Thursday, July 28, 2011

Arts Education Blog Forum Follow Up Questions

Good morning.

"And the beat goes on........................"

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Follow Up Questions to the First Week Blog Posts :
Here are our reactions and thoughts about some of what this week's blog participants said. We will include their responses to these questions as and when received, and we encourage any of the readers who have thoughts to enter their own comments at the end of this blog).

1. More than one responder alludes to the positive situation in what could be called the “have” schools / districts – private and to a lesser extent, public – wherein the situation is pretty good, but that only raises the equity issue for that huge portion of schools wherein the situation is not as good, and is very likely bad. No doubt that disparity is the result of a variety of causes, chief among them lack of funds. How do we deal with that? – because that continued inequity is going to result in a ‘have’ and ‘have not’ arts education world (and education outcomes) for generations to come. If we are striving for, as Nick says, “properly funded, well-run schools” for every child, where do the public will, the policy and the funds come from to make that happen? That is one of our principal challenges: if we cannot address the inequity challenge, then much of the whole edifice will come crumbling down - hard.

Nick Rabkin: I don’t think the ‘whole edifice comes crumbling down’ if we don’t deal with the equity problem. To the contrary, the whole edifice of public education in America has been built on inequality, and it always has been. Inequality in arts education is just one manifestation of inequalities built into systems of public education financed by property taxes that will always disadvantage poor communities and advantage wealthy ones. Until that is changed, it’s not likely we’ll see big changes in access to arts ed for poor kids. “We” – advocates for arts education - are not capable of dealing with the inequity problem on our own. It is the central issue in American schools, as it has been since long before Brown v. Board of Education. That doesn’t mean we should give up on fighting for arts ed in poor schools. To the contrary, successful programs in low-income schools are our best arguments for arts education for all.

2. Somewhat along the same track, both Paul and Eric pointed out the problem of too many classroom teachers not having had any experience with the arts in their own educational background, another problem that is likely to get worse as even fewer kids (including future teachers) today have arts education. How do we deal with that? Does this point to teaching artists – those people who have the skill and expertise in the arts – as the best hope, in partnership with those “under-arts-educated” classroom teachers? Should there be a systemic approach to providing teachers with ongoing arts education training, both pre-service and in-service?

Nick Rabkin: We actually have no reliable data about what kind of arts education classroom teachers had in American schools historically, but I’m skeptical that there was ever a ‘golden age’. The best available data shows that just 25% of 18-year olds had any arts education in 1930. That figure slowly climbed up to about 65% by 1980 or so. It has declined since and is now below 50% again, about the level it was at in the mid-1960s, and not nearly as low as it was in 1930. The popular explosion of the arts in the 1960s was a cultural phenomenon, associated with all sorts of other cultural phenomena of the time. It was certainly not the result of an appetite for the arts that was cultivated in schools! I had a music appreciation class in junior high school, in which I learned about the classical composers, but my lifelong interest in music was not shaped deeply by that class. Listening to the radio had much more to do with it. Just because classroom teachers have had little in the way of formal arts education does not mean that they have limited interest or ideas about the arts. Just like their students, they come to schools with lots of ideas and lots of questions about the arts that are waiting to be explored with a little help from the outside.

Eric Engdahl:
The issue of the “under arts educated” teacher is not a simple one to resolve. Given the complexity of educating students in the diverse eco-system of educational environments there are have to be multiple solutions that work in their own context. “Under arts educated teachers” are also only part of a larger problem that includes “under math educated teachers,” “under science educated teachers,” etc. situated in an educational system does not work well or equitably.

Here are a few thoughts about how to deal with “under arts educated” teachers now:
First, I think we need to work on helping teachers to re-think what arts experience means. I had a preservice teacher in my VAPA methods class once who stated she had no experience in the arts. I was surprised one day when she told me she had to miss class because she had been performing hula for the last twelve years and her professional ensemble had a performance. When I asked her why she said she had no experience in the arts she explained that she meant “school arts.” I have had similar conversations around photography, church choir, website design, West African music and dance, and mariachi to name a few. I think we need to help teachers see a broader definition of the arts, especially as more cultures are represented and as technology evolves.

Second, how do we educate the teacher who truly has had no arts experience? It cannot occur in a teacher training program. Teacher training programs focus on how to teach, not in teaching the content the teacher will be teaching. But arts education can happen in the undergraduate educational process; in which case those pre-education majors need more arts content. But it also needs to happen in the high school level, the middle school level and to my mind most importantly in the elementary school. It also needs to happen in community-based arts education organizations, for example the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, Ca. I don’t think there is a systemic approach to educating the arts uneducated teacher, it needs to occur where the best opportunities can be found in context.

