What You Need To Know About the New National Core Arts Standards

Posted by Jeff Poulin On June - 4 - 2014
Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

So, you’ve heard about the new National Core Arts Standards, right?

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, the Coalition for Core Arts Standards held a virtual event celebrating the launch of new standards. Whether you participated or not, you may have some questions about them. Here is your key to understanding what’s going on. 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 »

A Heretical View of the Arts from a Science & Math Educator

Posted by Greg Coppa On April - 29 - 2013
Greg Coppa

Greg Coppa

For decades, science and math educators have been the beneficiaries of government largesse, which has often been supplemented by corporate philanthropy. As a high school science teacher for three decades, I have often benefited from this policy along with my students and I have never questioned why it was so.

Many of my post-graduate courses were funded in whole or part by grants from the National Science Foundation. A good number of the many summer programs that I have attended were federally financed by one agency or another. Texts, videotapes, and computer software which I used were developed with government, corporation, or coalition assistance. And I have been very fortunate to have received honors and grants which have been sponsored by federal agencies and an assortment of professional societies.

I cannot warrant that every penny used to fund the variety of things just mentioned was spent wisely by the numerous government agencies and grant recipients. But overall I would have to say that from my vantage point, the taxpayers and corporate sponsors got their money’s worth.

People were trained, energized, and assisted so that they could become better teachers of science or math. Resources or teaching methods were developed which were often better than those previously utilized, or if they turned out to be worse, at least it was known for the future that that was the case. Failure was acceptable and looked at as part of the price for future success. 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 »

Old Songs, New Opportunities

Posted by Erin Gough On March - 18 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

It is a familiar trope that early childhood teachers claim that they get as much out of teaching young ones as students get out of their lessons. They do it for the love of children, the excitement of youthful discovery, and the joy of nurturing rather than a hefty paycheck. My own mom, a longtime preschool teacher, often says she gets “paid in hugs.” But for some women in Erie, PA, early childhood instruction is a gateway to a new life.

The Old Songs, New Opportunities (OSNO) program at the Erie Museum of Art creates opportunities for refugee women to use traditional skills and cultural assets from their home countries to begin to build a career as early childhood educators. This program—one part job training, one part cultural education, and one part early education—has been transformative for the both the women who go through the museum’s training, and for the students they care for.

Through OSNO, women who were expert caregivers in their home countries and are interested in learning the ins-and-outs of the American early education process are provided with over 50 hours of accredited instruction in basic child development theory, discipline and alternatives, the role of the childcare work, and how art, music, and movement aid physical and mental development.

At the same time, these women provide exposure to and instruction of their cultural traditions to fellow OSNO trainees, and create a tapestry of song and tradition that bonds teachers with students, and teachers with one anotherRead the rest of this entry »

Universal Preschool: The Science (and Magic) in Preschool for All

Posted by Kaya Chwals On March - 18 - 2013
Kaya Chwals

Kaya Chwals

There is a lot of science behind the benefits of universal preschool education. The idea was first introduced in France in the 1800s; many developed countries have a strong history of educating all children early on. We don’t, and so a debate began, and science set about to study whether or not there’s any benefit to investing energy in developing young minds in a structured way.

Short answer: yes. The sevenfold savings Obama described in his state of the union speech highlights a study that shows a marked difference in lifelong achievement between high risk children who receive quality preschool education and those that do not.

In turn, one would argue to those who would be against universal preschool for financial reasons, the savings to society are seven times what they would be if these children were caught in a cycle of poverty that requires government aid or, frankly, prison costs. We have far more prisoners than preschoolers, more prisoners than anyone else in the world, and that plays a part in our national conversation about early education.

The hitch is that these children received, as the Perry study pointed out, “a high quality preschool program.”

If we were to enact universal preschool in America, what would such a system look like? Probably kindergarten, which became universal in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. I am very fond of kindergarten, but anecdotally, here are some goals I’ve heard in working with kindergarten teachers:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Marriage of Arts, Economics, & Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 4 - 2013

The NABE FoundationThe NABE Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and Americans for the Arts will present Paul Vancea with the the 2013 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship Award later today in Washington, DC.

The Scholarship Award was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. Recipients of the scholarship must come from economically disadvantaged households and have attended public school. Successful candidates demonstrate long-term participation in the study of, creation in and/or performance in one or more art forms, including dance, music, theatre, literary, visual/media arts; excel academically; and have formally declared the intent to study economics for policy purposes, or in applications in the private and public sectors.

The scholarship recipients are selected following a competitive review process which begins with a pre-screening of applicants by Americans for the Arts, followed by a review of finalists by a sub-committee, and ratification of recipients by the NABE Foundation Board.

Vancea is receiving a scholarship in the amount of $5,000 to support the study and application of economics in his undergraduate studies and professional career. He is currently a junior at Brandeis University, majoring in Economics, Business, and Film.  Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Needs Your Love…and a Little Celebration

Posted by Ken Busby On February - 19 - 2013
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Last week we celebrated Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Two weeks ago, the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts met in Mesa, AZ to determine how we can best serve local arts agencies that are providing arts education programs.

