What is Art Education For? An Assessment Checklist

Posted by Arnold Aprill On February - 19 - 2014
Arnold Aprill

Arnold Aprill

ArtEdArt education in schools exists, to the extent that it exists at all, within the contexts of wider school cultures. School cultures are currently in the thrall of high stakes—undifferentiated, system-wide models of measurement and accountability. How does art education function in such an environment? Not so well.

Because models for assessing arts learning are underdeveloped, the arts come to represent for many students a safe haven from relentless testing. At the same time, the arts are broadly discounted by policy makers as not being serious enough disciplines worthy of time, attention, or funding, because they are untested.

How might we find our way through the labyrinth of this double-bind? One approach is to look at the metaphors that undergird approaches to assessment at the policy level.

Bush Era “No Child Left Behind”: Known colloquially as “NCLB”, and sometimes as “Nickleby” (I’m thinking of the cruel Uncle Ralph Nickleby, not the sweet and brave hero in Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickleby). NCLB in a nutshell is schools and individual teachers that do not demonstrate Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) on standardized test scores risk losing their funding or their jobs. The problem that I have always had with NCLB is implicit in the name itself. The policy is not named something like EPIC (Enhancing the Powers in Children). The policy is named “No Child Left Behind” – conjuring up an image of abandoned loser children and of winner children schlepped along to the potatoesgoalposts of achievement. This is not a metaphor representing child agency, child capacity, child initiative, or child power. Learning in this model is not something that children do, but rather is something done to them. The core metaphor here is a “potato race”–a game in which competitors (teachers) carry inert potatoes (lumpy and lumpen children) precariously balanced on spoons as they rush back and forth across a finish line, dropping some potatoes and depositing others in a heap to win.

climbing

Obama Era “Race to the Top”, or R2T: A contest between states and local districts for big bucks, with points given for evidence of such things as intervening in low achieving schools, demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and in closing gaps, developing charter schools, privatization of public services, and computerization. The metaphor for R2T is as the name says, a race, but while NCLB was a horizontal race, Race to the Top is a vertical race; a climbing wall. Again, we have a metaphor built around winners and losers, but this time among states and districts rather than schools and teachers. A level up in the policy food supply chain and a quantum leap away from children, parents, and teachers.

RhizomeRhizomes: There is another metaphor, developed by Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, which is emerging as a useful tool for rethinking social systems like school districts. This is the “rhizome” – networks of biological roots that expand out, grow up, and draw sustenance from and in many directions. This metaphor opposes linear, dualist thinking (dubbed “arborescent” by Guattari and Deleuze based on the image of a tree with a siloed root system and one trunk.) Read the rest of this entry »

Scot Hockman

Scot Hockman

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) may be the best whole school initiative to happen to arts education. The English Language Arts Standards (ELA) call for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Page 43 of an appendix to the ELA standards defines a technical subject as:

A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music.

The Common Core State Standards website clarifies this relationship between ELA literacy and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects:

Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines. It is important to note that literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are not meant to replace content standards in those areas but rather to supplement them.

Finally, it seems that the arts are receiving the attention to which we are entitled as a result of being classified as a technical subject. The CCSS writers were savvy to include anchor standards for technical subjects so that other content areas would have to take note and be drivers of the English language arts (ELA) standards within the various other content areas. Mathematics provides that we address grade-level standards. And all the while, arts teachers must also take note of the significance of their state and national visual and performing arts standards while determining shifts from CCSS to arts standards. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Are Extra-Curricular and Disposable. NOT.

Posted by Frances McGarry On August - 9 - 2013

For over 30 years as a K-12 English & Theater teacher, I have witnessed how the arts have impacted the lives of so many people, young and old. The stories and research are endless, and yet the arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation.  Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent this decline, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.

This is nothing farther from the truth: the arts challenge us to not only dare but also explore the myriad of possibilities of WHAT IF…

Upset over the slashing of arts programs in schools I decided to do something about it. I started First Online With Fran to highlight ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make the arts the fabric of our existence. Utilizing testimonials, videos, and interviews First on Line with Fran serves to be the sounding board to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

For my most recent episode, I got a bunch of kids from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School and asked them to respond to the statement:  The Arts are extra-curricular and disposable.

