Lessons Learned: Arts for All Always Adapts

Posted by Laura Zucker On August - 10 - 2012

Laura Zucker

Arts for All staff can attest to the fact that the capacity to be adaptable, the knack to be nimble, is a key to continued success.

Following the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, arts education in Los Angeles County’s 81 school districts began to deteriorate to varying degrees. In the late 1990s a coalition of L.A. county arts leaders and advocates met to discuss problems, such as arts education, that could be addressed only by organizations working together. One result was Arts for All, formed as a public-private partnership in 2002 to empower school districts to build infrastructures for arts education and integrate arts into the core curriculum.

Now Arts for All is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a network of more than 100 partners including school districts, artists, arts and education organizations, corporations and foundations.

There is a shared belief in laying a strong foundation for arts education in the school districts and building their capacity to deliver arts education. The approach, which is now being adopted by others across the country, is to create a plan for the long term, collaboratively and systemically across Los Angeles County.

In the world of arts education, one size does not fit all. There is a tremendous variation in the level and quality of arts education within schools and districts across the county. The Arts for All   staff  has learned to customize programs to meet the needs at hand within distinct districts.

Sofia Klatzker, who directs grants programs for the LA County Arts Commission, is a ten-year veteran of Arts for All. She says that even though no two districts are alike, staff discovered that most district leaders believe that the arts are important to the core curriculum. “We do not have to sell the idea of arts ed per se,” says Klatzker. “We have to promote implementation.”

Throughout the decade, school district realities have shifted. For example, having a district-level arts coordinator seemed both imperative and realistic at one time. Now it is understood that someone within the district dedicated to coordinating the arts education plan implementation is important, but it can no longer be expected that the person is dedicated to the arts full-time. District level administrators now often wear many hats due to budgetary constraints. Read the rest of this entry »

Visionaries in Evaluation: Beyond Samples & Quantitative Data

Posted by Marc Maxson On May - 4 - 2012

Jim Henson and his fellow Muppeteers perform as Bert & Ernie.

In my first post, I explained why we mustn’t let our fears prevent us from experimenting with evaluations that are neither purely quantitative nor based on random samples when trying to understand whether our social interventions are working.

Now, I want to share examples from visionaries who practice what I preach. The people you should know are Jim Henson, VI Hart, David McCandless, and Jonathon Harris.

Evaluations are a search for the truth about whether our work has changed lives. And I believe good evaluations are conceptually simple.

When Jim Henson was developing the design for Sesame Street, child psychologists and early education experts insisted that they knew the right way to do the show. Jim only cared about measuring whether each segment of video was good, and that kids were watching. You can’t teach kids anything if they aren’t paying attention, he argued.

His greatest innovation was a simple method to quantify whether kids were paying attention at each point during a test episode. They brought some five-year-olds into a play room and showed them visuals on two televisions simultaneously. One played an episode of Sesame Street, while the other played a random series of interesting images for seven seconds each (“the distractor“). Read the rest of this entry »

Jason Yoon

One of my first “real” jobs was as an art specialist at a start-up charter elementary school. We did a lot of grading. The school was developing a comprehensive academic scope and sequence. Report cards reflected maybe 100-some skills and standards by subject. Teachers spent hours assessing each student.

As an idealistic young educator, the complexity of the thing was actually exciting. I couldn’t wait to see my “enrichment” section of the report card and the skills and standards in the arts I was responsible for. I then found that I had the smallest section of the report card:

Enrichment

1

2

3

4

   Attitude
   Effort

4=Excellent 3=Good 2=Needs work 1=Seriously deficient

That’s it?

This school had mapped skills and standards to the minutest details and I only got two vague behaviors? I wanted credit for teaching my kids important and real things too!

I bring this up not to criticize the school. The school has expanded admirably since, received national recognition, expanded their arts programs and I figure now has a more robust method for assessing arts learning.

In that small example, is the dilemma that faces the art world right? We want to be taken seriously.

And one message is that we can get there by being graded and measured in easy-to-digest numbers like other subjects or fields. The institutional message then was that I was just the art teacher. Put simply, the school’s charter probably wasn’t going to be revoked if my kids couldn’t paint.

But we have to be careful not to adopt the fallacies of the “accountability” movement, too. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brief Conversation on Evaluation, Privilege, & Making Trouble

Posted by Carolina 'CJ' Jimenez On May - 2 - 2012
Photo by Jesse Banks III

Photo by Jesse Banks III

Going into high school, you’re still trying to figure out who you are. It became apparent to me why people had existential crises. It’s hard to find out who you are when no one knows your name. When I started high school, I was no longer Carolina Jimenez or CJ.I became my student number (8259745).                       

Locker number (367)

My GPA (2.3)

My test scores (97 percentile in English; 35 percentile in Math; 85 percentile in Writing/Reading; I still have no clue what that means…)

I became more obsessed with how I looked on paper than what I was learning. I felt myself being remodeled from a human being into a receptacle for lectures and test scores. Learning should result from curiosity, not obligation.

