Every year I stop in the middle of September to catch my breath and to tell someone in my immediate vicinity, that THIS September is the busiest and most exciting one yet. My children and colleagues patiently remind me that I have a pathetically short memory and that I say the same thing year after year.

The back-to-school thing has always provided a weird thrill for me, which is apparently why I chose to become a teacher. Every time I decide to do something else, the “call of the school” drags me back and I am always delighted to be in the business of learning again. I believe that school is filled with experiences that are meaningful to me on a daily basis.

Not everyone has this school addiction. Adults all over the United States each year strive to identify the thing that will make school desirable to students, and possibly to themselves. We buzz around busily setting the stage for what we believe to be a quality learning environment. The arts (we hope) are placed into the schedule, and curriculum may even be set to include study trips to cultural organizations or to bring performances into the school. Read the rest of this entry »

In the Trenches of Arts Education

Posted by Anne Katz On September - 22 - 20091 COMMENT

The arts are not a luxury; they are essential.
~ former Wisconsin State Supt. of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster

I’m director of Arts Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s arts service, advocacy and development organization, and I spend my professional life advocating for the arts and creativity in education and for every aspect of life in Wisconsin. However, for my first post during the Arts Education Council’s week-long arts education blogfest I’m writing about arts education from a personal standpoint and in the trenches.

I’ve been a strong advocate for the arts and for education for the past ten years as my son, now a high school sophomore, has progressed through his school years in the Madison public schools.  I’ve served on committees, attended rallies and made a commitment to be as involved as possible in his educational experience.  One of the most rewarding, interesting and exhausting things I’ve done as a parent advocate is serve as co-chair of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) task force on arts education for the past two years. Read the rest of this entry »

Our society has changed – dramatically – over the past few decades.  We talk about it all the time in the context of business (flattening), government and politics (opening) and community (connecting).

What about arts and culture?

Arts and culture organizations are always hunting for new ways to effectively engage their target audience and to drive the kind of action (donations, sales, and sponsorship) necessary to thrive–especially in challenging economic times.  Today’s organizations have more than enough communication tools to get the job done, yet the combination of rapid technological innovation and continuous social shifts has left many organizations struggling to stay focused and execute their ideas.

To survive, let alone thrive, arts and culture organizations need to understand a few important things.

1) Big things are afoot. The public is more engaged than ever before, more capable of collecting and sharing information with a wider audience–for free–than at any point in our history.  This drives greater interest in arts and culture, and the creation of a more diverse and interesting society.  This isn’t just about having more people sharing stories, showing off their talent, building a following because the barriers to entry are lower.  This isn’t just about finding hidden talent far down the long tail of media and elevating them to the status of super celebrity because the institutional structures that once controlled everything are breaking down.  The impact of technology and the internet on arts and culture is profound.  This is the beginning of a shift that will redefine every aspect of our society. Read the rest of this entry »

My high school ceramics instructor thought I was crazy when I told him I wanted to be an orthodontist.  “No, I think you should be an artist,” He said sternly to me as I worked on my perfecting my pinch pot jack o’lantern that was suffering from a severe under bite.  That was a little over 8 years ago, and now I’m writing this blog.

Over the last 6 years I have been involved in multiple aspects of arts education; teaching Saturday art classes to youth, working at a youth museum, and working at a state arts agency for over three years.  I received both my BFA and MA from Arizona State University in Arts Education.  I recently relocated from Arizona to DC after experiencing a three-month travel adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

The case in point is South-Western City Schools in Ohio.  The district is the sixth largest in the state, second largest in Franklin County following Columbus City Schools. South-Western serves more than 20,000 students in four high schools (9-12), a career center (11-12), five middle schools (7-8), five intermediate schools (5-6), and sixteen elementary schools (K-4).

The district’s residents have rejected three operating levies since November 2008 with the latest one on August 4, 2009.  The election results were close with the issue losing by just over five hundred votes.  If only voters had voted early and often that day! 

The district ranks 14th among the 16 school districts in Franklin County in per pupil expenditures. In fact, the district spends $600 less per pupil than the state’s average. In the three years prior to 2009 the district cut more than $22 million and 260 staff positions. Now, as they begin the 2009-2010 school year, $8 million more is being cut following the failed levy attempt. Read the rest of this entry »

What is Good Assessment?

Posted by Patti Saraniero On September - 22 - 20092 COMMENTS

Assessment is as close to a four-letter word as we have in education.  In the current testing and accountability environment, that bad reputation has been earned.