Third, I don’t think the resources exist for teaching artists to fill the gap. I doubt if there are enough of them to meet the meets of urban, suburban and rural districts. Nor do I think there is money to pay them. I did a little rough math. There were 467,278 4th graders in the state of California last year. For one hour of arts instruction with a teaching artist assuming that the artist taught 50 students and was paid $50 for that hour the cost would be $467,278. On the one hand that’s a bargain - $1 per instructional hour per student. But once you start multiplying hours taught and additional grade levels the costs are astronomic. This leads us back to collective impact and doing more with less – which means that we need to get talking now – and thank you Barry, because this is a great start.

3. From Kris’ comments, and those of both Paul and Eric, it seems that the time might be fruitful for an arts education summit meeting that focuses solely on the role of higher education in preparing teachers as arts teachers or arts integrationists. Could such a bold move yield progress or would it be a waste of time? Has this happened anywhere else in the country?

Eric Engdahl: I think that a convening of teacher education programs would be useful, but it needs to include a cross section of all teacher training programs, including the so-called “for profit” institutions and alternative credentialing programs run by charter schools and districts. It also needs to include the educational leadership programs. In California, a beginning location for that meeting could be among the CSUs (which educates the majority of California teachers) or at the organization of teacher training programs, the California Council on Teacher Education which already has an Arts Education Special Interest Group.

That convening needs to be part of a series of meetings in which regional arts education providers meet to look at how they can work together in a time of diminished resources. Some of us in the arts education community are looking to the idea of collective impact, eloquently described in an article by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Part of the notion of collective impact is that we are working on a continuum from preschool through college and beyond; that arts education can happen in the schools, in community based organizations, in the home, in cultural organizations, in churches as well as in traditional venues.

Another idea from collective impact is that in bringing together arts educators to closely examine what we do, share our work, and study the effectiveness of our work we are creating a network in which the outcome is the process.

By using the idea of collective impact, we can also join educational reformers from many fields and become part of the greater educational reform movement. I believe that in this way we can make deep structural changes in the educational system and make under educated teachers a thing of the past.

Ayanna Hudson (Director of Arts Education, LA County Arts Commission): On Friday, May 7, 2010, Arts for All, in partnership with California State University at Northridge, hosted the Arts for All Higher Education Think Tank. This event brought together decision makers throughout the education and arts community to begin to discuss how to strategically address quality arts education in teacher preparation programs in order to impact teacher practice and student learning. Over 60 people attended representing 13 institutions of higher education, 3 foundations, 6 school districts and partners from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Orange County Office of Education and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Think Tank attendees participated in several sessions throughout the day to:

• Identify and analyze trends in higher education
• Build consensus on the role of higher education in quality, access and equity in arts education

In one session, Sandra B. Chong, Director of Arts Education, Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication, California State University at Northridge, led a panel discussion with generalist classroom teachers called the “Benefits of Arts Education in the Elementary Classroom,” which focused on the inadequacy of training in arts education in pre-service programs, the use of the arts in the classroom setting and the impact teaching through the arts has on their teaching practice and student learning outcomes.

Although panelists felt that ongoing professional development in the arts is necessary, incorporating arts training into teacher preparation programs would be most beneficial. All panelists felt that strong training in the arts in pre-service programs for teachers would improve teachers’ capacity to teach in a classroom setting and equip teachers with a tool that would support them in improving student learning across all subjects.

After reviewing documentation from the all of the day’s sessions, participants identified the following key priorities:

1. Develop a collective vision of arts education in teacher preparation programs
2. Deliver strong teacher preparation in the arts in pre-service teacher training programs
3. Model best practices throughout teacher training programs
4. Develop and empower advocates in institutions of higher education
5. Establish a culture that values the arts in teacher preparation programs
6. Conduct research and distribute data among stakeholders

These key priorities establish the foundation for the creation of a Higher Education Initiative, especially for California.

4. Can Jessica be right? Will education professionals always see the arts as “outside” of education? Don’t we have to figure out how to change that dynamic if we are ever to again provide arts education to every student K-12? Jessica’s piece illustrates a certain disconnect in belief between educators / teachers and artists / arts organizations as to whether or not the relationship is indeed as solid as she thinks. It’s possible that her perspective is not necessarily shared by the majority of the educator / teacher community – and that might very well be a problem for improving the role of the artist / arts organization within the arts education ecosystem. Chike’s piece further demonstrates some distance between those who run arts organizations and the teacher / educator. Not that he (or Jessica) is in any way wrong in his (her) observations, but their optimism may not be shared across the board outside our community. What are your thoughts?

