For Arts Professionals in the Know
Back in May, I shared my reservations about efforts to “turn STEM to STEAM.” I didn’t question “whether the arts and sciences are connected. What was missing for me was an articulation of how they are connected. Sure, there are elements of geometry in visual art, and yes, you need to understand basic math in order to read music or follow rhythms in dance. But arranging letters on a page is one thing; bringing disciplines together in a thoughtful and authentic way is something entirely different.”
Since then, I’ve had the privilege of spending several days with other members of the Arts and STEM Collaborative for 21st Century Learning, a cohort of arts and science education leaders from across Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties. We’ve met three times since the summer, and despite our thoughtful conversations, I had a nagging question: is STEM-to-STEAM simply about the integration of the arts and STEM subjects? If so, can we take an existing definition of arts integration (I’m a fan of the one developed by The Kennedy Center), declare the S, T, E, and/or M the “other subject area,” and call it a day? If not, why not? How is STEAM different?Read More
What is the purpose of theatre education at the K-12 level? What underlying objectives are shared by diverse programs in diverse communities? How do we reconcile a theatre's objectives in engaging future audiences with the educational objectives of schools and parents? The practical reality is that a climate of education budget cuts, standardized testing and stiff competition for budget dollars makes providing young people, especially in underserved communities, with meaningful arts education opportunities a challenging question.
This surfaced recently when I was sitting in a donor's office laying out our plans for Impact Creativity, an ambitious undertaking to raise $5 million over three years to bridge the budget gaps of our 19 member theaters and their education programs. American creativity is at stake, and so is our sense of equal opportunity -- 40 percent of underserved youth risk losing their access to arts education.
"But what are you setting out to do, actually?" the donor asked. "Raise $5 million," I answered. She paused. "And then...?"
Ah ha. We needed to connect the dots, in other words define theater education and its impact in more tangible ways, so that we can have a national conversation about something that currently differs from state to state, school to school, and theatre to theatre.
The network of 19 National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) member theaters then set out to define clear objectives for the national Impact Creativity program while communicating how the individual theatre education programs address the larger questions facing our education systems: equity, resource scarcity and increasing demand for a high-functioning workforce.Read More
Arts Education, by the very nature of our work, is a hybrid profession. As such, I’m sure many an arts education administrator or fundraiser can share tales of woe about having to explain to board members or funders how our work is both artistic and educational – a task which only a few people, in my opinion, have managed to accomplish in our field. But where some people see confusion as a result of not being able to label, others see collaboration… the overlap of a Venn diagram. What fascinates me about our work is that we are the combination of two ecosystems and a place where community takes on a whole new meaning.
While all that sounds lovely, there are (too) few concrete places where one can achieve a professional sense of community – a space where folks can come together from different cities, organizations and professions to share, discuss and dream about what arts education can achieve. For me, one of these places is American for the Arts – specifically, the Arts Education Network.
In 2011, a year in which many of us and our organizations were dealing with the ripple effects of a massive economic meltdown, I very quickly became overwhelmed by the sense of isolation and surprised by how most in our community quickly reverted into a survival mode that prevented us from seeing beyond the walls of our institutions. We became so focused on making sure our organizations could make it through the crisis, we inadvertently turned our back on the solution: us. I, along with everyone else, was starving for perspective.Read More
Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students. But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.
The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning. The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:
In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield. This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry. A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year. You can see their sample schedule online.Read More
This week I invited 20 very smart people to join me on ARTSblog for a discussion about arts education. We tried to tackle issues around the trifecta of education accountability—standards, assessment, and evaluation. A tough topic for sure, but we wanted to address some questions such as:
1) How do you assess students in arts classes?
2) Are there reliable ways to evaluate arts teachers?
3) What does this era of educational accountability look like for the arts?
One of our bloggers, Aliza Sarian, wrote eloquently about why assessment and evaluation are important in her work as an arts educator:
“Evaluation and assessment are at the core of what I do as an educator and as a classroom teacher. I make that distinction because as an educator, I am constantly looking at the work I do and reflecting on how it can be improved. As a classroom teacher, the kids, parents, and administrators demand the feedback to help students become better speakers, writers, and learners. In my world of arts education, assessment and evaluation are invaluable.”
But she and other bloggers and commenters also raised valid concerns about education accountability—how does it affect the arts? How is it different for the arts than other subject areas?
For example, a couple of commenters were worried about the use of time and resources on things like standards and evaluations. To quote just one:
“Let me suggest before we jump into measuring fine arts teachers job performance, we first focus on providing every child in America with regular fine arts learning opportunities in all of the fine arts.”
And I cannot say that I disagree. But I also agree with Aliza about the importance of accountability in terms of refining our practice and moving our field forward.Read More