Parents As Arts Advocates

Posted by Doug Israel On September - 16 - 2011

In my previous post, I wrote about the value of arts education in keeping students on track to graduation—regardless of their career aspirations—and the role of parents in ensuring that principals are aware of the value of arts learning to students and the school community.

For those students who are interested in a career in the arts, one would think there is no greater place to be than in New York City. Arts-related businesses in the city generate $21 billion annually, providing over 200,000 jobs in everything from set production and theater management to video game design and advertising.

Unfortunately though, far too many of our city high schools are not providing a quality arts education, even though arts instruction is mandated by state law and we are surrounded by an incredible wealth of cultural institutions and amenities.

As part of our advocacy and public awareness efforts we work with parents in new and exciting ways to build support for the arts in schools.

Parents are helping lead advocacy workshops for other parents and school leaders, they are working with principals to encourage local elected officials to support their school arts programs, and they are helping create resources that can move others to action. 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 »

Career Clusters and the Arts

Posted by Brad Hull On September - 16 - 2011

Brad Hull

In Narric Rome’s earlier post, he summarized a very exciting meeting that spoke to the heart of this blog salon—arts and careers.

One of his components mentioned career clusters and as a former career and technical education secondary school director, I wanted to describe this work in more detail for those unfamiliar with it, using the arts cluster as an example. (It should also be noted that the field owes much to the work of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education).

Career clusters categorize all possible careers into 16 groupings called clusters and further subdivides them into pathways. The cluster most germane to the arts is called Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications. Its definition and pathways can be found here.

The career clusters work created standards. There are standards necessary for every cluster (called Essential Knowledge and Skill Statements), additional standards needed that are unique to a given cluster (here is the one for the arts cluster) and standards that are necessary and unique to each pathway (here is one for the performing arts). 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 »

Innovation: The Key to America’s Leading Edge

Posted by Billie Jean Knight On September - 16 - 2011

Billie Jean Knight

Those who insist America’s position in the world is being diminished by global competition bombard us daily in the media. Fear, doubt, and worry are generated by a panic-stricken fear mongers who blame America’s schools for failing to prepare students to rise to the competitive challenge.

I take issue with the idea that America’s schools are failing in general, although many struggle.

I do believe that policymakers have failed to define and support what students need to be able to know and do for a newly defined global economy.

Yes, mastery of reading, writing, math, science, and social and historical perspective are of critical importance. However, these are only prerequisites for what is truly needed to be ultimately prepared.

The obsession with tangible low-level skills required to “pass the test” has driven American school systems out of curriculum balance to abandon important elements that made our nation a superpower in the first place: creativity and innovation. 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 »

Keeping Students on Track to Graduation

Posted by Doug Israel On September - 15 - 2011

Doug Israel

Most people these days would not disagree with the notion that the first step to a promising career, in any field, is attaining a high school diploma.

Sure, there are some well-known exceptions (see: Johnny Depp, Chris Rock, Peter Jennings, Britney Spears, and “Wendy’s” Dave Thomas), but good paying jobs are few and far between for those that don’t graduate from high school.

In fact, earning a diploma increases the likelihood of steady employment by 30 percent and cuts the chances of experiencing poverty in half. Despite this, today, in the United States, more than one million students across the United States drop out of high school each year.

The good news is that there is evidence from the field that shows that the arts can play a role in reversing this trend.

In several national studies over the past decade, students at risk of dropping out cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying in school. Research has also shown that arts education has had a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting In Tune with Educational Purpose

Posted by Billie Jean Knight On September - 15 - 2011

Billie Jean Knight

I hold steadfastly to the perspective that students pursue an education, of which schooling is only a part, to discover their own inspired gifts and talents.

In the process, they develop a passion and commitment to achieve excellence as they master the communication, problem-solving, and technical skills to allow for a high-quality personal and work life.

However, too often our most inspired, creative, and visionary young people are derailed in their quest to discover and express their exceptional gifts in the context of life’s work because of the systemic discouragement at every stage of educational development.

The sad truth is that routinely governmental entities, communities, educators, and parents hold constrained paradigms that teach our young artists to fear, doubt, and worry about a choice to become a professional artist. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the State of Career Development for Musicians?

Posted by Sally Gaskill On September - 15 - 2011

Sally Gaskill

In his post, Ron Jones takes on the topic of career development for art and design students. I thought I would check in with Angela Myles Beeching, author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, for her perspective on the performing arts. As she says, “It takes more than talent to succeed in music.”

Beeching, who has a DMA in cello performance, is the former director of the Career Services Center at New England Conservatory. She currently directs the Center for Music Entrepreneurship at Manhattan School of Music and maintains a thriving private consulting practice.

Q (Sally): I once heard the dean of a prominent school of music say that typical undergraduate music students do not start thinking about what they might do after graduation until the spring semester of their junior year. Then they panic. What’s your response to that scenario?

A (Angela): Part of it is a developmental process: undergrads are so busy fulfilling their degree requirements and figuring out how to become adults, that the reality of graduation does not start to get real until junior year. However, students at every stage have entrepreneurial project ideas. So, the earlier you can engage students in developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills, the easier it is for them to think about longer-term career goals and the action steps needed to fulfill their dreams. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding the Professions to Which Our Students Aspire

Posted by Ron Jones On September - 15 - 2011

Ron Jones

We who educate aspiring artists, whether we’re public or private, liberal arts or research university, or a professional school, tend not to give sufficient attention to what ensures proficiency in our students, or what prepares our graduates to act upon an indifferent world.

We tend to give little attention to preparing students as entrepreneurs who have a sense of business or an understanding of how to make the world work for them.

