Arts Education: Ten Things to Remember from 2014
I can now affirmatively say that I have been at Americans for the Arts for over a year! Woohoo! …And what a year it has been.
Each month the Arts Education Advisory Council of Americans for the Arts has a monthly call. In December, we sat on the call reflecting on the previous year and what we had all accomplished personally, collectively, and throughout the field. In my role as the Arts Education Program Coordinator, I am privileged to see a lot of things that happen on a national scale across the country, and the council often provides insight into the impacts of these trends or brings my attention to something that is up-and-coming before it has actually made a splash.
In our reflective state, we began compiling a list of the ten things that every arts-interested person should know about arts education from 2014 – it was an incredible year!
Turnaround Arts launches Phase 2
Predicated on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities 2011 report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, The Turnaround: Arts initiative was launched in April 2012 in 8 school districts. With positive results in the 2013 Interim Progress Report Turnaround Arts announced in May 2014, its second phase. Expanding to include not only individual schools, but also districts and even entire states, Turnaround Arts now serves students in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C., with plans to expand to up to 60 schools across the country.
STEAM Is Gathering Steam!
With the formation of the Congressional STEAM Caucus in the 113th Congress, co-chairs, Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Aaron Schock (R-IL) have been leading the charge for a federal focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics education. However, throughout the country, many other initiatives have taken off. First, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) launched a STEAM Map, which allows educators to upload their STEAM-focused projects and programs to be shared globally. Second, Ovation TV, launched the innOVATION Awards to recognize and fund successful STEAM programs. Lastly, a new, national initiative called the Innovation Collaborative launched. The goal of the collaborative is to network the arts sciences and humanities to provide research, policy, and effective practices for innovation learning. Along with all of these, there were many others, and – I’m sure – many more to come in 2015.
Release of the National Core Arts Standards
In June, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) released the new, voluntary set of arts education standards to the field in a digital event. In October, NCCAS joined with songwriter and arts education activist Ben Folds and the Microsoft Corporation to celebrate the release of the standards in a national media event in New York City. Moving forward, it is up to states to adopt or adapt these standards through their own systems. To find out more about the standards, be sure to check out the website here.
With many items in constant flux as a result of waivers and the non-reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, teacher evaluation is a hot button issue across the educational spectrum. In the arts, however, this is more of an issue than ever with evaluation being based more and more on ELA and Math performance standards. In certain states, like AZ, OR and SC, arts curricula and teacher evaluation are being discussed widely by the field. This is an area with more to come in 2015.
More Research on Arts Education and Cognition
In 2014, there were several reports which changed the way we associate arts education with cognitive development. One in particular, from Brainvolts at Northwestern University focusing on students of the Harmony Project in Los Angeles is a game-changer: Engagement In Community Music Classes Sparks Neuroplasticity And Language Development In Children From Disadvantaged Backgrounds. This study concludes that students who come from disadvantaged background don’t learn as well as a result, however, participating in arts education (in the study, music programs) can reverse this fact. This is an exciting development for arts education and another argument to add to the cadre of reasons to focus on equity and access to arts education for all students.
The Impact of the Arts on English Language Learners
The Right Brain Initiative released their 2014 Progress Report with a splash. Researchers found that when engaging with the program (and thus engaging in arts integrated learning) students were consistently performing higher on standards Oregon tests. In populations of English Language Learners, the scores increased 10 fold. This is not a new realization, however. Footholds into this type of research took hold with the National Endowment for the Arts in early 2001. That being said, the NEA, too, hosted a webinar on this topic this past fall, pushing the issue to the forefront.
The Release of Something to Say
Released in November 2013 (I know, I know, not 2014), The Wallace Foundation published one of their most downloaded reports ever: Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs From Urban Youth and Other Experts. This report strives to answer the question, “How can high-quality arts programs attract and retain low-income urban tweens?” by considering the perspectives of young people, their families and leaders of successful programs.
The Coalescence of the Creative Youth Development Field
In March 2014, the National Summit on Creative Youth Development was held in Boston. Predicated on the Something to Say report mentioned above and the summit’s commissioned Setting The Agenda report, over 250 youth, arts and community practitioners gathered to discuss their shared – yet unnamed – field. Coming out of the conference, the findings were published in a similar report: Collective Action for Youth: An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development. Moving forward, several national partners, like the National Guild for Community Arts Education, The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, The Massachusetts Cultural Council and Americans for the Arts all began working to advance this newly named field of Creative Youth Development. This advancement included the Guild publishing an article titled, “"Creative Youth Development Movement Takes Hold". Americans for the Arts also hosted a blog salon on the topic. Lastly, there was a preconference held on the topic at the Conference for Community Arts Education in Los Angeles. This field will surely have some news for us in 2015.
Reporting, Reporting, Reporting
If there was ever a theme in arts education for 2014, it would be this! So many reports were released, but there were several from key major cities which will guide the future policies of arts in education. In New York City, City Comptroller Scott Stringer released the State of the Arts: A Plan to Boost Arts Education in New York City Schools. In Chicago, Ingenuity, Incorporated, an arts education advocacy organization, released State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools. Lastly, in Los Angeles, Arts for All published the data from a 2005-13 collection of Arts Education in LA County.
Mayors Respond to Reports
In NYC and Chicago, Mayors Bill de Blasio and Rahm Emanuel both took on the information they received from their respective city’s reports on arts education. Mayor de Blasio, along with the city’s Comptroller and schools chancellor, announced that to right the disparity skewed towards low income areas which the report identified, they would allocate $23m for arts education in the city during the 2014-15 school year. Specifically, this money would be used to hire 120 new arts teachers to ensure every school in the city had access to high quality arts education. Similarly, in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel allocated an additional $500,000, raising the total funding for arts education in Chicago to $1m to be able to fund weekly arts classes in the elementary grades and station a certified arts teacher in every school.
Though diverse, all these events helped advance arts education in America. After my conversation with the council, I was utterly thrilled to see what had been accomplished over the past year, and can’t wait to see what will unfold in 2015!