So…What’s Your Equation for Quality?

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On March - 16 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading the various thoughts and stories from leaders across the country during our bi-annual Blog Salon (come back in September for our second one).

During the Salon, we heard examples of how folks are measuring quality, in terms of the effectiveness of their partnerships and their levels of student engagement:

We also heard some calls to action, by authors who wanted to push the field forward:

  • Seth’s ideas for shaking up education.
  • Jane’s call to let go of the notion that “models” from the “pockets of excellence” in the field will emerge and conveniently help us “scale up” and solve all of our problems.
  • Joyce’s simple reminder that creativity is the answer to this search for quality.

Thanks for following our salon on quality, engagement, and partnerships.

After reading all of these posts, have you decided on your own equation for quality in your community? I’d love to hear your final reflections in the comments section.

To view the salon in its entirety, please use this link: http://bit.ly/y9d2JV.

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 »

Jessica Wilt

In part one of our two-part post, Alex Sarian and I asked an important question:

In trying to keep up with for-profit ‘heavy-hitters’ that arguably boast of greater resources than the average nonprofit, from which of the three areas (quality, engagement, and partnerships), if at all, do you find yourself most cutting corners?

In light of a very recent and rather candid op-ed in The New York Times, we chose to spin our question to incorporate the story of Greg Smith, who this week boldly resigned from his position as executive director at Goldman Sachs after making startling connections between the “success” and the “community” of an organization; a connection that, in many ways, affects all of us who are surrounded by a culture in which we are asked to do more with less.

Smith writes:

“…culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.” Read the rest of this entry »

DREAM & TELL!: Arts Integration Models at Work (Part Two)

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On March - 16 - 2012

Merryl Goldberg

TELL! (Theater for English Language Learners) is a National Endowment for the Arts funded project in Arts in Education.

The program provides 120 fourth grade students at Maryland Elementary in Vista, CA with theater experiences aimed at increasing language acquisition and reading comprehension.

Here are the demographics for the students of Maryland Elementary: 62 percent are homeless, 72 percent are English language learners, and 96 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I was at the school just this week and am simply awestruck by the enormous potential the kids all have and show via this program. As you can read by the demographics—kids at this school come into learning with a fair amount of challenges. Many at 10-years-old have responsibility for watching over younger siblings. Many of the kids come into the program having not been afforded previous arts experiences.

TELL! begins with a chapter book: Clementine, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I chose this book and series because it is extremely engaging and funny, and most kids can identify with the main character, Clementine, who is always getting into trouble, and believes since she was named after a fruit, her brother should be named after a vegetable and therefore only ever refers to him as celery, radish, spinach, broccoli, etc.

Despite being in the principal’s office nearly every day, and constantly getting into trouble for things like cutting her friend’s hair (but it looks wonderful!) Clementine‘s world is full and filled with supportive adults. 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 »

Growing Stronger Together: Arts Partnerships in Philadelphia

Posted by Sahar Javedani On March - 15 - 2012

Sahar Javedani

As some of you may know, after seven years of working in New York City in arts education, I have recently moved to Philadelphia and am excited to join the creative workforce there!

Just after moving to Philly, I was encouraged by fellow arts ed colleagues to reach out to Varissa McMickens, director of ArtsRising, and she welcomed me with open arms, sharing valuable resources and orienting me on the current arts education scene and its’ wonderfully diverse programs.

On February 28, I had the great pleasure of joining 50 other representatives of Philadelphia arts & culture organizations in “Growing Stronger Together : Center City Student Forum & Conversation.”

This forum was organized by partner organizations: Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, ArtsRising, and PhillyRising.

Here’s a great description of the event from the ArtsRising website:

“Growing Stronger Together, a focus group with approximately 20 local high school students and representatives from the organizations mentioned above, was really about hearing the students’ voices. 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 »

When is It a Partnership & When is It Something Else?

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On March - 15 - 2012

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

I’m often confused about the difference between collaboration and partnership.

We seem to use the terms interchangeably when in fact they are different. This Blog Salon is, in part, about partnerships and engagement. But are we all talking about the same thing?

I once had it explained to me that there is a continuum of engagement that includes, in order: affiliations, collaborations, partnerships, and mergers.

Moving from left to right each becomes more involved depending on the risk and resource contribution each party makes. So an affiliation requires the least amounts of risk and resources and a merger requires the most.