We are inclined to give minimal, if any, attention to basic skills (writing, presenting, managing, arguing, collaborating, etc.) necessary for transforming an excellent education in art into a successful life-long profession in that art.

Yes, we do an excellent job of giving students the skills, knowledge, and understandings that relate to art-making, but that’s it!

Put more self-accusingly, we have generally opened the door at commencement, bid the graduates goodbye, closed the door, locked it, dusted off our hands and said with a sigh, “We’ve done our part; now it’s up to you.”

I am here to say we can do better; we must! Read the rest of this entry »

Creation vs. Creativity vs. The Creative Habit (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On September - 14 - 2011

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I want to add to Mark and Eric’s sentiments that we need to be careful about the claims of arts education teaching the 4 Cs (critical thinking & problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity & innovation).

When claiming this monopoly on creativity, I think we need to refine our message.

So, here I offer a distinction about creation vs. creativity vs. the creative habit, and some research you can use to back up this advocacy message.

The Arts Standards
First, if you want some specific examples of how the arts teach creativity, look to your state standards. The California standards have an entire strand dedicated to creative expression, but you’ll notice that the word “creativity” does not appear. Rather it is words like “problem solving,” “motivation,” and “originality.” Being more specific in our message will help others understand what it is that we do.

Here are some more nuances to this message:

Creativity Correlation
In Robert Root-Bernstein’s work, “Arts Foster Scientific Success,” he shows that engaging in arts was a good predictor of future innovation for Nobel laureates. He then discusses the “tools for thinking” (empathizing, pattern recognition, and synthesizing) that enable these scientists to have innovative breakthroughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing a Future in Your First Job

Posted by Alyx Kellington On September - 14 - 2011
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

Orlando is sixteen and gets bored easily. He receives mediocre to low grades, lives in the lower socioeconomic range, is being raised by a single mother and has a tendency to get in trouble.

How many of you work with students like Orlando?

Although Orlando does not care much for school, he enjoys going to an afterschool program where he hangs with his friends and gets to be creative. Twice a week, a visual art teaching artist comes in and the students study the history of their south Florida town, including the architecture, the cultural activities, the cars and clothing, and compare it to today.

On 12×12 plywood, the students create background, glue down fabric and copies of photographs, paint details, and add text, creating a collage of their community, past and present. Orlando worked on three of the boards, learning technique, an art vocabulary, and an appreciation for history that was relevant to his world.

Because of Orlando’s participation in this project, when I was looking to hire a temporary employee to help deliver educational materials over the summer, the director of the afterschool program recommended him.

“Hi Orlando.  Have you had a job before?” I asked.

He mumbled and looked down at his feet. “No ma’am. This will be my first.” Read the rest of this entry »

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from a Chopin Nocturne

Posted by Brad Hull On September - 14 - 2011
Brad Hull

Brad Hull

I grew up in a small conservative town in Pennsylvania. As a budding piano player, my entire focus was on the great hymns of the faith, playing in church every Sunday.

The first time I had ever memorized a piece of classical music was in preparation for my college entrance auditions.

With this small bit of information about me, you can well imagine the sight of me as a very green, frightened, and shy freshman, entering the halls of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as a piano major, walking around the three floors of practice rooms hearing incredible music emanating from almost every one. On top of that, due to a lack of attention to technique, I had developed tendonitis the summer before.

My piano teacher was phenomenal and we studied the Chopin Nocturne in D-Flat, op. 27 no. 2 for the entire year. Little did I know that these were lessons not only about Chopin, but also about living and working. Here are a few things that I learned:

1. The best things in life require attention, presence, and care. Don’t take anything for granted. Chopin ended the phrase on the half beat for a reason. Turning this descending melody line upwards creates a very specific effect. Modulating to the subdominant here prepares the listener for the return of the A section. Honor these elements with your attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating the Next Generation of Teaching Artists

Posted by Mark Slavkin On September - 14 - 2011

Mark Slavkin

When we consider careers in the arts, I would like to see more attention paid and resources assigned to cultivate the next generation of teaching artists.

At the Los Angeles Music Center, teaching artists are central to our work helping schools gain capacity to provide quality arts education. Our teaching artists provide inspiration and support for teachers to develop the courage, confidence, and skills to engage their students in meaningful learning in and through the arts. As “real artists” the teaching artists bring a different sensibility than students may experience in a typical school.

In spite of the central role teaching artists play in our work and that of many other organizations around the country, it seems these opportunities are not showcased as part of the core curriculum in most college level arts programs.

How can young artists aspire to a career they do not know even exists? Even in those cases when students are introduced to the idea of becoming a teaching artist, it is often in the context of “service learning” as opposed to an integral part of the life of a professional artist. Read the rest of this entry »

Answering the Charge of “Fluffheadery”

Posted by Eric Booth On September - 14 - 2011
Eric Booth

Eric Booth

In response to Mark Slavkin’s post…in the great gamble of arts learning, I see the issues your blog post raises, and raise you one.

Along with Mark, I not only challenge us to make sure we can walk our talk, and actually deliver the results we claim, but I think even our talk is problematic.

As Mark points out, we make a number of claims about the learning benefits we deliver to kids and to those who leave schooling and enter the workforce–benefits like “creativity.” I observe that we don’t even know what we really mean with keywords we use. I have encountered very few arts educators who can give a good answer to this question: Tell me which specific skills of creativity you develop in young people, and how you are sure of your claim?

Few can even name the few key skills they prioritize, or present clear evidence of skill development, apart from some excellent individual cases they tend to cite. Read the rest of this entry »