The Good News about Arts Education in Los Angeles County

Posted by Laura Zucker On February - 28 - 2014
Laura Zucker

Laura Zucker

Recently the 2013 Otis Report on the Creative Economy for California and the Los Angeles Region was released. As in previous years, the presentation of the data generated anticipation and buzz in the arts community.  There is a lot of good news for the creative sector, including the fact that one out of every seven jobs is in the creative economy. The report emphasizes the critical role arts education plays in preparing students for these jobs, and we at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission are particularly interested in how we can make these opportunities a reality for all the 1.6 million students in our public schools.

The Otis Report consolidates data from across all 81 school districts in Los Angeles County. These districts range in size from large (over 600,000 students) to small (under 1,500 students) and utilize arts specialists, generalist teachers and teaching artists in different ways to achieve their educational goals.

The data draws from the 2011-12 academic year, which was a challenging time for schools. Districts were struggling with recession era budgets, forced to make difficult budgetary choices and like the rest of the country, much of their public accountability was based on test scores in math and language arts.

Despite these challenges, there are positive indicators:

  • Arts course enrollment regained what was lost during the recession, and was only 10 fewer students in 2011-12 compared to 2005-06 (317,000 students).
  • The total number of arts education classes offered increased by 20.8% since 2005-06.
  • Enrollment in arts courses as a percentage of all courses rose slightly to 7.6% in 2011-12 from 7.0% in 2005-06.

We know there is public will around arts education from superintendents, assistant superintendents and teachers across LA County. Arts for All, the county’s arts education initiative dedicated to making the arts core in K-12 public education, saw will transformed into action through the creation and adoption of 50 arts strategic plans since 2002, twelve school districts implementing robust teacher professional development plans, and countywide interest in the inclusion of the arts as a strategy for helping students achieve Common Core State Standards (every workshop we offer on the topic is filled to capacity).

And the landscape for education in the state is changing once again with significantly more resources flowing into LA County schools. We’re looking forward to greater gains in the next few years and plan to partner with Otis College and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation to provide a more in-depth snapshot of the state of arts education in 2014.

A New Era for Arts in New York City Schools?

Posted by Doug Israel On February - 26 - 2014
Doug Israel

Doug Israel

Over the course of the past several years, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have been advancing ambitious plans to expand access to arts education and creative learning for public school students. Here in New York City – home of the nation’s largest school district – with a new mayor and schools chancellor, and a growing chorus of parents calling for the inclusion of arts in the school day, there is momentum gathering that could lead to a much-overdue expansion of arts and music in city schools.

This December, at the close of his 12 years in office, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a City Council bill that would require the Department of Education to provide annual data on arts instruction that advocates believe will help identify gaps in the delivery of arts education and drive improvements in what is being offered at schools across the city.

While strides were made in expanding access to arts instruction at many schools across the city over the past decade, large gaps persist in the provision of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the over 1,800 New York City public schools.

That is why on the heels of the successful effort to pass the arts reporting legislation, advocates and leaders from a diverse cross section of New York, released a statement calling on the city to ensure that every child, in every part of the city, receives arts instruction as part of their K-12 education.

The statement – entitled “Every Child in Every School: A Vision for Arts and Creativity in New York City Public Schools” –notes that New York City – with its rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and organizations – is uniquely positioned to be the leader in arts and creative education. Read the rest of this entry »

A Delicate Balance: The Intersection of In-School and Out-of-School Time

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On February - 25 - 2014
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

As a statewide funder of arts education, the trend in my organization’s support of arts education over the last decade has been to push the field towards deeper levels of arts integration. Although the beginning of the erosion of arts specialists in schools predates my career in arts administration, I strongly suspect that this emphasis on integrating the arts with other (perhaps more stable) subject areas was a reactive measure rather than a proactive one. In other words, instead of honoring arts integration as an effective teaching method for addressing multiple learning styles, it was seen as a “quick fix” for the loss of critically important arts specialists.

One of the consequences of this investment has been a decrease in attention to out-of-school work. This may be due to a perceived lack of quality (not aligned with state standards, not assessed, not taught by certified educators, etc.), but is also probably a result of decreased availability of grant dollars. As funders turned their attention to in-school work, organizations dependent on that funding were forced to divert their resources towards in-school programs. While there are still many high-quality out-of-school programs in operation, as evidenced by the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, they seem to lack broad recognition as a valuable component of arts education.

