Should it be Us vs. Them? (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 26 - 2010

Tim Mikulski

As I covered in last week’s Arts Watch blog post (Glee-fully Supporting Arts Education), it certainly seems like the same three or four subject areas are continually battling it out for that last spot into the school building, before the funding door shuts.

Often, it is arts education classes like music, dance, theater, and art that are left out in the cold, but sometimes we’re joined by physical education, foreign languages, library services, and now even formerly-free afterschool sports.

Glee characters Will Schuster and Sue Sylvester battled in out over funding for the glee club or the cheerleading squad, but I’m sure just as often we are seeing Señor Schuster and the media specialist from the library having the same conversation that always starts with, “my subject area/sport deserves to stay funded because…”

While I’m not encouraging dancers, actors, French lovers, and information gatherers to storm the west wing of their school in a battle to the death against language arts, calculus, and physics fiends, I feel that we could be more equitable in the way that all of these subjects are taught in schools today. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Common Core for the Arts are Imperative

Posted by John Abodeely On May - 26 - 2010

The Common Core for the Arts are a huge triumph for our professional community—for arts teachers, teaching artists, cultural organizations, supporters, advocates, etc. This is for two reasons:

1.    We’re keeping up with the other subjects.
2.    Three dozen people got together agreed on one giant thing.

Let me explain.

1.    We have to keep up with our peers. We have to pony up the same infrastructure, research, and political mobilization that our peers in the other core subjects are offering.  That’s true if we want arts education to be treated equally. And right now, the Common Core for ELA and math define policy advances (even if we disagree with the content or strategy). But there’s more. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education in Jeopardy?

Posted by Gary DeVault On May - 26 - 2010

Greetings from the rural heartland of Wooster, OH. My name is Gary DeVault, and I am the Fine Arts Consultant for Tri-County Educational Service Center, and serve as a member of the Arts Education Council for Americans for the Arts. Tri-County ESC is a state and locally supported agency which serves the school districts in Ashland, Holmes, and Wayne Counties in Ohio to improve the quality of education for all children.

As Fine Arts Consultant, I supervise nearly 150 music, visual art, and drama/theatre teachers in the seventeen school districts in a three county region. I provide curriculum and instructional support; design professional development opportunities for arts, classroom teachers, and teaching artists; coordinate arts services with community arts organizations and institutions; and provide direct services to students through numerous fine arts events and activities.

This school year has been filled with lots of exciting school music concerts, art exhibitions, plays and musicals. It is so gratifying to see the results of student learning in and through the arts at public performances and art displays. However, much of my time lately has been spent advocating vigorously for adequate funding for arts programs; seeking additional sponsors, donors, and/or grant resources for arts projects; and making the case with school board members and superintendents for keeping arts teachers employed in school districts where failed tax levies and a weak economy is threatening the inclusion of arts education for all children. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by Joan Weber On May - 26 - 2010

For three years I was the director of an organization whose mission is to make arts education and arts integration an integral part of the education of every child in an urban public school system. Our goal was to organize on a city-wide level to bring together the arts and cultural organizations and the school system, a la Big Thought in Dallas, our model. At the same time, we were working school by school to create systemic reform using arts integration.

It is very hard work, especially in times of economic uncertainty. We (schools, cultural organizations, teaching artists, parents, advocacy organizations) agree on the common cause, that all students in our city deserve access to quality arts education from specialists in the buildings, through trips to cultural organizations and by bringing artists into the school. But, we have different ideas as to how to achieve that goal, especially given our current existential crises.

A school system is like a giant cruise ship that moves with great difficulty and at an incredibly slow pace. Arts education advocacy feels like being part of a flotilla of little tiny tugboats trying to push the cruise ship back into port. (Sometimes, each tugboat is trying to push the cruise ship into a different port.) And, when you look at other parts of the cruise ship, you’ll find thousands of little tugboats flying different flags (phys ed, foreign language, business, etc.), working with all of their strength to push the ship in the direction of distant ports. Read the rest of this entry »

For Educators, Getting Professional Development Can Be Tough

Posted by Lynn Tuttle On May - 26 - 2010

In the Americans for the Arts May 2010 Monthly Wire, a Top-10 list of reasons to attend the Half-Century Summit in Baltimore in June included: Reason #4: “Think you don’t have the time? Fake a cough or take a well-deserved vacation day (just kidding!).”

Unfortunately, for many of my colleagues in arts education, this joke hits a little too close to home. Arts teachers in public schools are given very little time to attend professional development opportunities outside of their school or school district. In Arizona, the dance educators hold an annual “pink tutu flu,” where many have to call in sick in order to participate in a statewide professional development day for dance teachers. Even when the day was devoted to our new state standards in dance, many teachers couldn’t take the day as a professional work day – they had to call in sick.

Colleagues working at the state level don’t necessarily fare any better. One of the leaders of my national organization, SEADAE (State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education), is routinely “sick” in order to attend Arts Education Partnership meetings. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting an Arts Connection Dance Class in Harlem

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 26 - 2010

Thanks to the kindness of Arts Education Council member Steve Tennen, I had the opportunity to visit a dance class at New York P.S. 241 in Harlem last week during a sojourn to the New York office of Americans for the Arts for other meetings.

