Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Marna Stalcup

Marna Stalcup

Arts instruction has long been used as a tool for reaching English Language Learners. In fact, the origins of the children’s theatre genre lie in the Settlement Houses of Chicago in the early Twentieth Century, where Jane Addams utilized theatre and poetry to help students learn English (this tradition can be seen today in the plethora of children’s books adapted for the stage.)

There is a wealth of information available today about the usefulness of the arts for reaching multiple learning styles but there are few studies that directly link arts integration with student test scores (particularly long-term, richly collaborative integration models).

It is fitting that the week before National Arts in Education Week (September 15 – 19), The Right Brain Initiative is releasing new data that demonstrates the impact of rich classroom arts-integrated instruction on student test scores. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovators, Interventions, and Instruction

Posted by Malissa Feruzzi Shriver On June - 20 - 2014
Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Nashville is not for the faint of heart, and neither is an Americans for the Arts’ conference. There were scheduled sessions that ran until midnight, where some of the panelists broke into song, and early bird specials—eight AM, lights, camera, action.  Nashville has nothing on Americans for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts has something for everyone.  More than one thousand arts advocates enjoyed networking, performances, and fascinating panels, myself included.  Convention themes ran from arts and community to building core skills (does being on your feet for fourteen hours build core strength too?), embracing diversity, reinvention and sustainability, and supply and demand. This conference was definitely not short on supply, and judging from the attendance, demand was high.

I was impressed on so many levels. Four jam-packed days of sessions, exhibitors, meet and greets, and all the big organizations, big names and big ideas. I learned about public art and placemaking, leadership skill development, and how art can translate data, and was fascinated by topics like engaging the biases, values and privileges underneath your work. I am grateful that AFTA organizes these conferences to invest in our field, inform leaders, and stimulate dialogue about relevance and sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a future for arts education?

Posted by Ken Busby On May - 21 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

“The arts are under attack!”  We hear this cry on a consistent basis as state and local governments wrestle with priorities to balance budgets.  The arts always seem to be the first on the chopping block.  Detroit continues to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and one of the suggestions for how to raise capital to satisfy creditors is to sell off the outstanding art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Selling the DIA’s collection is only a short-term fix, that doesn’t actually alleviate the problem at all.  It’s more for showmanship.  It’s a statement that we can live without the arts.  They are only important if they can be sold to raise money. Read the rest of this entry »

A Shared Endeavor

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 24 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.

In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:

  • Development of policies and resources for arts education.
  • Access to arts education for all students.
  • Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
  • Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.

In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Championship

Posted by Erin Gough On July - 23 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

A friend of mine recently graduated from one of Pennsylvania’s state universities with a bachelor’s degree in art education. When she walked across that stage to Pomp and Circumstance, she had proven that she had learned everything she needed to teach young minds all the skills they needed to create breathtaking works of art and to think through all the important steps of the art-making process.

After completing the requisite coursework, surviving long hours of student teaching, and passing the Praxis in her course area, the State of Pennsylvania gave her a certificate that showed she was qualified to stand in front of a classroom of students eager to discover.

But what she didn’t learn was exactly where all of those requirements came from. How did her University gain accreditation?  What are the priorities of the school district that is hiring her? Who is responsible for hiring the person in the State Department of Education that can serve a resource when she has concerns about state standards or a new teacher evaluation program? Who determines how much professional education is necessary to remain certified?  Who determines how state money is allocated across and within school districts?

The answer to all these questions vary from state-to-state, but in every case, these decisions should be informed by the voices of those in the classroom every day, the teachers themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

The Congressional Meat Grinder Cranks to Life

Posted by Narric Rome On June - 24 - 2013
Narric Rome

Narric Rome

Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) authorization formally ended in 2007, Congress has been trying to reauthorize it, but with very little success. You remember NCLB? It passed Congress with whopping margins of 381-41 in the House and 87-10 in the Senate and President Bush signed it into law with big smiles from education champions like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House committee leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA). That was then.

Since then, NCLB has been attacked each year by education advocates on all sides and the Obama Administration has gone so far as to grant waivers to 37 states allowing them to opt out of many of the law’s regulations, which will remain in place until the law is reauthorized. It’s been sad as education leaders, in and out of Congress, proclaim the “urgent” need to end the labeling of failing schools, to curb the “unintended consequences” that have been a fundamental problem with NCLB. Years have passed without even a floor vote on replacement legislation.