Please take 6 minutes and listen to what they have to say…

vid clip

This is where my passion lies, and this is my way of raising awareness and advocating for the arts included in education. 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 »

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

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

Kristen Engebretsen

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves…We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” ~ from A Nation at Risk

Last Friday I attended an event at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looking at the impact of the report released back in 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform. According to the Fordham Institute’s website:

“Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.”

The report language itself called for many sensible reforms, including more instructional time, higher standards for courses and content, stringent high school graduation requirements, and demanding college entrance requirements.

But the sound bite that came out of the report was that we have a “desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science.” And, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” Read the rest of this entry »

STEM to STEAM: Finding a Seat at the ‘Cool Kids’ Table

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On March - 5 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

STEM is like the most popular kid in school these days. Everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table and share Doritos.

Fortunately for the arts community, we have a powerful resource as the national conversation transforms from STEM to STEAM: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of a Congressional STEAM Caucus last month.

The group had a successful kick-off on February 14. Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, an advisor to the Caucus, regularly speaks about the inextricable connection between art and science and Bonamici echoed the sentiment at Oregon’s 2012 Arts Summit.

While our representatives in Washington, DC, are hard at work advising on federal policy, our state is also taking steps to assure we’ve got “STEAM heat” (thank you, Bob Fosse!).

In Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013–2015 budget, which is now being considered by the legislature, there is a proposal for an initiative called “Connecting to the World of Work.”

Included in that proposal is funding to support partnerships between schools, arts organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for students in grades 6–12 to connect with creative industries. There is conversation about including internships, mentorship programs, industry residencies in schools, and student residencies at industry firms.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years Later: A Puzzling Picture of Arts Education in America

Posted by Narric Rome On April - 2 - 2012

Narric Rome

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a study glamorously entitled Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

The surveys that contributed to this report were conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), mailed to about 3,400 elementary and secondary school principals and approximately 5,000 music and visual arts teachers.

National arts education leaders, through policy statements, have been calling for this study to be administered for many years, and helped to direct specific funding from Congress to make it possible.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a federal study to be published and finally it has arrived!

This report presents information on the availability and characteristics of arts education programs of those surveyed, broken down by discipline (music, visual arts, dance, and theatre).

  • It indicates that while music and visual art are widely available in some form, six percent of the nation’s public elementary schools offer no specific instruction in music, and 17 percent offer no specific instruction in the visual arts.
  • Nine percent of public secondary schools reported that they did not offer music, and 11 percent did not offer the visual arts.
  • Only three percent offer any specific dance instruction and only four percent offer any specific theatre instruction in elementary schools. In secondary schools the numbers improve somewhat as 12 percent offer dance and 45 percent offer theatre. Sadly, the study was unable to survey dance and theatre specialists because the data sample didn’t have sufficient contact information in those disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

Jane Remer

It is always useful for me when starting a discussion about the arts as education to search for definitions that may help to bring participants closer together with the language we chose in our dialogues. In this case, I have asked myself: What do the words quality, engagement and partnership mean to each of us who work in different aspects of the field in different areas of the country?

In our field where there is so much diversity of philosophy, pedagogy, goals and objectives, and policy, I for one would welcome a starting point that serves as a “meet and greet” or “getting to know you” opportunity. I am game for sharing my own thoughts, and would be interested to hear others’.

Partnership
Over the years, I have designed, implemented, researched, evaluated, and celebrated the idea of partnership as a critical strategy for uniting the arts and education worlds. One of my books (Beyond Enrichment: Building Effective Arts Partnerships with Schools and Your Community) deals with the value and challenges of collaboration in complex examples taken from schools, districts, and arts organizations across the country.

For me, arts education partnerships have flourished at the national, state, district, and local levels beginning in the 1960s, peaking nationally in the 70s and 80s, and then continuing sporadically in what I call “pockets of excellence.” The challenges for partnerships from the start have included their fragile sustainability. We are always faced with the difficulty of finding public, private and other resources to grow promising programs and practices, especially when politics, policy and availability of money have been unsteady or unreliable. Read the rest of this entry »

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final budget agreement for FY 2012, which includes $146.255 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

On Saturday morning, the same bill passed the U.S. Senate and moves to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

The $146,255 million appropriation is identical to President Obama’s proposed budget, a cut of nearly $9 million from FY 2011, and is a compromise between the House of Representatives number of $135 million and the Senate number of $155 million as previously considered by their respective subcommittees.