Over the past 30 years, Steve’s organization, Arts Connection, has provided the students of New York City schools access to art, music, media, visual arts, and dance, and the countless accolades they have received throughout that time demonstrate their undying devotion to the cause that is so near and dear to our hearts.

Following the hour-long session, dance teacher Yvette Martinez did an amazing job of explaining everything that she is able to do with the children thanks in part to a grant from MetLife. Not only is she providing them with quality dance lessons, but she is also working well beyond the topic of dance. She includes lessons in how the muscles of the body work, how the food the children eat impacts their current and future health (many of them are already diagnosed with diabetes and their families have histories of heart complications and cancer), and how to read food labels on the sides of their food. Read the rest of this entry »

Building a Statewide Network of Arts Education Advocates

Posted by Joe Landon On May - 25 - 2010

Joe Landon

When I joined the California Alliance for Arts Education as its policy director in 2006, they were savoring the hard earned victory that led to California’s historic investment in arts education, including the one time block grant shared with physical education, as well as the ongoing “Arts and Music” categorical funding.

But even then, the Alliance’s concern was shifting toward the question of how to sustain advocacy at the local level, where crucial decisions made by local school boards determine the quality, equity, and access of arts education in that school district.

When last year the state legislature gave local districts the ‘flexibility’ to spend the Arts and Music Block grant on whatever programs they considered most essential, the Alliance had already embarked on a project to build a local advocacy network in communities and districts throughout the state.

In the first year of this pilot program, we selected ten sites throughout the state, reflecting diverse communities, geographical areas, and economic conditions. Our goal was to gather the expertise around what would be required to foster an ongoing coalition of local leaders who share a commitment to build public understanding and support for the critical role of arts education in the development of every student. Read the rest of this entry »

National Standards for the Arts

Posted by Lynn Tuttle On May - 25 - 2010

Lynn Tuttle

Editor’s Note: For the latest on the national arts education standards movement, read this post by Arts Education Council Member Lynne Kingsley published on 9/20/11!

In 1994, the professional associations representing dance, music, theatre, and visual arts teachers, collaborated on the creation of national Voluntary Arts Standards. The arts were the first subjects to create national voluntary standards.

Later this year, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) will release Common Core State Standards for Math and English Language Arts. 48 states have already agreed to adopt these new standards as the basis for their state-level standards in English and Mathematics. The Obama administration is rewarding points for implementation of Common Core Standards in its competitive education grants, including Race to the Top, and has signaled a continued interest in the Common Core Standards movement in their Blueprint for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In response to the interest around the Common Core State Standards initiative, and to the technological changes the arts and arts education have undergone in the last 15 years (I wasn’t blogging 15 years ago, were you??), the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) convened a meeting of national arts education stakeholders on May 11-12 to determine if the time is right to develop a new set of national standards. The resounding answer was “yes!” Read the rest of this entry »

Honoring My First Advocacy Instructor

Posted by Donna Collins On May - 25 - 2010

Donna Collins

I’m a wife, a mom, and a grandmother (affectionately known as Grammy by my grandgirl Cierra).  A typical day starts at 7:00 AM and concludes around 8:00 PM, working Saturdays, and participating in lots of evening events  – a similar schedule to many of my arts advocacy colleagues. Work and family are what I eat, breath, and sleep. Most of the time one is as important as the other and each have their distinct needs and rewards.

On April 26, 2010, my world came crashing down around me when our 31-year-old son TJ died. It isn’t supposed to happen this way. Parents should not bury their children. Through TJ’s death, our grieving, and our memories I now see the world through different lenses. Simple things are more valuable, time is critical, making contacts a necessity since we’re not sure how much time we have, and telling our stories is essential to our future.

I rarely reflect, and until recently didn’t remember, why or how I got into the arts and arts education advocacy business. Thinking back on TJ’s life reminded me that he was the reason.

TJ was our theater and music kid. His brothers Josh (the athlete) and Ryan (the dreamer and reader) offered up other ways to get involved as parents. But theatre and music programs require a special kind of parent volunteer. You have to fight for the music and drama programs in schools. You have to raise money and pay for band camp. You have to work on levy campaigns to protect arts education programs. You have to take long bus rides to get to Disney or a special by-invitation-only parade. You have to pay a special facility fee to keep the theater open late for Friday night’s show and Saturday’s matinee.  You have to drive five kids to the next concert so the show choir can perform at the retirement home. You have to compete for time and resources with the athletic boosters and PTAs.
TJ knew about advocacy! Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Goal of Arts Education, According to One Person

Posted by Joan Weber On May - 25 - 2010

Joan Weber

I’m having a very interesting 140-character-at-a-time conversation with a colleague I’ve never met about the goals of arts education. @readtoday is a professional artist whose goal is to start a “reading revolution.” The question on the table in our conversation is, “If we understand the goal–Genius? Creativity? We can design the #artsed curriculum.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question since it was posed this week. It’s not that I haven’t thought of it before; it’s that I’ve never been asked for an answer. What do I think the goal (singular) of arts education should be? I’ve decided that my answer is the same as for language arts and math–literacy.