I’ve known Capitol Hill staff who were hired to work on the reauthorization (now referred to as the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)) who have given up waiting and moved to jobs off the Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

Candidates Weighing in on Arts Education

Posted by Doug Israel On June - 21 - 2013

Doug Israel

Doug Israel

After years of school budget cuts due to the economic downturn, and a decade of No Child Left Behind-inspired education policies, there is a movement afoot in districts across the country to reinvigorate the school day with a rich and engaging curriculum.

Parents, students, and educators have been beating the drum about the narrowed curriculum and are making the case to expand access to arts, music, foreign languages, science, and other core subjects that have been marginalized in schools in recent years. Now candidates to be mayor in the country’s largest school district are weighing in on what arts education would look like under their leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Youth Arts Month

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On March - 1 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

March 1 kicks off a month-long celebration of youth participation and learning in the arts. Many states, cities, and organizations have their own way of celebrating.

Here is just a random sampling of ideas I’ve seen from around the web:

1. National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week, March 24–30

2. March is Music In Our Schools Month

3. Youth Art Month

4. March for the Arts in Education Month: Empowering Youth through the Arts

5. Theatre in Our Schools Month

At Americans for the Arts, we’ll be hosting a Blog Salon about early childhood education later this month (March 18–22), but for today’s kickoff of Youth Arts Month, we wanted to share something special.

Today we are releasing the first part of a new Arts Education Navigator series of e-books designed to help educators, students, and advocates navigate the complex field of arts education.

Part of our partnership with Vans Custom Culture, each e-book in the series will cover a specific topic, ensuring arts education supporters like you are equipped with the knowledge, statistics, and case-making techniques needed to effectively communicate with decision-makers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons Learned: Arts for All Always Adapts

Posted by Laura Zucker On August - 10 - 2012

Laura Zucker

Arts for All staff can attest to the fact that the capacity to be adaptable, the knack to be nimble, is a key to continued success.

Following the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, arts education in Los Angeles County’s 81 school districts began to deteriorate to varying degrees. In the late 1990s a coalition of L.A. county arts leaders and advocates met to discuss problems, such as arts education, that could be addressed only by organizations working together. One result was Arts for All, formed as a public-private partnership in 2002 to empower school districts to build infrastructures for arts education and integrate arts into the core curriculum.

Now Arts for All is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a network of more than 100 partners including school districts, artists, arts and education organizations, corporations and foundations.

There is a shared belief in laying a strong foundation for arts education in the school districts and building their capacity to deliver arts education. The approach, which is now being adopted by others across the country, is to create a plan for the long term, collaboratively and systemically across Los Angeles County.

In the world of arts education, one size does not fit all. There is a tremendous variation in the level and quality of arts education within schools and districts across the county. The Arts for All   staff  has learned to customize programs to meet the needs at hand within distinct districts.

Sofia Klatzker, who directs grants programs for the LA County Arts Commission, is a ten-year veteran of Arts for All. She says that even though no two districts are alike, staff discovered that most district leaders believe that the arts are important to the core curriculum. “We do not have to sell the idea of arts ed per se,” says Klatzker. “We have to promote implementation.”

Throughout the decade, school district realities have shifted. For example, having a district-level arts coordinator seemed both imperative and realistic at one time. Now it is understood that someone within the district dedicated to coordinating the arts education plan implementation is important, but it can no longer be expected that the person is dedicated to the arts full-time. District level administrators now often wear many hats due to budgetary constraints. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Inspiration in the New Normal

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On June - 1 - 2012

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As an arts education advocate who is leading an effort in San Diego to ensure that arts education is not lost in the midst of budget cuts at San Diego Unified School District, I must confess I am a little lost these days.

In the past, it’s been easy. District administration red lines the visual and performing arts department to save money, we advocate to the school board, and the school board approves funding for another year. It’s been this way for at least the last three years. But this year is different.

This year, the pink slips to more than 1,600 teachers were not rescinded in the final hour as they had been every year before. This year, the May revise shows the state budget gap is not $9 billion but almost $16 billion—definitely not what the governor anticipated. In 2009 they projected that the district budget would turn around by 2013. But that’s nowhere near what’s happening. This year it’s a very different ball game.

