Stories Behind the Statistics

Posted by Cathlyn Melvin On January - 4 - 2013

Cathlyn Melvin

“I was in a play once!”

I’m standing in line at a bookstore in my neighborhood, and the woman behind me is telling me her story. She recognized me from a show I did last spring, see, and her eyes light up as she tells me about her high school musical—how she almost didn’t audition, but in the end, it turned out to be the best eight weeks she had that year.

As an actor, I get that all the time. Not the being-recognized-on-the-street thing. That’s unusual. But when people find out I do theatre, so often I see their eyes brighten just like that lady’s, and they tell me about their third grade play, or an annual Christmas pageant, or being in the kids’ chorus of Joseph at their community theatre.

I love these stories.

I help run a children’s theatre called Compass Creative Dramatics, in Chicago, where I live, and we work with kids to create those kinds memories.

My co-founder, Cassandra Quinn, and I don’t focus on readying kids for careers in theatre, and we won’t “Make Your Child a Star.” We concentrate on stretching kids creativity and bravery muscles—so they can be bold enough to raise their hands in class, or imaginative enough to problem-solve in real life. And over the course of a week-long program, we see those skills develop, and we witness those memories taking shape, so that some day, they’ll want to tell someone “I was in a play once!”

Earlier this fall, our company decided to start a campaign to collect people’s memories about participation in theatre, and how it affected them. We posted on YouTube asking for video responses, and watched the stories begin to trickle in, both through responses to our YouTube channel and through essays submitted through our email: 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 »

Poetry and Promise: Education Reform & the Arts

Posted by Ken Busby On February - 17 - 2012

I judged a poetry slam this weekend—Louder Than A Bomb–Tulsa!

It’s amazing to hear young people sharing about their lives and ideas through poetry. This was the second year for the event. The excitement and enthusiasm expressed by these students was palpable:

Listening to their poetry really made me start thinking anew about just how important the arts are to shaping young minds—helping build self-confidence, fostering creativity, and excelling in school. We as artists, art professionals, and art educators are very often a major factor in a student’s success.

Ten states, including Oklahoma, recently received a reprieve from complying with certain aspects of No Child Left Behind. It seems like we keep lowering our standards rather than lifting up our youth to meet and exceed the challenges put before them.

How are we going to have a capable workforce replete with skills for the 21st century if we keep lowering our requirements for graduation? Companies are spending millions of dollars every year providing remedial training. Universities are spending millions of dollars every year on remedial classes.

We cannot solve our current economic woes by burying our heads in the sand and hoping by some miracle that our youth will figure it out and be successful when we haven’t provided the proper foundation or the means to foster success. Read the rest of this entry »

A Whole New World: Arts Education Advocacy As A Parent

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On September - 6 - 2011
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

My husband and I are now expecting our first child. With both of us being arts educators, we feel like we’re in a good position to help our child experience the arts.

In fact, the little one has already been to see shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (During the production of Pirates of Penzance I could have sworn I felt jazz hands in my belly.)

But, as much as we value the arts in our family, I know that when the time comes to send Junior off to school, we will have to be active, passionate, vocal, and unrelenting advocates. Here are some places we plan to start.

Stay Educated
Although I have plenty of stories about the importance of arts education, it is equally important for advocates to stay on top of the statistics too. Here are some recent data gems to keep handy:
72.5 percent of tenth graders from “high-arts” schools scored in the top half of standardized tests (verbal and math combined) compared to 45 percent from “low-arts” schools.
A state of Missouri survey found that districts offering more fine arts classes have a one percent higher attendance rate. Attendance effects funding, so in a district of 12,000 students, a one percent increase in attendance equals an additional $430,000 annually. 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.