Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Needs Your Love…and a Little Celebration

Posted by Ken Busby On February - 19 - 2013
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Last week we celebrated Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Two weeks ago, the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts met in Mesa, AZ to determine how we can best serve local arts agencies that are providing arts education programs.

How are these seemingly disparate events related you might ask? Let me tell you!

Arts education needs all the love you can give! And you can’t just let the good times roll without there being a few consequences. If we don’t work together to keep the importance of arts education at the forefront of people’s minds, they will fall by the wayside.

There was much discussion at our meeting in Mesa about arts integration, how to help local communities be stronger advocates for the arts, ways to highlight effective programs as models for other communities, and trends in the field and where we need to be heading if we are to keep the arts at the core of learning.

One thing that is clear in 2013—for arts education to be a real focus for educators and politicians at all levels, we as local arts agencies, we as arts teachers, and we as arts advocates are going to have to continue to work collaboratively and stay ahead of the curve in terms of research and best practices, and continue to demonstrate the value of the arts in developing a 21st century workforce. Read the rest of this entry »

Niel DePont

In my personal assessment of the Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) it occurs to me that, for all its merits, the CCSS presumes that somewhere along the way, creative processes and critical thinking skills will be learned as a result of following the CCSS. I’m not sure that is true, but I am sure that those skills are practiced and illuminated by thinking like an artist thinks when making art.

We are soon to leave the Knowledge Age and enter the Innovation Age, if we haven’t already. In the 21st century creativity and innovation will be the skills most highly valued in students graduating from our colleges and universities. It is undeniable that there will be an increasing demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and math, the “STEM” skills. And, if you believe the CCSS, the English language arts (ELA) and mathematics skills it promotes at the K-12 level will be essential for college preparation and career readiness.

But I believe that students who excel in the skills of creativity and innovation, and evidence a talent for synthesizing disparate kinds of data and concepts into new and unique outcomes, will be the most prized workers of all, whether they enter the workforce after high school, college, or graduate school.

This is why we must integrate the arts into the current movement of promoting various alphabet-soup-titled approaches to education reform. Whether you believe that the CCSS is the way to create a better educated and “career ready” populace, or that a STEM-based education should be our national mandate, I personally believe that changing STEM into STEAM by adding the A for ARTS is the best acronym of all.

Having said that, I also believe we must reframe arts education in a new and vital way.

In the Innovation Age we must shift our arts education syllabus from one that is only performance focused to one that is also creativity focused. Students need to experience the creation of new work through the arts because the arts train the mind in sensory awareness and the ability to think flexibly and creatively, as both a problem finder and a problem solver. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Integration + Common Core = Students Prepared for the 21st Century

Posted by Maria Barbosa On September - 11 - 2012

Maria Barbosa

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have arrived! At this very moment, educators in 48 states plus the District of Columbia are adjusting their activities to the new standards. But how do those new standards prepare students to cope with or to generate the innovations of the 21st century?

The CCSS attention to English Language Arts and Mathematics suggests that, to be career and college ready, today’s students must demonstrate a strong grasp of those subjects. The CCSS will be periodically reviewed and updated to fit future needs, and so it is important that we keep track of developments. Furthermore, alongside whatever CCSS iteration, we need to prepare students to be creative, flexible, and adaptable to the unforeseen contexts of a fast moving 21st Century.

Recently, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) published the P21 Common Core Toolkit in an effort to align the CCSS to the increasing necessity for helping our students develop complex thinking skills. P21 calls on educators to incorporate skills such as creativity, flexibility, adaptability, global, and cultural awareness in curricula and assessments. Since the CCSS do not prescribe ways to teach, the toolkit also proposes that educators engage students in inquiry and exploration of real world problems and interdisciplinary performance tasks.

Arts integration is a teaching approach that addresses the concerns raised in the P21 Common Core Toolkit. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) Program define arts integration as “…an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process that connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.”

In the arts integrated classroom, students make use of background knowledge, investigation, and experimentation to perform tasks that involve both standards in the arts form and in another core subject. Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, flexibility and adaptability, some of the skills described as central to success in the 21st century, are integral to the arts initegration pedagogy. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2012 (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 11 - 2012

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us…(who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!)…here is my updated list for 2012 which now includes new stats from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All About Creativity

Posted by John Eger On March - 27 - 2012

John Eger

Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Education, convenes the first of several meetings in Coronado, CA later this month to talk about “how the arts and creative education can transform California classrooms.” He also plans to produce a new publication called A Blueprint for Creative Schools.

Just as important, the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts will hold hearings on SB 789, legislation that will require the Governor to develop a “creativity index,” which in turn would be used to measure creativity in public schools statewide.