I’ve recently watched the evolution of several new grant programs in Oregon, each with their own attempt to link in- and out-of-school earning. The Oregon Community Foundation’s new “Studio to School” program endeavors to create a lasting arts education legacy within a community over a five year investment. While the final funding decisions have not yet been announced, I noticed while serving as a reviewer in the initial phase that the most problematic section of the application asked applicants to “link arts education during the school day to out of school arts learning.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

For the Poor, the Arts Are a Path to Opportunity

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 12 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

This Letter to the Editor was co-authored by Robert L. Lynch and Robert Redford and originally published in the New York Times on February 11, 2014. The New York Times version incorrectly mentions the city of Los Angeles. This version correctly states the city as San Diego.

To the Editor:

Re “N.E.A. Funds Benefit Both Rich and Poor, Study Finds” (Arts pages, Feb. 5):

A few years ago, a homeless girl in Los Angeles walked into a community arts center. Her name is Inocente. An Oscar-winning documentary by the same name told the story of how the arts turned her life around. Her success story illustrates the benefit of the arts to thousands of poor children and lower-income people all across our country.

The assertion by the House Budget Committee that the arts are the domain of the wealthy has proved to be a myth. A Southern Methodist University study reaffirms what nearly 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations already know. Public funding allows access to the arts for millions of Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford the benefit of the arts in their lives.

Arts are a path to opportunity. Businesses benefit from the creativity, perseverance and problem-solving skills that Americans develop through the arts. The arts drive private-sector investment and job creation. Every dollar of N.E.A. funding generates $9 of non-federal money to the arts, and the nonprofit arts industry generates 4.1 million jobs.

This new study can help educate our elected leaders from both sides of the aisle about the true value of the arts for all our children, our communities and our country.

Read this Letter to the Editor in The New York Times.

Arts Education Matters, Darn It!

Posted by Ken Busby On January - 22 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.

The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst.  And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded.  As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular.   And that’s the job of a CEO.  I’m not complaining.

What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding.  I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Everything Arts + Education + Technology in 2014

Posted by Jessica Wilt On January - 8 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

It’s the start of a New Year and technology will continue to be a hot arts education topic in 2014.  Since launching my own ArtsEdTechNYC venture last spring, I’ve immersed myself in many conversations exploring ways in which technology – I admit, a super generalized term – is being utilized within the scope of arts education. In meaningful, effective ways including K-12, higher education, distance learning and special needs populations, I remain continuously inspired by so many people doing amazing work.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered where technology will continue to change the way we teach, educate and inform our arts education field this year and beyond.

RESEARCH

The Wallace Foundation released two critical pieces of research late last year. As access to technology for learning, communication and art making grow among our youth, self-directed, connected, and digital learning opportunities are expanding as well.New-Opportunities-for-Interest-Driven-Arts-Learning-in-a-Digital-Age_COVER

These reports are a must-read:

ONLINE LEARNING & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The EdTech movement is the driving force behind development of so many new online learning platforms, apps, and software being created at lighting speed.  Here are a few arts, creativity, and innovation sites that I think are great:

  • Susan Riley’s STEM to STEAM focused Education Closet provides a wonderful platform for art integration ideas and professional development, while also offering a unique annual virtual conference. The STEM to STEAM conversation will continue to be an extensive one. Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

Raymond Tymas Jones

When University of Utah College of Fine Arts students asked for tools and resources to prepare them for the transition into the workforce, Dr. Liz Leckie, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, listened.

The students’ request resonated with Dr. Leckie given that it reflected what the collective voice of more than 100,000 arts graduates from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project  (SNAAP) was saying, which is that in addition to mastering their craft, art students want more time spent on career and post-graduate advising.

And, earlier this month, the students got exactly that. By hiring and empowering student staffers, Dr. Leckie created a team that envisioned and executed the highly-anticipated first annual ArtsForce conference, a two-day, student-driven event including an array of workshops, panels, networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by the esteemed associate director of Vanderbilt University’s The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, Steven J. Tepper, PhD. Read the rest of this entry »

Theories to Prevent Chaos

Posted by Erin Gough On November - 20 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

Even those of us who have chosen to spend our lives in the arts rather than mathematics and the sciences have probably heard the preeminent example used to describe Chaos Theory. There is no shortage of cultural references to the so-called “Butterfly Effect,” including Jurassic Park’s claim that “a butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

So what does that mean for those of us who are working in the arts education field? Too often our efforts feel like lots of wing-flapping and not enough knowing where to look to measure rainfall. We flap our wings and maybe one student will become a professional artist.  We flap our wings and perhaps a performance will inspire a student. We flap our wings harder and harder and yet the next Mozart will not come out of this year’s class of students. Unfortunately, some who control the purse-strings see funding of arts education in this way.  Few people are eager to invest their resources in what they see as chaotic or unpredictable.