Also included in this bill is $24.596 million in funding for the Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, which had been zeroed-out in a previous proposal in the House.
Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. Senate Proposal Provides Direction for Future of Arts Education

Posted by Narric Rome On October - 31 - 2011

Narric Rome

On October 19 and 20, after many years of inaction, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began marking up the Senate version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill (last reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002).

Americans for the Arts lobbied on several of these issues on behalf of its members and the legislation, as amended, has several items that are of interest to the arts education sector.

The bill offers new insights into the direction of federal education policy and how the arts can fit within it, including the following:

1) Arts education was retained as a “core academic subject” – ensuring that the arts maintains this designation is critical for eligibility to use federal funds locally.

2) The term “core academic subject” has been incorporated into far more programs than No Child Left Behind did. It now places core academic subjects, including the arts, as central to extended learning programs, “highly qualified teacher” qualifications, parental engagement programs, advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, reading or language arts, and STEM initiatives. This is a giant leap from the diminutive position that “core academic subject” held in the No Child Left Behind Act. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Letter Writing & Phone Calls: Relationship-Based Arts Education Advocacy

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On September - 30 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

Over the last few years, I’ve blogged here about our arts education advocacy efforts in San Diego with the San Diego Unified School District. I am the co-founding chair of the San Diego Alliance for Arts Education (SDAAE) which officially launched in May 2010 (although our collective grassroots advocacy work began a year earlier).

As chair of the SDAAE I have been very clear about the approach I want to take in leading the advocacy work that we do. While I believe that public comment and letter writing are important components of advocacy, I am also an evangelist for developing a working relationship with those to whom you are directing your efforts.

In this case, it’s our local school board. We have always carried the message to them that we want to be partners in supporting arts education and that we are available as a helpful resource for them. As a result, members have called when they have decisions to make or proposals to craft that they know will affect outcomes in the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department.

Most recently, the school board asked community members to assist with what they call “Tiger Teams.” These teams are essentially efforts to get new information and an outside perspective about way that various district departments do business. 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 »

Don’t Stop Now, You’re on a Roll…

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On September - 16 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

The inclusion of the dialogue between Harvey White and Sen. Stan Rosenberg at the recent Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego is a great addition to this edition of the bi-annual Arts Education Blog Salon.

As a San Diegan who has participated in meetings with White and others around the STEM to STEAM issue, I’ve often been frustrated by a lot of talk that has little to do with what can actually be done to move the needle on innovative workforce development.

We’ve had full discussions about changing curriculum and the education system, but never invited a school superintendent let alone an administrator to the meeting. I’ve heard people pass the buck and say, “Well I just come up with these ideas, and you guys need to figure out how to implement them.”

What I liked in their tete-a-tete was the businessman who cares about the issue and knows what will move other business folks to action, talking to the political official who cares about the issue and can move decisionmakers to action trying to come up with a solution together. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 10 Ways to Support Arts Education

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 26 - 2011

Kristen Engebretsen

This week I got an email from someone concerned about the budget cuts to arts education and inquiring about what they could do to help keep the arts in schools.

In the spirit of my colleague Randy Cohen’s popular post (Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts), I am presenting my own:

The Top 10 Ways to Support Arts Education

10. Volunteer your time, resources, skills: Many schools would appreciate your time as a chaperone, your skill as a teaching artist, or your donations of money, costumes, rehearsal space, etc.

9. Know the facts: Stay on top of current arts education research, trends, and news articles. Start with Reinvesting in Arts Education, which summarizes research on the topic. Use this data in your messaging when you speak to elected officials or school leaders.

8. Get involved politically: Tell your elected officials why arts education is important. Ask your members of Congress to keep the arts listed as a core subject during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Arts Education Program UPDATE

Posted by Gladstone Payton On May - 26 - 2011

Gladstone Payton

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee voted to approve HR 1891, the resolution sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that terminates the authorization of 43 U.S. Department of Education programs, including the Arts in Education program.

This bill marks the first attempt at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), popularly know of late as “No Child Left Behind.” The Committee is promising to move several like pieces of legislation in the coming months toward remaking ESEA.

The Arts in Education program is invaluable to many communities across the country as it funds not only professional development opportunities for arts educators in high-poverty areas, but it also provides money to model programs that support “the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that demonstrate effectiveness in: integrating into and strengthening arts in the core elementary and middle school curricula; strengthening arts instruction in those grades; and improving students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

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.