As a strategist, I take pride in knowing just what tools to use and what angle to take when going to bat for the arts in San Diego City Schools. But I’m at a loss this year. How do we continue to demand that the arts education budget remains intact when 1 in 5 teachers district-wide will be without a job come June unless the board can work with the teachers union and agree to contract concessions?

How do we continue to have faith that it will all work out when California voters refuse to support the taxes needed to ensure that education budgets aren’t decimated and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature think that the only answer is more cuts. And even if the governor’s tax increase proposal is approved by the voters in November, the result the district projects is a flat budget, not an increase, in school funding. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting for a Well-Rounded Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 29 - 2012

Pennsylvania is quickly becoming a hotbed for arts education advocacy. Just a little over a week ago, I found this video from York, showing how students protested the loss of art and music in a proposed budget.

Today, I became aware of a movement in Upper Darby (just outside of Philadelphia) under the banner Save Upper Darby Arts. This group came together to advocate for a well-rounded education that includes “music, art, library studies, physical education, technology, and foreign language curricula” at a time that many districts are choosing to cut some or all of these classes in order to save money.

This well-made video explains everything you need to know…

Well, almost.

In addition to their main website, Save Upper Darby Arts has also created a petition, Facebook page, and Twitter account to back their campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Upon hearing that the York City School District School Board in Pennsylvania was considering eliminating art, music, guidance counselors, and some sports to help balance the budget, arts education supporters rallied for the cause.

They even had band members play outside of the meeting deciding their fate.

This is exactly the type of simple advocacy that draws the attention of local media and the members of the school board. Check out their rally and excellent student and parent comments from the York Daily Record website:

In the end, five art and music positions were restored by the board as well as three guidance counselor positions and the football, basketball, volleyball, and track programs.

If you have any examples of local school board advocacy at work, tell us in the comments below and if you want to know more about the many influences on local arts education programs, be sure to check out our arts education webinar series (free to members of Americans for the Arts or $35 per session).

Achievement Gap Exposed in New Arts Education Report (An EALS Post)

Posted by Jennifer Glinzak On April - 6 - 2012

Two major arts education studies were released this past week, the FRSS 10-year comparison and the Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth, a 12-year longitudinal study. When these studies are married, their effectiveness as a tool for advocacy becomes undeniably clear.

While the FRSS will get much of the press because U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented it, the study is of little consequence to the progression of arts education other then outright stating of significant declines in the amount of offerings across the board.

On the other hand, move over Charlie Bucket, the longitudinal study is the golden ticket arts education advocators have been praying for.

The longitudinal study gives the data for students of Low Socioeconomic Status (low SES) with both high and low arts exposure, and their counterparts in the High Socioeconomic Status (high SES).

The matrixes measured for each of the four categories include high school graduation rates, civic involvement, recorded grade point average, college graduation rates, average test scores, volunteer rates, other extracurricular activities, and labor market outcomes.

The results are startling, not because they affirm what advocates have said for years, but because of the achievement gap between low SES/low arts and low SES/high arts. Read the rest of this entry »

School Board Advocacy Resource Roundup

Posted by Joshua Miller On March - 19 - 2012
Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller

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

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

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

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

1. Our children, our greatest resource  

2. Education, the great equalizer in this country

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

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

Beyond the Headlines: LA’s Arts Advocacy Success

Posted by Danielle Brazell On February - 27 - 2012

Advocates rallied outside of the LAUSD board meeting.

Many of you have seen the headlines about the proposed total elimination of the elementary arts program in our country’s second largest school district—Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). And many of you probably saw the star-studded headlines about the postponement of that decision during the February 14 school board meeting.

Well, here is the rest of that story that you might not know…

At the meeting, all seven board members and Superintendent John Deasy expressed their commitment to LAUSD’s nationally recognized arts education program. The postponement allows advocates and district leaders to develop alternative strategies in the face of the district’s $550 million budget shortfall.

Arts for LA, the regional arts and arts education advocacy group for Los Angeles County, is leading the campaign to oppose the elimination, and has mobilized over 2,400 stakeholders to voice support for arts education to the LAUSD School Board.

Arts education was not alone on the chopping block. Several other essential programs, including adult and early childhood education, were also slated for elimination under one of three potential budget scenarios for 2012/2013. Read the rest of this entry »