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 »

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 »

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 »

Only Artists Can Make the Difference

Posted by John Eger On December - 2 - 2011

John Eger

Declaring October as National Art and Humanities Month, President Obama made the observation:

“Educators across our country are opening young minds, fostering innovation, and developing imaginations through arts education. Through their work, they are empowering our Nation’s students with the ability to meet the challenges of a global marketplace. It is a well-rounded education for our children that will fuel our efforts to lead in a new economy where critical and creative thinking will be the keys to success.”

More and more people in high places seem to be saying the right thing. Last April, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said: “The Arts can no longer be treated as a frill. Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical for young Americans competing in a global economy.”

But we have seen too little in the way of action.

Is this because the administration really doesn’t believe what they say about the arts? Because Washington, D.C. can’t get anything done? Or because the benefits are still not obvious to most politicians. Read the rest of this entry »

Narric Rome

Last month, I wrote a post that described the work of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, last authorized as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

Since that time, we have gathered new information through further examination of the bill text and through meetings with congressional staff.

It is unclear if there will be time for the bill to receive Senate floor consideration and additional amendments before Congress adjourns for the year, but this new information will still have an effect on the reauthorization movement:

Well Rounded Education Amendment

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), along with co-sponsors Senators Murray (D-WA), Mikulski (D-MD), and Merkley (D-OR), introduced the Well Rounded Education Amendment which was approved by voice vote. While the amendment shares similar objectives to the Obama Administration “Blueprint” proposal — it is significantly different than that proposal in structure and effect.

The Senate language creates a single grant program through which states (with partners) can compete for funding to provide support to: arts, civics and government, economics, environmental education, financial literacy, foreign languages, geography, health education, history, physical education, and social studies. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Policy: Without Clout, There Will Be No Change

Posted by Robert Lynch On August - 11 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

At Americans for the Arts, we see an opportunity to advance national arts education policy by working in a very specific way.

We focus on forging strategic alliances with key leaders in the public and private sectors and on working alongside these allies to educate the decision-makers who have leverage in the national policy arena.

We concentrate on giving those decision-makers meaningful research and specific information about the benefits of arts education in an effort to impact and inform future decisions about education policy.

This work is informed by the best practice examples surfaced by our national network of state and local advocates and the specific stories they share about the impact of arts education programs on the ground.

It is further shaped by the opportunities we create for high-level corporate, philanthropic, and thought leaders to take action personally and speak publicly about the value they see in arts education before new audiences.

All of this work builds the clout that is critical to the success of our decision-maker education effort. Without the clout, there will be no change. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Arts Education Program In Danger, Again

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 24 - 2011

*For an update to this story, visit a newer post by Gladstone Payton.

Just 11 days ago, U.S. House Education Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced legislation (H.R. 1891) that seeks to terminate 43 federal education programs, including the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education.

The bill is now coming up for a vote in the House Education Committee tomorrow.

This measure is more serious than the annual funding bills that have recently threatened to de-fund arts education, as HR 1891 would permanently strip policy language out of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that allows the Arts in Education program to be funded annually.  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.