That said let me be upfront about a couple of things.  First, I am not a fan of standardized testing.  Not a huge surprise, I’m sure.  I think it is relatively useless as a teaching tool, it is expensive in an era when schools and districts are barely getting by, and preparing for tests wastes valuable classroom time when actual learning could happen. As a parent, standardized testing tells me nearly nothing about my boys.   The results are not communicated in a way that makes much sense or is of much use to the majority of parents.

Second – my two oldest boys attend a charter school that minimizes test prep to the point that filling in answer bubbles is a cool novelty among the students.  Know what the school fills that time with that could be spent on test prep?  It’s a no brainer – art, music, Spanish and physical education.  This was a very specific choice on our part as their parents and it is one that has paid off in spades.  They love school.  Enough said on that point. Read the rest of this entry »

Although few parents would challenge the belief that every student should have an education in the arts, the practical reality is that arts education sometimes becomes less of a priority than other subjects, particularly subjects that are being tested for student academic achievement. 

Recently I was reviewing survey data concerning arts education opportunities in one of my local school districts and was quite dismayed to see written comments from both parents and students indicating that the arts were probably not as important to study in school as reading and math because they are not tested.  It shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be this way. 

The study of the arts helps students achieve academically and in life and arts education has many extra-advantages that benefit the learning process for children.  Some of these benefits include helping students with concentration and retention: strengthening their ability to memorize, increase attention span, and to listen more carefully; in the development of motor skills: physical coordination, fine motor skills, movement in space, and development of muscles used for singing, playing, acting, and dancing; and other skills such as sequencing, interpreting, and expressing emotions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School

Posted by Rob Davidson On September - 22 - 2009No comments yet

First, thanks to everyone who is dropping by for the Arts Education Salon blogging event. As arts educators, advocates, parents and participants, we can often become a little isolated; these coming together of minds forums are vital to strengthening our field and ourselves.

My name is Rob Davidson; I am the Program Director for VH1 Save The Music Foundation. We’re a national non-profit organization with the mission of restoring and sustaining instrumental music programs in public elementary and middle schools around the country. My education and career have been centered on music education. I am a certified music teacher by training and worked for major symphony orchestras in education roles before taking my position at VH1 Save The Music.

I thought I’d start the week with a call to action. The time to start advocating for your arts education program is right now; it doesn’t matter who you are or what your role is, there is something you can do to contribute to the strength of the program. All too often the arts department is a school district’s best-kept secret, so the best way to start advocating is to make sure that is not the case. Make a plan to ensure the programs are visible.

So, how do you start? There are resources all over the web to help you brainstorm. Here on Americans for the Arts;  www.supportmusic.com; and on my organization’s site, www.vh1savethemusic.com. On our site, check out the 25 Things You Can Do for a few ideas to get you started. The important thing to remember is that there is no one “correct” answer. Have fun, make it fit your programs and community, but get it out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Glad to be joining this group of arts and education professionals to write about parents and arts education. As a field we have needed to talk and think more about parents and engaging them as advocates for their kids’ arts education.

Before I jump in, a quick introduction. I have been part of the arts education field for nearly 20 years. My art form is theatre and it seems I have been a practitioner since my legs held me up and I was able to  walk onstage. Today, I teach in the theatre and nonprofit leadership programs at the University of San Diego and in the graduate stage management program at the University of California San Diego. I also have a consulting practice – Moxie Research – through which I work as a program evaluator in arts education. Prior to wearing these many hats, I worked as the education director at the Old Globe Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse.

So thinking about parents and arts education reminded me of an experience I had years ago when I was first starting out in the field. I was in a first-grade classroom observing a teaching artist and the class was great. The teacher and the artist were going like gangbusters and I was moving around the room looking at what kids were working on. I occasionally stopped and asked kids about their artwork. I will never forget one girl  nonchalantly telling me about her drawing but also about how the image continued off the edge of the page. Read the rest of this entry »

Last entry I told you how I got started. I set an unreasonable goal for myself (raise $50,000 in a year). I picked a Cause I believe in with my eyes closed – Arts Education for Grade Schools. I told everyone I knew and people I didn’t know, what I was up to.

And then..?

Within two weeks I was invited by a High School classmate (who honestly, I think forgot who I was) to a Cause on Facebook that was exactly what I’d committed to. I’d been researching different organizations I could support, and this was just the one. I really couldn’t believe it, but more importantly, I couldn’t pass it up.

