, they need to work as partners. In this case, “partnership” is a euphemism for a vendor relationship. Nonprofits receive funding from the school system to implement arts programming. It is difficult, as a partner organization, to criticize the system that’s paying your salaries.

That said, donating to arts education organizations is a fantastic investment. Their access to policy makers and schools makes big things happen. Read the rest of this entry »

Zack Hayhurst

To commemorate the inaugural National Arts in Education week, I am dedicating this first post to Norman Scribner and Choral Arts Society of Washington. My experience interning with his organization exhibits why institutional and community support of arts education is so vital, no matter where one is in their academic journey.

I was saddened to learn the other day that Norman Scribner will be stepping down in 2012 as Artistic Director of Choral Arts Society. After founding the organization 45 years ago, Norman has led it through many a financial crisis and cultural change, present circumstances included. After sitting at the helm for so long, he has no doubt affected countless individuals in a positive way. I am thankful to be one of those lucky people.

After beginning my Master’s degree in Arts Management at American University this past fall, Choral Arts Society was my first internship where I worked as a development apprentice. As far as I’m concerned, it was not only my first internship in D.C., but also my introduction to arts management.

Both Norman and Executive Director Debra Kraft realize the importance of arts education, both professionally and elementally. Supporting arts education in words is one thing, putting money behind it is another.   Read the rest of this entry »

James Palmarini

A few weeks ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer, my local print publication, ran a story about the lack of time that some district children we’re being given to eat their school lunches. After making their way to the cafeteria, standing in line or opening their home-packed lunches, finding a place to sit and so on, the estimate was that many had about fifteen minutes to eat. And what was being consumed was more likely the good stuff as defined by the average kid—the chips, cookies, and maybe the fruit. Not surprisingly, after the story ran, student lunch time increased substantially throughout the district, especially in the schools that were prominently mentioned.

One of things recommended by a nutritionist quoted in the story was that parents need to be careful not to over-pack their children’s lunches, to limit their choices to healthy foods that could be consumed in a reasonable time. Like every other parent who read this lunch crunch piece, I took a hard look at what I was stuffing into my child’s lunchbox the next morning and then asked myself: Is it too much, or not enough, and am I packing the right things—the right food group stuff that will help her do her very best for the rest of her STEM and test prep infused day?

What does this have to with arts education, and our House-approved week of celebration?

Well, nothing and everything. In the first and literal place, in this age of testing, accountability, and cutbacks, we all know that there isn’t enough time in the day to squeeze in yet another class, or the money to hire the educators to teach them. And do we really want to sacrifice an energy building PB&J sandwich on twelve-grain bread so a kid can work on his improv skills? I don’t think so. Two, and more figuratively, are the arts choices that are readily available to the widest number of children the right ones and are they of real value? Read the rest of this entry »