How are these seemingly disparate events related you might ask? Let me tell you!

Arts education needs all the love you can give! And you can’t just let the good times roll without there being a few consequences. If we don’t work together to keep the importance of arts education at the forefront of people’s minds, they will fall by the wayside.

There was much discussion at our meeting in Mesa about arts integration, how to help local communities be stronger advocates for the arts, ways to highlight effective programs as models for other communities, and trends in the field and where we need to be heading if we are to keep the arts at the core of learning.

One thing that is clear in 2013—for arts education to be a real focus for educators and politicians at all levels, we as local arts agencies, we as arts teachers, and we as arts advocates are going to have to continue to work collaboratively and stay ahead of the curve in terms of research and best practices, and continue to demonstrate the value of the arts in developing a 21st century workforce. Read the rest of this entry »

Hope is Vital…But Is It Scalable?

Posted by Michael Rohd On December - 3 - 2012

Michael Rohd

In 1991, I founded a theater-based civic dialogue program in Washington, DC called Hope Is Vital. It brought a group of local teens and a group of HIV+ men who were receiving services at a center called Health Care for the Homeless into meaningful, productive collaboration with each other.

For 18 months, we created and conducted performance workshops all over the metro D.C. area for hundreds of young people focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and sexuality education. We worked at schools, youth shelters, correctional facilities, hospital drop-in clinics, churches, and afterschool programs.

After a period of challenging but immensely rewarding work, we felt that our approach—our model—could be useful in other places. The group gave me a mission: take our product, which was in fact a process, and try, at the age of 25, to head out into the world and spread the word.

Pre-email and pre-cellphone, I accepted the recklessly ambitious and well-meaning, impact-based, artistic necessity of scaling up. Community by community, program by program. I spent almost seven years doing that. I learned some things.

First, do the thing

In 1993, one of the first things I did was write Madonna a letter. I asked her to help fund our idea for a national network of programs like ours. Instant scalability via pop star. She was a big funder of HIV/AIDS prevention work back in the day, so it was only a half crazy gesture. Madonna did not write me back. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM Promotes Science Instruction at the Expense of Humanities

Posted by Luis Martínez-Fernández On November - 30 - 2012

Luis Martínez-Fernández

We need more engineers and scientists. That has become the mantra of promoters of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in education. There is nothing wrong with such a rallying cry, except that investment in STEM education usually comes at the expense of HAS (humanities, arts, and social sciences).

There is no arguing that inadequate science and mathematics education threatens the economic competitiveness of the United States.

It is no less true, however, that the neglect and systematic defunding of education in fields such as history, sociology and art history can have even more damaging repercussions. Damages include the creation of an uninformed citizenry and a concomitant erosion of democracy, and of a workforce unable to understand, communicate, and collaborate with people of different cultures in an increasingly diverse America and globalized world.

This, too, threatens America’s economic competitiveness.

The investment in science and technology, the desire for higher mathematical proficiency among school children, and implementation of programs to increase the number of graduating engineers are important goals but they are not a panacea.

Botanists and geneticists have succeeded at developing pest-resistant, high-yielding food crops but they have not been able to eradicate famine — world hunger is actually on the rise. Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Rossi

One two three, one two three, one two three…Nate was in a groove, the ensemble was cookin’, and Miles Davis’ tune All Blues had never sounded better.

As the lead drummer, Nate stayed with that simple beat, rode it out to the end, then finished in perfect time. He beamed as the audience roared in appreciation, and if you hadn’t known him you would not have believed that one year ago he’d been unable to count rhythmically or sit still for more than five minutes.

But those who’d known him—who had seen his eyes light up at that first simple beat and watched over the year as he learned to focus, to listen, and to succeed—we knew what had happened. Nate had found himself through the arts.

The challenges Nate once faced are growing more common every day. Attention deficits, oppositional defiance, and incidents of youth violence and suicide have increased as our society has become preoccupied with materialism. As our focus has gone off taking care of our kids, the opportunities for to them to discover and express their voice have diminished. As ARTSblog readers know, the arts can fill this need.

I believe it’s also evident that any modality which can cause healing can also mitigate or even prevent illness. Unfortunately, our culture has segmented the arts, commercializing them into a “privileged” position. Perhaps we could learn from other cultures.

In many other cultures, the arts serve as a cohesive fluid in which the community operates. People get together informally through music, dance or song to relax and enjoy themselves and each other, with the performance aspect of art secondary to a self-participatory way of being together. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Common Core Architect Adds to Blog Salon Discussion

Posted by David Coleman On September - 17 - 2012

David Coleman

David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core State Standards and incoming president of The College Board, sent the following to Kristen Engebretsen in reaction to last week’s arts education blog salon on the common core:

I am so glad that the arts community has gotten the message that the arts have a central and essential role in achieving the finest aspects of the common core. So many of the blog posts are so thoughtful and imaginative about the possibilities. They were a delight to read.