SB 789, authored by Senator Curren Price (D-District 26) and introduced last February, was approved by all the appropriate Senate committees and is now moving toward passage.

This movement by California matches the legislation signed by the governor of Massachusetts last spring, and is much like a bill working its way through the state legislature in Oklahoma to also establish a creativity index.

Equally significant, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Wisconsin are beginning similar discussions and Nebraska is getting itself organized, according to CreativeChallenge, Inc., which monitors creativity discussions worldwide. The group notes that Seoul, Alberta, and Edmonton—and probably other cities and nations around the world—are following these efforts closely.

Clearly something big is happening across America. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry and Promise: Education Reform & the Arts

Posted by Ken Busby On February - 17 - 2012

I judged a poetry slam this weekend—Louder Than A Bomb–Tulsa!

It’s amazing to hear young people sharing about their lives and ideas through poetry. This was the second year for the event. The excitement and enthusiasm expressed by these students was palpable:

Listening to their poetry really made me start thinking anew about just how important the arts are to shaping young minds—helping build self-confidence, fostering creativity, and excelling in school. We as artists, art professionals, and art educators are very often a major factor in a student’s success.

Ten states, including Oklahoma, recently received a reprieve from complying with certain aspects of No Child Left Behind. It seems like we keep lowering our standards rather than lifting up our youth to meet and exceed the challenges put before them.

How are we going to have a capable workforce replete with skills for the 21st century if we keep lowering our requirements for graduation? Companies are spending millions of dollars every year providing remedial training. Universities are spending millions of dollars every year on remedial classes.

We cannot solve our current economic woes by burying our heads in the sand and hoping by some miracle that our youth will figure it out and be successful when we haven’t provided the proper foundation or the means to foster success. Read the rest of this entry »

Former President Clinton Supports Arkansas Arts Education Program

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On February - 7 - 2012

Over the weekend, former President Bill Clinton made headlines in his home state of Arkansas discussing education. His message was one that many of us already know: the dropout rate is increasing and students are leaving school unprepared for 21st century jobs.

However, the uniqueness of the President’s message was in his proposed solution—the arts.

Clinton is endorsing a program called A+ Schools that achieves whole school reform by integrating the arts, using project-based learning, and appealing to students’ multiple intelligences.

The A+ program has been nationally recognized “as an effective, research-based strategy for sustainable school reform.”

The program started with a network of schools in North Carolina and has expanded to include schools in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

You can find out more about the A+ program here and make sure to check out a local TV news report on former President Clinton’s remarks:

Only Artists Can Make the Difference

Posted by John Eger On December - 2 - 2011

John Eger

Declaring October as National Art and Humanities Month, President Obama made the observation:

“Educators across our country are opening young minds, fostering innovation, and developing imaginations through arts education. Through their work, they are empowering our Nation’s students with the ability to meet the challenges of a global marketplace. It is a well-rounded education for our children that will fuel our efforts to lead in a new economy where critical and creative thinking will be the keys to success.”

More and more people in high places seem to be saying the right thing. Last April, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said: “The Arts can no longer be treated as a frill. Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical for young Americans competing in a global economy.”

But we have seen too little in the way of action.

Is this because the administration really doesn’t believe what they say about the arts? Because Washington, D.C. can’t get anything done? Or because the benefits are still not obvious to most politicians. Read the rest of this entry »

Creativity is the Connection to Corporations

Posted by Michelle Mann On November - 18 - 2011

Michelle Mann

Over the past 7 months, as a loaned executive from Adobe to 1st ACT, I have gained a new appreciation for the difficulties arts organizations face when raising money.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, with its corporate giants and start-up millionaires, there is very little investment in the arts and culture ecosystem. That’s because 70-80% of Silicon Valley’s wealth leaves the region.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised — understanding the global nature of business. But I am disappointed that more of my peers and former colleagues in corporate philanthropy don’t include arts and culture in their giving portfolios.

Study after study have demonstrated the link between creativity and the arts to higher academic achievement, to attainment of 21st century skills, to brain development and early literacy, and social and emotional development.

Corporate leaders talk about creativity being an essential skill for the 21st century workforce. They want  to hire people who are problem solvers, are flexible and can adapt quickly to new situations, are culturally competent and open to working with others. Read the rest of this entry »

1998 Rotary Club – Why the Arts are Good for Business

Posted by Janet Brown On November - 15 - 2011

Janet Brown

“It’s déjà vu all over again.” I stumbled across a speech I gave to a Rotary Club in 1998 on why business should support arts education. Here’s a condensed version. Twenty years later, same arguments apply and the situation is worse for workers and arts in education.

