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 »

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Unpacking Shared Delivery of Arts Education

Posted by Talia Gibas On December - 18 - 2012
Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

When some brave soul writes an updated history of arts education in the United States (any takers?) I think he or she will describe the early-to-mid-2000s as an ambitious era. The arts education sector, mirroring the broader arts field and the constantly reforming field of education, is having larger and broader conversations about impact, outcomes, and sustainability. In the process it’s moving toward large and broader models of best practice such as the idea of  “shared delivery” (also known as “blended delivery” and the “three-legged stool model”).

Shared delivery has been in vogue for the last few years. It was a central topic of conversation at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in 2008. Americans for the Arts identifies shared delivery as a key component to a broader approach called “coordinated delivery”—which, in turn, was identified as a major arts education trend in 2010. My own initiative, Arts for All, upholds shared delivery as integral to the vision of ensuring high quality arts education for all students in Los Angeles County.

In the K–12 public school setting, shared delivery envisions students receiving arts instruction from three distinct parties: 1) generalist elementary school teachers, 2) arts specialists, and 3) teaching artists and/or community arts organizations.

Under this model, the three collaborate to provide visual and performing arts programs to children. The generalist teacher integrates the arts throughout daily lessons across subject areas, the specialist hones in on skills and content specific to his or her art form, and the teaching artist supports one or both while engaging directly with students and providing the perspective of a working arts professional. The model posits that each of these three roles is of equal importance…

(Editor’s Note: To read more of Talia’s post (reprinted here with permission), visit Createquity.com where it was originally published on December 3, 2012.)

Is Arts Integration Working?

Posted by Ken Busby On September - 28 - 2012

Ken Busby

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, discussed the importance of the arts to the overall education of our children:

“The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students.  All of the arts—dance, music, theatre, and the visual artsare essential to preparing our nation’s young people for a global economy fueled by innovation and creativity and for a social discourse that demands communication in images and sound as well as in text.” 

He went on to say, “research shows that arts-rich schoolsones that provide opportunities for students to experience the arts in deep and meaningful ways and to make curricular connections with math, science, and the humanitiesare more engaging for students.”

And he referenced research that all of us in the arts education field have used for years saying, “We know that students who attend arts-rich schools are more likely to stay in school and go on to graduate from college.”

At the end of his comments, Duncan issued a challenge: “Now is the time to make the arts a vital part of a complete education for all students.”

Here’s the conundrum…

The U.S. Secretary of Education states what we know to be true. He states it with authority and without equivocation. And yet, we continue to see education budgets slashed year after year. And we continue to see the arts and art opportunities diminished within our schools in favor of more “time on task” for reading and math, and more testing. The disparity among schools is widening, with some really outstanding schools at the top, a few in the middle, and more and more considered “failing.” Typically, the schools with the lowest performing students are also the schools with the least amount of arts opportunities and integration.

What to do? Read the rest of this entry »

A Recipe for Success in the New World of the Common Core

Posted by Mark Slavkin On September - 12 - 2012

Mark Slavkin

The latest wave of national school reform—the Common Core State Standards—provides a new set of opportunities and challenges for arts education. Having experienced several prior waves of school reform, I must admit to a certain degree of cynicism.

If history is any guide, we will over-promise on the impact of these standards and under-invest in providing teachers the tools and support they will need to be effective. Still, there are important opportunities to consider.

Advocates behind the Common Core suggest this new approach will emphasize critical thinking and analysis, and move us behind the fragmented curriculum standards where content is a mile wide and only an inch deep. This would be a positive change. Further, the Common Core initiative aspires to a new system of testing that would replace the multiple choice format with more authentic assessments using online technologies. This too could be a step forward.

It is tempting for providers of arts education programs to simply stamp the phrase “aligned with Common Core” over our existing curricular resources. This would be a mistake and a lost opportunity. Instead, I would suggest we look for ways to join the many planning processes underway in our respective states and local school districts. We should be at those tables along with other educators as we all grapple with the challenges of “implementing” the Common Core. Such collaborations can lead to a stronger place for arts and arts integration as the Common Core rolls out.