A funder, whether it is a private foundation, philanthropically-minded community members, state legislators, or school board members, expect their investment to spur a lot of wing-flapping, but they also want to know exactly when and where they can expect to see results.

Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiring Creativity, Supporting Art Education

Posted by Masha Raj On November - 5 - 2013
Vans Custom Culture Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Vans Custom Culture 2013 Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Americans for the Arts is excited to be partnering again with VANS in 2014 for the Vans Custom Culture competition, a national shoe customization contest where high schools from all over the United States compete for a chance to win money for their art programs.

Since 2010, youth-targeted brand Vans has been encouraging high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity.  The Vans Custom Culture competition offers students a fresh perspective on art and offers an outlet for self expression through art, fashion, and design through this unique contest and multimedia exhibit.  During this contest, high school students from participating schools design shoes that fit within a particular theme representing Vans lifestyle.  The $50,000 award is granted to the winning school to support its art program.

The 2013 Vans Customs Culture winner of the $50,000 grand prize was Lakeridge High School of Lake Oswego, Oregon.  This winning school was chosen on June 11, 2013 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The top 5 finalist school’s shoe designs were on display at the museum for the panel of judges, which included actress Emma Roberts, designer Timo Weiland, reality star-turned-designer Whitney Port, artist Christian Jacobs and skateboarder Steve Caballero.  In addition to the grand prize, $20,000 was donated by Vans and Americans for the Arts to ten more schools across country to advance their art education programs. Read the rest of this entry »

A Degree in the Arts: Perspectives from Postgraduates

Posted by Alexandra Milak On October - 30 - 2013
Alexandra Malik

Alexandra Malik

I remember when I applied to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). My high school experience was not ideal, and I had always dreamed of pursuing something in the arts. Sophmore year of high school I tried out for the fall drama production, and there was no going back from there. I worked hard to keep my grades up and fill my resume with impressive extracurriculars; I applied to nine different schools, really only wanting to attend NYU. The day I was accepted was probably the most memorable day of my life. It signified a turning point: I was about to embark on the journey of my dreams.

Looking back, I don’t doubt that it was the most worthwhile choice I’ve ever made (which is lucky, because I, as most high schoolers are, was pressured to make that decision when I was only seventeen years old). I learned so much about myself as a performer and a human being, and became an instrument through which characters could live, breathe, and have their stories told. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience which I will never forget. That being said, during my time at NYU, I wasn’t completely honest with myself about the realities that lay ahead of me once I graduated. It was hard to keep questions about the future clear in my head because things were so uncertain post-graduation. Still I wondered, was pursuing a degree in the arts worth it? Read the rest of this entry »

Halley Shefler

Halley Shefler

The school year is still new, so it’s a great time to look ahead and plan ahead. Remember that your academic and performing or visual arts choices in high school should serve your longer-term goals as you prepare for college and beyond. Keep in mind that no matter what decisions you’ve made, or are about to make, you may want to refine your selections as you develop and grow. Stay focused, and at the same time, stay open to exploring new areas at all times!

Senior Arts Students — Get guidance, plan auditions, prep portfolios. Stay on track with admissions requirements by working with your guidance counselor. Let your counselor know where you want transcripts, score reports, and letters sent, and provide any necessary forms much earlier than the actual deadlines so your counselor will have time to send in the forms. Now you can finalize your audition material or portfolio pieces to best reflect your skills.

Senior Parents — Decide on early decision. Review options for early decision and early action to determine if this is the path you and your student want to pursue. Help your child complete the college list by adding application and financial aid due dates. Take a road trip. Identify the top colleges on the final list, and visit those schools. Schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Also remember to attend college fairs, and gather as much information as possible.

Junior Arts Students — Build your list of potential colleges. Start by identifying the criteria that is most important to you about college such as academic majors, size, location, cost, and/or special programs. Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you. Then list the schools that fit your criteria, and develop a preliminary ranking of those schools. You should attend college fairs and college nights and speak with college representatives who visit your high school. Search your top college options online, and based on your findings, either expand or narrow your list. Also, if you’re in the performing arts, it’s a good time to assemble your resume with a headshot. See how the college consultants at ArtsBridge approach arts specialization.

Junior Parents — Stay on schedule. If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is marked on your student’s calendar as well as yours. Remind him/her to prepare for the test and to try some practice questions. At the same time, you can help keep this from being a high-pressure situation by planning for a fun treat after the test. Step on campus. Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges even if it’s not where your child will apply. The idea is to explore different types of schools. Start a discussion by asking about which characteristics your student either likes or dislikes about those schools.

