A Recipe for Success in the New World of the Common Core

Posted by Mark Slavkin On September - 12 - 2012

Mark Slavkin

The latest wave of national school reform—the Common Core State Standards—provides a new set of opportunities and challenges for arts education. Having experienced several prior waves of school reform, I must admit to a certain degree of cynicism.

If history is any guide, we will over-promise on the impact of these standards and under-invest in providing teachers the tools and support they will need to be effective. Still, there are important opportunities to consider.

Advocates behind the Common Core suggest this new approach will emphasize critical thinking and analysis, and move us behind the fragmented curriculum standards where content is a mile wide and only an inch deep. This would be a positive change. Further, the Common Core initiative aspires to a new system of testing that would replace the multiple choice format with more authentic assessments using online technologies. This too could be a step forward.

It is tempting for providers of arts education programs to simply stamp the phrase “aligned with Common Core” over our existing curricular resources. This would be a mistake and a lost opportunity. Instead, I would suggest we look for ways to join the many planning processes underway in our respective states and local school districts. We should be at those tables along with other educators as we all grapple with the challenges of “implementing” the Common Core. Such collaborations can lead to a stronger place for arts and arts integration as the Common Core rolls out.

Once we join the planning tables as advocates for arts education, I would suggest a degree of humility is in order. Common Core is new for all of us. We have much to learn and consider before we claim “arts programs already support this!” Here are some questions we might ask ourselves:

How much reading do students do in my arts program? How much do I know about texts they are reading in other courses? What are the most appropriate texts I would want students to read to deepen their understanding of art history, art criticism, or aesthetic considerations? Read the rest of this entry »

Ian David Moss

The hardest question to answer in arts research is “what would have happened if we had done things differently?” Researchers call this question the “counterfactual,” since it refers to a scenario that doesn’t actually exist. Generally speaking, it’s hard to measure things that don’t exist; hence the difficulty for arts research. We can’t measure that scenario directly, but we can get close to it through experimental designs that include a control group.

In a marketing-specific context, counterfactual scenarios come into play when considering alternative strategies aimed at driving sales or conversions. One technique that a number of organizations have used is called A/B testing, which is when two different versions of, say, a newsletter or a website get sent to random segments of your target audience.

Internet technology makes A/B testing relatively painless to execute: in the case of a newsletter, for example, all it requires is a random sorting algorithm in Excel to divide the list in two before sending the slightly different newsletter versions to the lists as you normally would. You could test which design results in more clickthroughs to a specific link or which subject line results in a higher open rate. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovation: The Key to America’s Leading Edge

Posted by Billie Jean Knight On September - 16 - 2011

Billie Jean Knight

Those who insist America’s position in the world is being diminished by global competition bombard us daily in the media. Fear, doubt, and worry are generated by a panic-stricken fear mongers who blame America’s schools for failing to prepare students to rise to the competitive challenge.

I take issue with the idea that America’s schools are failing in general, although many struggle.

I do believe that policymakers have failed to define and support what students need to be able to know and do for a newly defined global economy.

Yes, mastery of reading, writing, math, science, and social and historical perspective are of critical importance. However, these are only prerequisites for what is truly needed to be ultimately prepared.

The obsession with tangible low-level skills required to “pass the test” has driven American school systems out of curriculum balance to abandon important elements that made our nation a superpower in the first place: creativity and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scientific Method Should Be Trusted

Posted by Kristy Callaway On March - 8 - 2011

Kristy Callaway

My southern heritage speaks, “I’m not one to talk, but…” then proceeds to the insult and ends with “…bless their heart.”

What I know for sure is that the scientific method should be trusted and I like micro advocacy. Our ancestors could mark on cave walls, create flutes from bones, and push their humanity forward through oral and physical traditions, mostly improving their lot along the way. We have been governed by scientific methodology since we hungrily poked sticks in anthills a million years ago.

Today, the wiggling things are us.

What is at stake?

Our legacy and future humanity!

In a recent op-ed piece to The Washington Post, Bill Gates detailed research findings for student achievement. The single most decisive factor is excellent teaching. And learning can only happen in the third space between teacher and student. Read the rest of this entry »