Once we join the planning tables as advocates for arts education, I would suggest a degree of humility is in order. Common Core is new for all of us. We have much to learn and consider before we claim “arts programs already support this!” Here are some questions we might ask ourselves:

How much reading do students do in my arts program? How much do I know about texts they are reading in other courses? What are the most appropriate texts I would want students to read to deepen their understanding of art history, art criticism, or aesthetic considerations? 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 »

It’s All About Creativity

Posted by John Eger On March - 27 - 2012

John Eger

Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Education, convenes the first of several meetings in Coronado, CA later this month to talk about “how the arts and creative education can transform California classrooms.” He also plans to produce a new publication called A Blueprint for Creative Schools.

Just as important, the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts will hold hearings on SB 789, legislation that will require the Governor to develop a “creativity index,” which in turn would be used to measure creativity in public schools statewide.

SB 789, authored by Senator Curren Price (D-District 26) and introduced last February, was approved by all the appropriate Senate committees and is now moving toward passage.

This movement by California matches the legislation signed by the governor of Massachusetts last spring, and is much like a bill working its way through the state legislature in Oklahoma to also establish a creativity index.

Equally significant, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Wisconsin are beginning similar discussions and Nebraska is getting itself organized, according to CreativeChallenge, Inc., which monitors creativity discussions worldwide. The group notes that Seoul, Alberta, and Edmonton—and probably other cities and nations around the world—are following these efforts closely.

Clearly something big is happening across America. Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this week on PBS NewsHour, Condoleezza Rice was interviewed (along with former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein) about a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations that links education reform with national security.

While discussing the topic, the former U.S. Secretary of State and accomplished pianist was also asked about the state of arts education in America.

Here are Rice’s comments:

What do you think about her statements?

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Five)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 16 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

109. What great teachers have in common is the ability to transfer emotion

Every great teacher I have ever encountered is great because of her desire to communicate emotion, not (just) facts.

A teacher wrote to me recently, “I teach first grade and while I have my mandated curriculum, I also teach my students how to think and not what to think.

I tell them to question everything they will read and be told throughout the coming years.

I insist they are to find out their own answers. I insist they allow no one to homogenize who they are as individuals (the goal of compulsory education).

I tell them their gifts and talents are given as a means to make a meaningful difference and create paradigm changing shifts in our world, which are so desperately needed.

I dare them to be different and to lead, not follow. I teach them to speak out even when it’s not popular.

I teach them ‘college’ words as they are far more capable than just learning, ‘sat, mat, hat, cat, and rat.’

Why can’t they learn words such as cogent, cognizant, oblivious, or retrograde just because they are five or six? They do indeed use them correctly which tells me they are immensely capable.” Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Four)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 15 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

17. Reinventing school

If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.

Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:

Homework during the day, lectures at night

Open book, open note, all the time

Access to any course, anywhere in the world

Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction

The end of multiple-choice exams Read the rest of this entry »

The Creative Process Ensures Quality Instruction

Posted by Joyce Bonomini On March - 15 - 2012

Joyce Bonomini

As a practitioner, I have often taken quality, engagement and partnership for granted: they are a given. How could you live without any of them?

In fact, none of these factors exist without the other. Think about it. Think about how life would be…

I know that I am expanding the definitions in my head. I am not just talking about partnership of organizations here but individuals; such as teacher to student or the partnership a person has with their instrument, writing pen, script, or experiment.

I am talking about life with or without connection of self to others. I am not sure how quality of any level can exist without connection.

WOW, what an “AHA!” moment I just had because that is what we ask hundreds of thousands of students to do every day in the classrooms across this country.

Can we stop asking WHY students are dropping out?

