I have been asked to comment on the 5 concepts for collectively transforming public education through the arts. Change is great, and sometimes, most of the time, I would love to tear down the entire public education system and start from scratch. I have 3 paragraphs to write about something that occupies 75% of my life, so here we go.
Building on what works, that is the concept that speaks to me loudest. And how do we define what works? For me it is a high level of student engagement, students understand key concepts, and at the more advanced levels, students create compelling , high concept, risk taking work, using a high level of craftsmanship and showing authentic voice. I think this holds true across the board of the subject matter game, although I am not sure about Math. Do I know how to make this happen in my art classes? You bet I do, and I have plenty of evidence to prove it.
I do know what works, and I am pretty clear about the obstacles to making things work as well. Here is a short list: NCLB, Companion Math and English Classes, lack of funding, lack of parent and community understanding of the importance of Visual and Performing Arts. I am lucky to be in a district where the administration really supports the arts and “gets it”. Even so, did I mention facilities, lack of funding, crowded classes, lack of funding, constant threats of layoffs, furlough days, and lack of funding?
And finally, understanding that Building on What Works means that not just one thing ever works. Every student has a different need in order to shine. Building on What Works means “Connecting. “ What has helped me the most as a teacher, is my connection with other great teachers, through conferences and workshops, through online list serve groups, and serving on advisory boards. Connecting with schools and higher education offering the kinds of classes we can only dream about ( Here, I’m thinking about Oxbow and all our fabulous California art colleges).And finally, connecting the student to that larger world of the arts., whether it be higher education, career connections , gallery and museum visits or professional performances. Connection is the challenge. It is the work outside the work and it is how to build what works.watercolor by naomi caylao, 12th grade, 2012
The Policy Council of the California Alliance for Arts Education is comprised of 40 organizations from around the state, representing the interests of education, business, arts and parents. It’s a natural forum in which to raise the question of how to expand and strengthen the impact of partnerships in the work we do.
At our last meeting, Jeffry Walker presented the findings of a report commissioned by the California Alliance. Its conclusion underscored the point made in this blog, that partnerships are more effective than unilateral actions, and that we must seek new ways to bridge sectors of society as well as engage and serve diverse communities.
In order to ‘test out’ those findings, we invited the response of representatives from three unique sectors whose interests may overlap with arts education, but who until now have not been seen as natural partners in the work we do. The organizations represented were Ed Trust West, whose work focuses on high academic achievement of all students; Preschool California, working to increase access to high quality early childhood education for all children; and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union of professional stagehands, motion picture technicians, and allied crafts.
What we heard from their representatives reflected the recognition that arts education was not seen as a priority nor particularlyrelevant to their mission. Yet, as we discussed our individual missions, what emerged were the overlapping interests, whether connected to our shared commitment to provide every child with a complete education that includes the benefits of arts education, the importance of ‘experiential’ learning opportunities throughout the educational experience, and the relevance of the arts to preparing students for careers in the workforce.
The conversation opened new territory for partnership and building a stronger base of support for schools and communities that support the aspirations of all children. As the statewide advocacy organization forarts education, we recognize the critical importance of that effort.
Joe Landon is the executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education. His professional background includes being a speechwriter and senior consultant in the state assembly, a K-8 music and drama teacher, a preschool teacher, and a playwright, composer and television writer.
This week, we have invited some Guest Bloggers to respond to the latest synthesis of ideas that are emerging from our conversations over the past 4 months. We are so appreciative of their taking the time to lend their experience and wisdom so that we can emerge from this process with a set of shared ideas that will help multiple organizations, institutions and individuals collectively chart a path toward student success and healthy communities.
Let me introduce our bloggers, who will be posting throughout the week:
John Abodeely, Manager, National Partnerships, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has worked for national arts and arts education organizations for about a decade. His specialties include systemic approaches to improving the access to untested subjects, trans-institutional coordination for mission-based work, and breakthrough strategy for nonprofits.
Carl Anthony, Co-director, Breakthrough Communities Project, is an architect, author and urban / suburban / regional design strategist, and has served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation. He was a founder and, for 12 years Executive Director, of the Urban Habitat Program in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Audrey Brown, Visual Arts Teacher, was selected as San Leandro High School Teacher of the Year 2009. She is the Chair of the San Leandro High School Art Department, and a practicing visual artist.
Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, Professor, Initiative for Transformative Education, George Mason University, has been an educator in public schools and higher education for more than 35 years. She is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. In Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature In (prepared for the Heinz Endowments, June 2009) she highlights the necessity to employ the arts as a means to racial uplift and building on student cultural assets.
Joe Landon, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, whose professional background includes being a speechwriter and senior consultant in the state assembly, a K-8 music and drama teacher, a preschool teacher, and a playwright, composer and television writer.
Martha Montufar, Arts Education Consultant and Parent Educator, is an experienced program director, planner, trainer, facilitator, teaching artist and designer of curriculum for education programs and arts integration. Her recent work incorporates using the arts to engage students, their parents, teachers, and administrators in authentic partnership for increased student achievement.
Browning Neddeau is a fourth year Learning & Instruction doctoral student at the University of San Francisco where his research is focused on arts education. He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University in their multiple subjects teacher credentialing programs.
Nancy Ng, Director of Community Development of Luna Dance Institute, has worked as a performing artist, choreographer and educator for her entire life, including a long tenure as choreographer, performer and administrator for Asian American Dance Performances. She holds a teaching credential from San Francisco State University and Ng received the first national award for mentorship from the National Dance Education Organization in 2003.
Dr. Lauren Stevenson, Junction Box Consulting, has been a leader in arts education for over 12 years. As the principal at Junction Box Consulting, she specializes in research and program development connecting arts, education, and youth development.