~ Carolina Jimenez, May 2010 (senior year of high school) Read the rest of this entry »

They’ve Got the Blues…The First Grade Blues

Posted by Jon Schwartz On April - 24 - 2012

Jon Schwartz

Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve been faced with many situations that required some creative ingenuity to help insure my students received the best chance at education in my classroom and beyond.

In my first grade classroom at Garrison Elementary in San Diego this year, I’ve been faced with helping non-native English speaking students learn English while assimilating in the classroom and culture at large.

In the past, I’ve successfully adopted out-of-the-box approaches to connect with my students (such as the student blogging program I started with my fourth and fifth graders last year) and this situation seemed ripe with the possibility of doing something similar.

As I watched my students tire of the old classics like “Old MacDonald” and “B-I-N-G-O” I decided to try a different tactic. I loaded my iPhone with some good, old-fashioned Blues standards and got those kids rocking! I could never have predicted what came next.

As you can see from our YouTube video below, there was something about the Blues that really seemed to reach the kids on a foundational, universal level. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years Later: A Puzzling Picture of Arts Education in America

Posted by Narric Rome On April - 2 - 2012

Narric Rome

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a study glamorously entitled Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

The surveys that contributed to this report were conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), mailed to about 3,400 elementary and secondary school principals and approximately 5,000 music and visual arts teachers.

National arts education leaders, through policy statements, have been calling for this study to be administered for many years, and helped to direct specific funding from Congress to make it possible.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a federal study to be published and finally it has arrived!

This report presents information on the availability and characteristics of arts education programs of those surveyed, broken down by discipline (music, visual arts, dance, and theatre).

  • It indicates that while music and visual art are widely available in some form, six percent of the nation’s public elementary schools offer no specific instruction in music, and 17 percent offer no specific instruction in the visual arts.
  • Nine percent of public secondary schools reported that they did not offer music, and 11 percent did not offer the visual arts.
  • Only three percent offer any specific dance instruction and only four percent offer any specific theatre instruction in elementary schools. In secondary schools the numbers improve somewhat as 12 percent offer dance and 45 percent offer theatre. Sadly, the study was unable to survey dance and theatre specialists because the data sample didn’t have sufficient contact information in those disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Art-Filled Learning: A Way of Life

Posted by Michelle Burrows On March - 16 - 2012

Michelle Burrows

The school is buzzing. Classrooms are alive with children moving, singing, working together, learning.

In this room, kindergarteners are creating “movement mountains,” their growing understanding of addition facts becoming clearer with every new, non-locomotor “mountain” they create.

In that room, third graders are using iPads to film each other’s first-person perspectives, discussing things such as voice quality and communication.

Down the hall, fifth graders have created “mini Mondrians”, using the work of Piet Mondrian to discuss area and perimeter.

And over there, fourth graders are creating lyrics—chorus and verses—for their “escape” songs, modeling cultural songs of slavery.

Were those kindergarteners trying out their “mountain” dance moves in dance class? Were the fourth graders learning song writing vocabulary in music class? Were the perspective videos taking place in the drama room? Nope.

All of these art-filled lessons were taking place in the regular classroom. Arts integration at its finest.  As we toured several elementary schools in the North Carolina A+ Schools Network, the value and importance of this key piece of arts education was plainly visible.

A+ Schools will tell you that there are three key parts to a true education in the arts: quality, exposure, and integration. 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 »

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 »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Victoria’s post asks what it would mean for arts educators to “share an agenda.” As she points out, arts education is typically not “at the table” for broader discussions of education reform. Why is this the case?

Two common explanations spring to my mind. The first is that the other people sitting around the table—those in the broader “edusphere”—don’t “get it.” They don’t understand or value what we do.

An undercurrent of this explanation is that we are enlightened (we alone understand what children need to learn and experience to function as healthy, happy members of society) and they are not.

The second explanation is that we are so busy feeling slighted by the first explanation (which a regional study in LA County did not show to be true) that we approach those other people at the table with mindset of defensiveness rather than of support.

We try to convince them of the value of the arts rather than listening to what they are trying to accomplish—acknowledging that they too care about students—and demonstrating how we can be of service.

I clung to the first explanation for a long time but admit the second explanation now resonates more with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Commonly Valued Outcomes & Committing to the Journey

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 14 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

Confession time, I’m writing this second blog in advance of the first blog being published (this is how publication works). So, I am hoping we’ve had a widely successful conversation already about quality teaching and learning.

If we haven’t, then close your eyes, call forth the best dream conversation you can, attribute it to this blog, open your eyes, and let’s proceed.

In all seriousness, creating an open and rich conversation about quality is akin to facilitating a quality teaching and learning experience for and with students.

You need to set a climate where all feel comfortable sharing. This includes keeping the conversation focused and productive, while ensuring mutual respect among all parties.

You also need to generate engagement and investment by outlining clear expectations and offering multiple entry points for participants to stretch and extend their thinking.

Shared dialogue is another critical element. Not just talking, but listening, responding, and collaboratively using evidence and examples to construct new meaning, raises the quality of the work.

Skills, technique, and/or knowledge form the backbone of the work. They are the “what” we are teaching and learning. 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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

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.