In a collaboration, each operates independently and has complete control over the individual resources they bring to the table. In a partnership, however, there is more of a co-mingling of resources and a separate structure is developed to oversee or manage the engagement. Sometimes what starts out as a collaboration becomes a partnership. (For more in-depth information see Collaboration: What Makes it Work by Mattessich, Murray‐Close, & Monsey, 2001.)

I think this distinction is an important one in response to Lynne’s post. Read the rest of this entry »

Observing Where We Are, How We Got Here, & What is Next

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 15 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

Bringing people together to partner on a hot-button issue such as quality is tricky. And that, my friends, is an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?

When navigating these waters it’s important to chart where you’ve been and how you arrived where you are.

Over the past two years Big Thought, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, has digitally documented our community’s quality teaching and learning work at Creating Quality. We hope this site will serve as a place for community dialogue and sharing, both locally and nationally.

All of the material in the Tools and Resource Library (e.g., letters, reports, templates) that were created in Dallas can be downloaded and edited per your needs. This is because we don’t imagine that quality looks the same in any two places.

Ownership of quality is essential. And, ownership only comes when you, as a fully engaged partner, have defined quality in terms that you are prepared to support. Then, and only then, can you assess and make investments to advance quality.

This is how the Dallas arts community embraced and folded-in district and community educators from the other four disciplines: English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Read the rest of this entry »

DREAM & TELL!: Arts Integration Models at Work (Part One)

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On March - 15 - 2012

Merryl Goldberg

In considering quality, engagement, and partnerships, I’m really thrilled to be writing about DREAM and TELL!

Developing Reading Education through Arts Methods (DREAM) is a four-year arts integration program funded through the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program.

Theater for English Language Learners (TELL!) is a multi-year project with funding this year from the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts in Education category.

Both programs are partnership programs involving school districts, a university, and professional artists. In this post and my next one, I will describe each of these projects. This one introduces DREAM.

“Some schools don’t have what kids need to enjoy school,” said Jordan Zavala, 9. “I used to have a hard time reading, but since I’ve been in Mr. DeLeon’s class I’ve done better because we act out what we learn. It’s really been fun.” (San Diego Union Tribune 2/10/12)

The DREAM program is a partnership of the San Diego County Office of Education via the North County Professional Development Federation, and Center ARTES at California State University San Marcos.

The program’s goal is to train third and fourth grade teachers to use visual arts and theater activities to improve students’ reading and language arts skills. 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 »

Where We Are & Where We Ought to be Going

Posted by Jane Remer On March - 14 - 2012

Jane Remer

In my first post, I suggested we needed definitions of quality, engagement, and partnership. I offered my thoughts on these three issues and left a “tentative conclusion” saying we probably ought to decide whether we as a group want to deal with the three “topics” together, or separately.

The posts from the other bloggers do both and so I have decided it’s best to follow my own train and offer a short list of where I see the field still stuck for answers.

I have no idea whether or how this will clarify or motivate collaborative thinking among us (a disparate group with very different agendas), but here goes…

In random order, here are some of the issues that have stymied us for decades:

1. Without committed classroom teachers and specialist arts educators as well as principals and their assistants, we (arts organizations, artists, consultants, et al) have no solid validity as partners in the arts as education.

2. Without the district’s or state’s education office heavily engaged, represented and fiscally invested, we have no chance, whatsoever, to build a growing and sustained constituency for the arts as education.

3. Without strong leadership and some attempt at unity and dialogue among the schools and the arts and cultural organization, we will continue to face the rather vast chasm between them as “them” and “us. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Arts education organizations and professionals (otherwise known as teaching artists and consultants) are no strangers to the repercussions of budget cuts, financial meltdowns, and the continued sluggish economic climate.

However, in true “arts ed” fashion, the field is slowly boasting several small success stories that offer a model for sustainability. Many administratively-savvy folks around the country are proving that smaller cultural organizations can still compete with the best of the larger, more visible organizations. In part two of our blog discussion (I’m working with fellow Arts Education Council Member Jessica Wilt) we’ll highlight several.

These success stories can however be few and far between. When will the old ways of doing business be a means to an end?

Some teaching artists and organizations haven’t quite made the effort to learn from others’ successes on how to adapt to the “new reality” or more importantly—learn from failures.

How can we prevent playing a continuous game of arts education Russian roulette? Read the rest of this entry »

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.