Let me review a few critical points that many have already grasped:

1. Knowledge. Building knowledge through reading, writing, listening, and speaking is essential to literacy. As has been noted, the standards say explicitly that knowledge includes coherent knowledge about science, history, and the arts. So I hope the arts community is investing in finding remarkable high quality source material to learn about the arts. Remember that source texts should meet the text complexity requirements of the standards at each grade level and the selection of texts should be designed to build coherent knowledge within grades and across grades. There should be an influx of wonderful source materials to explore the arts. And now they can be shared across states and classrooms.

2. Observation. The arts have a great advantage in that they place a priority on the careful observation that reading requires. No one looks at a great work of art once; likewise, any great piece of writing deserves careful consideration and reconsideration. The arts can train students to look and look again; to listen and listen until one really hears. CS Lewis, himself a gifted author and reader of literature, writes this about looking at a painting or reading a book carefully: “We must look, and go on looking, until we have seen exactly what is there…the first demand any work of art makes on us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.” Henry James says the finest writer and reader is one “on whom nothing is lost.”

3. Evidence and Choices. A key idea of the standards is to base analysis of works of art and of writing in evidence. The standards require that analysis includes the ability to cite that evidence as the basis of understanding. Of course, we draw on sources of evidence outside of a text and a work of art, but the standards insist that students come to grips with evidence from the specific work of art or text they encounter.Part of what this kind of close attention includes is noticing and analyzing the choices artists make—choices such as what is the object of a painting, to how it is treated, to color, to light to all the choices that accumulate to make  a work of art. Good readers examine the choices writers make—their choice of specific words and broader choices—of how to order events and develop characters—of what to say—all these choices are examined by a careful reader. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Core Standards: Let Arts Educators Lead the Way

Posted by Jeanne Hoel On September - 14 - 2012

Jeanne Hoel

Though I’m typically standards-adverse (yet dutiful), I’m looking forward to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), specifically to their potential to de-isolate subject areas, including art.

I feel the CCSS reflect the work progressive educators have been doing for years and frame that work elegantly. I believe art educators can be important change agents and looked to as experts in this time of transition to CCSS, but it will require specialized pedagogical and leadership training. In a time of constricting budgets, especially for professional development, I am doubtful if this can happen.

Arts and Standards

In my tenure as a program manager at MOCA, I’ve witnessed several phases of what I’ll call Standards Service. About ten years ago, the pendulum swung hard for museums to make their programs more standards-based or at the very least standards-conversant.

It was important to do so in order to help teachers advocate for art education by showing how their work met Visual and Performing Art Standards (VAPA), as well as those of English, Social Studies, and Science. But often I felt I was paying lip service to a bureaucratic requirement rather than furthering valid educational objectives. Because we were working with wonderfully transgressive contemporary art at MOCA, we were inherently doing big, thinking-based, cross-disciplinary work—something the current standards don’t easily accommodate.

I feel differently about the CCSS. At their core lie thinking skills and habits of mind that transcend subject area boundaries and ideally equip students to negotiate growing waves of data and complex decision-making requirements they will face as citizens of global cultures and economies.

Possibilities for Arts and Common Core

Looking specifically at the English Language Arts (ELA) of CCSS, there are elegant and immediate connections to be made. As a means of navigating the new ELA standards, I’ve found it useful to focus first on the Anchor Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language, which are consistent across all grade levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Core is Here—Don’t Panic!

Posted by Lynn Tuttle On September - 10 - 2012

The Common Core standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics are driving factors in the educational reforms facing public education today. As an arts educator in the schools, as a teaching artist who provides supplemental instruction with students in and out of school, as a cultural organization working to partner with a school, and/or as an arts education advocate, how can you approach the Common Core standards?

As information swirls around this topic, I am reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I begin by recommending the first rule of galaxy hitchhiking, or in this case, connecting to the Common Core: DON’T PANIC! Here are the reasons why I believe panic is misguided:

1. The Common Core standards, while they expressly contain literacy references across the curriculum, do not replace content standards in other subject areas. Teaching the arts still means teaching to arts standards. Arts standards are set by your state—visit the State Arts Education Policy Database to find your state’s standards.

a. You can also remain up to date on the revision of the National Arts Education Standards—the basis for most state standards—at the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards wiki.

2. The Common Core ELA/Literacy standards are ripe with places of deep connection to the arts. These standards ask for very strong instructional shifts in the teaching of literacy. I encourage you to research these instructional shifts—my favorite way to dig into them is watching the NY State videos done by David Coleman, soon to be head of The College Board

3. Instructional shifts of interest (and relative ease?) to arts educators:

a. Focus on the text in order to answer questions raised in class. Reading and comprehending text is the end goal of these ELA standards. While theatre certainly includes text reading as part of its discipline, all arts areas include texts within the critique and evaluation parts of our disciplines.

b. IF you use a very broad definition of text to include any primary source material, then you can practice the tools of the ELA Common Core standards by closely “reading” or analyzing a painting, a dance, a musical performance. The work we do in the arts—to engage students in critically approaching artistic works—is an almost natural fit with the Common Core ELA standards. 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.