For many years, American business got what it wanted from schools; people suited to work in factories or, more commonly in our area, people suited to work the land.

Over the past two decades, however, business has changed drastically from an industrial to an information orientation with fierce global competition. Today, a skilled, creative workforce is key to competitive success.

What the business community of the 21st century needs for success and what the arts have to offer in educating the workforce are these five things: (there are really more than five but…)

Imagination
Teamwork
Flexibility
Communication
Excellence Read the rest of this entry »

The Intrinsic Benefits of Arts Education

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On October - 18 - 2011

Kristen Engebretsen

I recently authored a post titled The Top 10 Ways to Support Arts Education, but I’m finding that I get more requests from people asking for reasons why arts education should be supported, not how.

So as a companion piece to the how of supporting arts education, here I offer reasons why arts education should be supported.

Usually, when making the case for arts education, I direct people to resources like the recent Reinvesting in Arts Education report by the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities. It compiles all of the classic arguments in favor of arts education: it boosts student achievement, it increases student engagement, and it helps to close the achievement gap.

My colleague Randy Cohen has also offered reasons to support arts education in his Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts post. He, too, cites academic achievement, but he also mentions the role of arts education in preparing students with 21st century job skills, like communication and creativity.

However, this post is not about what arts education does in terms of other achievement areas. Rather, it is about what the arts intrinsically do for students. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Revising the National Arts Standards

Posted by Lynne Kingsley On September - 20 - 2011
Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley

Since Tim Mikulski’s post on June 13 about the national arts standards, a lot has been happening!

On August 30, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) convened a meeting to bring stakeholders up to speed with the revision process of the 1994 National Arts Standards.

The meeting, held at National Association for Music Education (formerly MENC) headquarters, gathered together artsed heavy hitters from all over the country: from the NCCAS leadership team, as well as representatives from organizations such as the Kennedy Center, the National Endowment of the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Wolf Trap, and more. In addition, in order to remain fully inclusive, the meeting was open to the public via live video streaming (full list of participants may be found here).

Revision Process Timeline
The meeting began with facilitator Marcia McCaffrey, arts guru from the New Hampshire Department of Education, giving a background on NCCAS and the process thus far. Marcia challenged us to consider benefits/challenges of a conceptual framework and shared the projected timeline for standards writing:

9/2011: Hiring of Project Director
11/2011: NCCAS issues guiding principles for a conceptual framework
12/2011: Standards writing teams established by NCCAS
1/2012-6/2012: Project Director manages the writing and revision of standards draft.
7/2012: Release & dissemination of draft version of revised standards document for public comment
9/2012-11/2012: NCCAS review & response to public comment; revisions made to standards by writing teams led by Project Director.
12/2012: Release of revised arts standards Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Provides Another ‘Pathway to Prosperity’

Posted by Stephanie Riven On September - 16 - 2011

Stephanie Riven

One of the most compelling ideas related to workforce development is the report issued in February 2011 called Pathways to Prosperity by Robert Schwartz and Ron Ferguson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The report points out that every year, one million students leave school before earning a high school degree.

Many of these students say that they dropped out of high school because they felt their classes were not interesting and that school was unrelentingly boring. They say that they didn’t believe high school was relevant or provided a pathway to achieving their dreams.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, the U.S. economy will create 47 million job openings over the 10-year period ending in 2018. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs will require that workers have at least some post-secondary education. Applicants with no more than a high school degree will fill just 36 percent of the job openings or just half the percentage of jobs they held in the early 1970s.

How can we reverse these trends? Read the rest of this entry »

Uniting the Arts & Career and Technical Education

Posted by Narric Rome On September - 16 - 2011

Narric Rome

I recently attended a meeting of national arts education advocates and leaders from the career and technical education (CTE) community. It was a meeting designed to explore the policy efforts of both communities and to see if there was mutual interest in launching an initiative together.

It was clear from the 90 minutes we met that, from a national perspective, there is significant and deep parallels to our work and a joint approach has great potential.

Here’s what we discovered:

1)    Same Federal Challenges – At the federal level, both the arts and CTE have undergone similar treatment at the hands of the federal government. Like the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education, the federal CTE program was zeroed out annually in the Bush Administration budget, but funded by Congress each year. CTE programs are consistently targeted for reduction or termination, as they were in the recent H.R.1 legislation earlier this spring.

The similarities extend into our approaches to reauthorizing the Elementary & Secondary Education Act – CTE advocates would like to see greater use of multiple measures in assessments (addressing the narrowing of the curriculum which impacts us both), the promotion of our curriculum as a way to reduce the dropout rate, and a expansion of state data systems to provide greater insight into gaps of service and access issues. 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.