I joined, read everything I could, met people, and in a couple hours I arrived at the place I think most good hearted people end up a couple hours after they join a Cause. Read the rest of this entry »

I have been working in the arts and education since 1968 – first as a classroom teacher in Brooklyn and then, starting in 1973, managing arts programs at Henry Street Settlement, the Jamaica Arts Center and currently at ArtsConnection, a city-wide, dedicated arts-in-education organization, where I have been Executive Director since 1985.

Obviously, I look at this work from the context of cultural provider. I strongly believe that the arts community has a great deal of energy and expertise that can be of real value to schools and students – and I have seen tremendous changes in how we approach this work – about how the field operates, over that time.

For one, this is, now, a field. In 1973 sending artists into classrooms was still a new phenomenon both here in New York City and nationally; there were few arts in education programs within arts organizations and even fewer dedicated arts in education organizations. A principal I knew once described the schools of that era as kind of castles with deep moats around them to keep strangers out. I am proud of the fact that the arts community was in the forefront of breaching those moats, bringing needed skills and authenticity into schools and creating opportunities for children to participate in the arts during a period of severe budget cuts and layoffs of arts specialists. Read the rest of this entry »

There is a lot of talk these days about advocacy and how it is or isn’t a part of our daily work in arts education. In talking with some arts educators who are veteran teachers this summer they told me that most people in their age bracket (50+) are offended by the idea of advocating for the educational opportunities that their students deserve as part of a complete education. 

One music teacher said, “I’m old school.  You teach what kids need to learn and you should not spend time writing letters to policy makers, pleading your case in front of the school board, or parading your kids down the street at levy time.” 

Yet, I find myself defending the idea of communication and information sharing (advocacy) with policy makers and the public because even the strongest arts education programs face scrutiny during tough budget times, when the curriculum is reviewed and updated, and when policies are changed or implemented at the local, state, and federal levels. Read the rest of this entry »

In 1985 I graduated with a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University, got an agent, designed images for publications, and discovered that I was lonely and bored to tears.

Arts Education saved my life. Years later as an artist with a teaching degree, I was anything but bored. I have been a certified arts educator, museum educator, teaching artist, and college instructor from Boston to Buffalo. I founded  PAE in 2000 and have provided services for educators, artists, and cultural partners from all 62 counties in New York State. I am honored to be one of the National Arts Education Council members with Americans for the Arts.

My years as the Newsbreak Editor for Teaching Artist Journal (Columbia College Chicago) continue to be especially not-boring…and I am proud to say that I am once again on the Syracuse University campus as an instructor and student in a brand-new era of arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

Incandescence Nostalgia

Posted by Arnold Aprill On September - 21 - 20094 COMMENTS

The European Union, ushering in “a new era of light”, is banning the sale and production of incandescent light bulbs.  Europeans are hoarding these bulbs, not because they are more efficient, (they don’t last as long as the newer light bulbs, they produce unwanted heat, and they waste energy) but rather, because they are what we imagine when we imagine illumination. It is hard for us to think of something we have grown up with in a new light – even when we are thinking about new light.

When it comes to our thinking about arts education in our schools, we should remember that many of us grew up with arts education programs we took for granted. The public elementary school I attended had excellent visual art teachers, dedicated instrumental and vocal music teachers, inspired and inspiring theater teachers (I became a professional theater director), and even some dance instruction. All classrooms had pianos, and all my teachers knew how to play them.

But now, when we advocate for arts education for our children in our schools, we have a double challenge: 1) much of the arts education many of us grew up with and took for granted is GONE from our schools, and 2) in a digital age, we must advocate for arts education that has elements we never experienced: video production, podcasts, web design, digital music composition. We must move from nostalgia for the incandescent to advocacy for the florescent and the halogen and the Light Emitting Diode. Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings from Las Vegas, Nevada — a community that is rich in arts of all types. Our school district, the Clark County School District, is 8,000 square miles—larger than many states—and it places a high value on Arts Education. We employ approximately 1,000 elementary and secondary full-time, licensed Arts Educators.

It was my privilege to supervise the Secondary Fine and Performing Arts Education Programs from 1994 through 2007 and it was during that time that we took up an especially interesting concept to reach out to our district’s burgeoning Hispanic population which had grown to 40%. In 2002, we implemented a standards-based, sequential curriculum in Mariachi and since then, thousands of students have become engaged in Music Education through their involvement in this program. This year’s Secondary Mariachi Program already has an enrollment count of over 3,000.

Why is this even important?

The recent NAEP Arts Assessment reports racial/ethnic/gender gaps in test data for music and visual arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.