I’m coming at this answer from the perspective of teaching artist, but also an adjunct community college professor, teaching “Humanities Through the Arts” twice a semester to middle-class, suburban students ranging from 18-80. Each semester I’m confronted with students who have little to no literacy in any art form. Each semester, my goals are the same: 1. Provide students with the language to think about and discuss all art forms. 2. Persuade students to give every work of art a chance. It’s not about taste.

My favorite word in my arts appreciation class is “composition.” It’s a word that the students think that they know because they’ve heard it so many times, but they don’t. Not really. “Composition” is a word that is shared by all of the art forms. Art is composed through the arrangement of the elements of its form.  Read the rest of this entry »

Evaluating for Pattern

Posted by Michael Sikes On May - 25 - 2010

Michael Sikes

My interest in the way that things are connected began when I browsed through a college textbook one day, and my eyes fell on the following passage:

Scientists noticed that on the opposite sides of a farmer’s fence, though separated by only a few inches, two very distinct communities of animals and plants lived. This realization gave rise to the new field of ecology.

I was fascinated by this word and the implications that I guessed. Ecology: the science of the relationships among living things and their environment.

Paul Hawken in his recent book references the concept of “solving for pattern,” the premise that community challenges are interconnected and to solve them we must design approaches that are equally interconnected and systemic. As John Muir noted, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

This is a vital concept for evaluators and managers of evaluation. If we are to assist in the amelioration of these systemic processes, we need to use evaluation systemically, to “evaluate for pattern.” What does this look like in practice? Certainly, it is marked by constant attempts to understand connections: How is a specific program, need, component, etc., connected to others? Which ones? How can the connections be portrayed, measured, observed? Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Management Education – A Lesson in Setting Expectations

Posted by Zack Hayhurst On May - 25 - 2010

Zack Hayhurst

A year ago, when I told people I was going into arts management, the inevitable response was always, “What is that?”, or my favorite, “What will you DO with that?”

At first these questions irked me. Does one studying business or communications or finance get these same questions? Then I realized, maybe this is a common question for the art management field simply because not many people know who arts managers are, or for that matter, what they DO.

Prior to starting grad school, I had opinions and perceptions about what this degree would entail, and the opportunities it would create, so I would often retort with quips like, “Well, I will manage an arts organization, naturally.” Now, with one year of the program successfully under my belt, and a handful of “real-world” arts administration experiences, my perceptions and expectations need a little re-shuffling. Read the rest of this entry »

John Abodeely

This probably isn’t going to be a popular statement. But let’s throw it out there and see what folks think.

I believe that if arts education professionals provided amazing arts education to students, we wouldn’t have to fight for time in the school day, money in the school budget, or support among our neighbors. From firsthand experience, I know creating art and can be transformational. I believe that if the arts teaching workforce—whether teaching artists, certified arts teachers, or arts integrationists—could regularly and reliably facilitate the best arts education experiences for their students, there would be no question as to the absolute need to provide arts education.

I wouldn’t suggest this is easy. But I think it’s still true. And yes, the implication is that our work—collectively, across the country—isn’t good enough.

To be fair, I can see a couple obstacles to it.
1.    Our governance agents diminish the value of spiritual or personal value when there’s a tax dollar involved.
2.    Scaling up transformational, personally-demanding education would be hard. Read the rest of this entry »

Supporting Arts Education is Essential

Posted by Donna Collins On May - 24 - 2010

Donna Collins

How can school districts sustain and develop high quality arts education programs for students? These are tough times but tough times call for smart choices. Arts education is a solution to closing the achievement gap!

Education in the arts prepares students for careers. Americans for the Arts reported in 2009 that nationally there are 612,095 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 2.98 million people – 4.3 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees.*  The arts mean careers and business!

The arts are recognized as a core subject which places arts education at the same level of importance as language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages. The arts are part of the core!

Arts education programs are an instructional opportunity to improve student achievement. The arts help close the achievement gap! Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education: Informed by Catterall and Ravitch

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On May - 24 - 2010

Merryl Goldberg

The following is a keynote I delivered to administrators, teachers, and parents in Encinitas, California as part of an end of the year arts celebration. The celebration highlighted the professional development of elementary teachers who had engaged in learning about integrating the arts and technology throughout their curriculum, and how they applied to it their classrooms.

I was in a challenging position in that the district had just announced plans to cut several programs including arts, GATE, and some professional development. My talk is an attempt to both celebrate the teachers’ accomplishments and at the same time make a case for the administration to reconsider their budgetary priorities.

Note: My talk was preceded by a dance performance by 3d through 5th graders, after which I commented:
“What you’ve just seen is not just cute….you’re seeing kids who are learning to practice, and learning the skill of practicing – kids engaged in developing a sense of discipline and collaboration, and for many of these kids – it is their first and perhaps only introduction to being on a stage…..note the smiles – the kids are engaged – and engaged kids want to attend school – research studies show that there is a direct correlation between school attendance and arts activities.” Read the rest of this entry »