Sophomore Arts Students — Practice with the PSAT. Taking the PSAT as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year. It also allows you to release your name to colleges so you can start receiving information from them. Also review your courses with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the classes you need to prepare you for college.

Sophomore Parents — Take your kid to the fair. It’s a good time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to your area. Encourage your child to get a feel for the college search by attending one fair, and if ready, a session or two with representatives at school. It may also be a good time to start a preliminary list of potential colleges.

Freshman Arts Students — Plan for the next 4 years. Prepare to lay the foundation for your high school career. This is the time to establish your academic and extracurricular credentials and begin to explore options for further education and a career. Your guidance counselor is there to help you make sense of your college and career options. As soon as you can, set up a meeting to talk about your plans for high school and the future. Your counselor can help to make sure you’re enrolled in the appropriate college-prep classes.

Freshman Parents — Plant the seeds now. Encourage your child to start exploring career goals so that courses can be chosen to complement those goals and serve as good prerequisites for college. Sit down with your teen and the course listings to agree on an academic plan for the classes your child should take in high school. Lay out preliminary plans for extracurricular activities as well, allowing flexibility for new interests to develop. Naturally, you’ll want to consult with the school guidance counselor to help with all of the planning.

Students of the arts get a head start on college consulting. Learn all about ArtsBridge college counseling and see how former college deans of admissions are able to offer specialized guidance to bring out the best in every high school student of the arts.

The monthly planning guide for visual & performing arts students and can be viewed at http://artsbridge.com/artblog/

 

Make Room: Expanding the School Day for Deeper Arts Engagement

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On October - 16 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students.  But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.

The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning.  The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:

  1. Educators consider arts classes to be a core feature of their comprehensive educational program.
  2. Educators organize their school day and staffing to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice.
  3. Educators value how the arts can leverage engagement and achievement in school.

In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield.  This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry.  A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year.  You can see their sample schedule online. Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Education Contest 2013: Update!

Posted by Masha Raj On October - 15 - 2013
Masha Raj

Masha Raj

We are half way through the “Art of Education” contest, and right now two schools from Washington State are neck and neck for the lead position: Cascade K-8 Community School (Shoreline, WA) and Kenmore Elementary (Kenmore, WA) each have over 2,800 votes so far!

It’s not too late for your favorite school to jump into the top 16 schools by using these following tips…

  1. Set a daily reminder. Remind yourself to vote – and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can set an alarm on your phone, calendar, or clock – just be sure to set it for a time of day you won’t distract others – and when you’ll be near a computer to vote!
  2. Break out in song! Last year’s winner, Brunswick Acres, used a combination of video, dance, and music to urge the public to “Vote B.A. Daily.” Collaborate with your students, teachers, parents, and administration in your community – and let your musical talents shine!
  3. Go digital. If your artistic talents lie in the visual arts or in creative writing, consider working with your peers to create a blog or website about the contest. Be sure to include reasons why you need their vote!
  4. Get the press involved.  Write a persuasive letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or invite a journalist to your school to showcase the financial need, meet the principal and art teachers, and see first-hand the energy of the students.
  5. Share, share, share! Be sure to send an invitation to all your Facebook friends to “like” the KRIS Wine Facebook page. Remind them often to vote – and do so creatively! If your son is in the school orchestra, snap a photo of him practicing, and email it to your out-of-state family members.  Please always be sure to thank your friends and family for their help!

The 2013 Art of Education contest runs until October 31, 2013. Vote now for the chance for your school to win. Remember – anything can happen in the next two weeks. Good luck!

Who’s The Best? Bias Answers the Question

Posted by Ron Jones On October - 2 - 2013
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

There’s been so much written about the value of higher education and most of it, especially when it is positive, I agree with.   Lately, however, I have begun to question my own thinking, admitting to myself that I may be so biased and gullible that I will buy into anything that is said about higher education if it positively reflects upon my domain.

For years I have agreed with the argument that a broad, liberal education combined with arts training is the right balance, i.e., the best balance for graduating someone in the arts.  I also accepted hook, line, and sinker the notion that to be fully prepared, to have the full enchilada, so to speak, would require a student to major in a more professional degree such as the BFA.  Notice how I said, the “more professional,” with emphasis upon the “more.”

Why did I, and, for that matter, most, if not all of my world of colleagues buy into this notion of how to shape a curriculum intended to prepare an artist?  For others, it may be different but for me the answer is embarrassingly clear: the argument made sense because I was always in a comprehensive university and, therefore, what made sense was justifying the value of the institution in which I worked. 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.