I mean, don’t we know why they are BORED, feel unengaged, and often have no connection to either their instructor or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

Access to arts education is one of the civil rights issues of our time. I’d like to use brain science to explain why.

Our brains operate using two types of behavior: automated and mediated. Automated behavior puts a premium on reliability and efficiency. The brain achieves this by pruning: It streamlines the neural circuitry required to complete a task. Automated behavior can be innate, like breathing, or learned, like recognizing the alphabet.

Automated behavior is almost always unconscious. Throughout our lives, we develop and greatly rely on a host of automated skills. That’s why we don’t like backseat drivers—they force us to think about actions we’d prefer to remain unconscious.

We share the ability for automated mental behavior with all other animals. But as neuroscientist David Eagleman explains in his new book, Incognito, the human brain also has an advanced capacity for mediated behavior.

The goal of mediated behavior is flexibility and innovation. Mediated behavior depends on multiple brain circuits working on the same problem—what Eagleman terms “the team of rivals.” Instead of dedicating a limited neural network to a task, the brain tolerates redundancy and promotes networking. It’s what we mean by “keeping an open mind.”

Mediated behavior can also involve conscious awareness: We overhear and participate in the internal conversation of our thoughts. The vigorousness of our mediated behavior is unique in the animal kingdom. It is what defines us as human beings. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Three)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 14 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com.

100. Can anyone make music?

Ge Wang, a professor at Stanford and the creator of Smule, thinks so. The problem is that people have to get drunk in order to get over their fear enough to do karaoke.

Ge is dealing with this by making a series of apps for iPhones and other devices that make composing music not merely easy, but fearless.

He’s seen what happens when you take the pressure off and give people a fun way to create music (not play sheet music, which is a technical skill, but make music). “It’s like I tasted this great, wonderful food,” he says now, “and for some reason I’ve got this burning desire to say to other people: ‘If you tried this dish, I think you might really like it.’”

His take on music is dangerously close to the kind of dreaming I’m talking about. “It feels like we’re at a juncture where the future is maybe kind of in the past,” he says. “We can go back to a time where making music is really no big deal; it’s something everyone can do, and it’s fun.”

Who taught us that music was a big deal? That it was for a few? That it wasn’t fun? Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

There is growing evidence that the brains of newborns are highly networked and only mildly specialized.

L. Robert (“Bob”) Slevc, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland, likens the developing brain to a growing corporation. As a start-up, the company is run by a handful of people who do all of the tasks: apply for grants, conduct research, and keep the books.

Gradually, as the company takes off, those tasks become more intensive and dedicated staff are required to carry them out: Soon there is a lab with researchers, an accounting office, a development wing, etc. At that point, the workers are no longer interchangeable: Corporate functioning has become highly modular and specialized.

Brains have no central processing unit, no central nexus where every thought has to pass through; instead, every neuron is its own CPU. This gives us the capacity for massive parallel processing. In a highly modular adult brain, biological “walls” reduce the crosstalk between neural networks, thereby enabling them to function more efficiently.

What’s interesting about this is that the American education system mirrors our neurological development: generally, students have one classroom teacher in elementary school; gain different teachers for each subject in middle and high school; and study in different buildings in college. The geographic layout of the university thus reflects a highly modular view of the adult, “well-educated” mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Two)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 13 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

33. Who will teach bravery?

The essence of the connection revolution is that it rewards those who connect, stand out, and take what feels like a chance.

Can risk-taking be taught? Of course it can. It gets taught by mentors, by parents, by great music teachers, and by life.

Why isn’t it being taught every day at that place we send our kids to?

Bravery in school is punished, not rewarded. The entire institution is organized around avoiding individual brave acts, and again and again we hear from those who have made a difference, telling us that they became brave despite school, not because of it.

Harvard Business School turns out management consultants in far greater numbers than it develops successful bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Ralph Lauren, David Geffen, and Ted Turner all dropped out of college because they felt the real challenges lay elsewhere.

70. Grammr and the decline of our civilization 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.