Niel DePont

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Being Career Ready: Whose Career Is It Anyway?

Posted by Niel DePonte On September - 11 - 2012

Niel DePonte

The Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) states:

[College and Career Ready] students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying, but they also question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.

Being a discerning reader of the CCSS, I love the idea of being career ready, it sounds great. But I am left pondering the question, “To which careers are we referring?” I agree that the CCSS, if met, would actually allow for a graduating senior to be ready for virtually any field.

But there is a catch. I don’t see how there would be enough time across a K–12 learning curve for a student to become deeply engaged in any discipline within a school such that the student could gain a sense of mastery of a discipline, craft, artistic or athletic pursuit…with the obvious exceptions of language arts and math, the primary subjects of the standards themselves.

The focus on the use of language and numbers as important tools for expression within an educated society is understandable. But what of experiencing creative processes using other tools? What of practicing critical thinking with other tools? What about the sensory tools available to students?

For example, why not teach students to see deeply when looking at a piece of artwork? Yes, of course they would need language to discuss what they saw, but what if they chose to dance their reaction? Would this form of expression be any less valid than an essay? Not to me. It would not, however, give the student the appearance of being college and career ready according to the CCSS. What if that career choice was professional dancer?

Where is the one standard that matters in every grade: “The student will learn to enjoy school, get to choose areas of study aligned with their particular interests, have the opportunity to pursue those interests, (and I will add for the CCSS devotees in the audience), and receive training in English Language Arts and math that relate to that particular interest and via that particular field of study”? Read the rest of this entry »

Real-Life Common Core Language Arts Connections to Arts Education

Posted by Paul King On September - 10 - 2012

Paul King

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has embraced the Common Core Standards with a fervor that demonstrates a comprehensive commitment to this work. All of our 1,700-plus schools have been engaged in this initiative.

The Common Core is one of the key levers for accomplishing NYCDOE’s goal to graduate all students college- and career-ready. In New York City, the Common Core has impacted work in all disciplines and at every level from the central offices, through our school support structure, and in every school.

Pragmatically, teachers of the arts should be at the table and part of the conversation as the Common Core is implemented at the school level. In the face of the monumental shift caused by  the Common Core, it’s important that we find clear and specific ways to articulate how arts education  can reinforce the holistic and comprehensive approach that is at the center of the Common Core.

This is not to suggest that teachers of the arts should teach literacy or math by limiting opportunities for students to create art. In New York City, we remain committed to providing students at all levels with the skills, content, and understandings of the arts, according to the local standards outlined in The Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts. There are, however, exciting and appropriate ways to align arts teaching and learning with the Common Core that will ultimately benefit our kids.

Let’s look at the Common Core’s English Language Arts non-fiction or informational text requirement. To dig into this a bit deeper, I have four sample questions that we as arts educators can ask ourselves. These questions are by no means comprehensive in tapping into the array of ways that informational text can be used in an arts instructional setting.

1)    In what ways is the deep examination of a work of visual arts for elements of composition comparable, but not identical to, the process of deconstructing informational text?
2)    Can a musical score in a rehearsal setting, with its own system of symbols and vocabulary, be seen and used as informational text?
3)    How might a dance teacher assist students in using informational text (e.g., research and performance reviews) to inform and support making original dances?
4)    How can reading, analyzing, and reflecting upon playwright and directorial statements support an actor’s understandings of the script as he brings the text to life on stage? 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 »

Survey: Students Value Arts More Than Teachers?

Posted by Munira Khapra On March - 28 - 2011
Munira Khapra

Munira Khapra

According to a survey conducted by MetLife, American students (grades 6–12) believe that studying the arts – in addition to history, government, and politics – is important to understanding other nations and cultures and international issues.

This is in contrast to their teachers, who view other languages and the arts to be less essential in the understanding of other nations.

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers” examines education priorities for high school students; what being college- and career-ready entails; and the implications of this goal for teaching.

The results are based on a national survey conducted in the fall of 2010 of public school teachers, public school students, parents of public school students, and Fortune 1000 business executives.    Read the rest of this entry »