5. Sabrina seems to be a tad more realistic and experienced in the arena of the arts organization working in the classroom. She rightly sees the artist as leader and partner – but the artist also needs to come into that situation as the learner and the follower too – and it’s not apparent that they do. Her comment that not every artist or arts organization has a role in the wider arts education discussion also resonates: there are a number of arts groups working in schools because the burden of arts education/enrichment provision has fallen on them – but may not be a critical part of their mission. They may not have the resources or expertise to do it effectively. Ruth’s observations are valuable in this light. She has a practical approach. How do we expand on the experience of those that have grappled with this problem for a long time already?

6. Perhaps we need to develop a comprehensive policy position as to the role of artists and arts organizations in the future of classroom arts education (and beyond as part of Eugene’s pyramid including the community) – a policy that reflects the real and genuine needs of both teachers and educators and artists and arts organizations – jointly and separately. Have we even taken baby steps to arrive at such a unified approach to the role of each? We may be living in a somewhat fantasy world - each side clinging to antiquated, outdated and largely erroneous beliefs about what the other wants, needs, thinks, believes and will accept. Can you comment?

Nick Rabkin: There are enormously successful partnerships in schools that include teaching artists, arts organizations, and faculty arts specialists. I would suggest that a serious study of the dynamics of these partnerships would yield the very best ideas of the principles that underlie roles in the provision of arts ed in schools.

7. Thinking of John Abodeely’s and Talia Gibas’ comments about the lack of national leadership for arts integration – and later on in the blog we’ll be discussing national leadership overall for arts education – it would be interesting to hear what type of organization might take on that role. Is it one with an education focus, or an arts/arts education perspective? Should the government provide this role? And is there an opportunity in Common Core standards implementation for this arts integration leadership?

Nick Rabkin: The Getty made an investment in DBAE in the 90s that has had a sustained effect on American arts education. (It’s really too bad that Getty abandoned its efforts under its disgraced president, Barry Munitz, about a decade ago.) It is high time that there was an equivalent philanthropic investment in arts integration, probably the most substantial innovation in arts education pedagogy and curriculum in our time. The practical leadership for this is ready, in my view. There are brilliant practitioners and theoreticians across the country, but no infrastructure to support building the field. What a lost opportunity!

Next week the Arts Education Blog Forum continues - Category: Fieldbuilding

Don't Quit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Arts Education Blog Forum Continues

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on.............................."

DAY 3:
Note:  In a fortuitious coincidence or a flattering emulation, the ongoing White House series Champions of Change is focusing this week on Arts Education.  Click on the link to go to that site and read the participant's entries.  While short on depth, nonetheless this kind of exercise focuses a spotlight on the issue and that is welcome news and an important development. 

Category:   Practice
Question #3:  What is the role of artists and arts organizations in the wider arts education paradigm?

Jessica Mele -  (Executive Director / Performing Arts Workshop, San Francisco, CA).
What is the biggest barrier to a high-quality education?

Time. Teachers will tell you that there aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in creativity. No matter how hard we try, or how much money we bring to the table, time is always the enemy. And squeeze is always the verb.

I would like to suggest that the role of arts and arts education organizations is to unsqueeze the school day. We can do this because we occupy a unique position in the educational landscape. Artists and arts education organizations are outsiders. We are not part of the education world. Arts education organizations go one step further. We’re outsiders to both worlds; our goal is learning, not audience development. Our mission is in the classroom.

This current paradigm has an upside and a downside. Upside: we are often allowed to bring new ideas, try new things in school with a freedom that classroom teachers or arts specialists rarely feel. Downside: education professionals will always see the arts as “outside” of education. It also means that we will play the game of “plugging” holes in the curriculum, rather than true educational partnership. 

The arts teach skills that students need but are not getting in most traditional classrooms: critical thinking, leadership, healthy relationships, self-efficacy (see Performing Arts Workshop’s recent evaluation report with findings related to student achievement:   Educators who are committed to these ways of learning often recognize that the arts are a way of better managing the limits of the school day. For example, a science lesson on inertia can explore that concept by learning about bodies in motion, AND through the concept of cause and effect in creative writing. This kind of curricular connection doesn’t take additional instructional hours, but rather leverages existing time. 

This kind of collaboration between teachers and artists is a true educational partnership; one that starts from a connection between curricular leaders (“What can we do together?”, rather than “What can we do for you?”). Amazing things can happen in true educational partnerships. And at the same time, are we ready as arts education organizations, arts organizations and teaching artists to engage in this kind of educational partnership? In order to effectively deepen the impact of our work, we have some field building to do. We need standards of pay for artistic staff, and of teaching quality. To date, each organization has had to find its own way compensating, evaluating and training artistic staff. This work is important, and directly related to classroom quality, and yet we are inventing our own wheels without any criteria for what makes a wheel (btw, compensation for wheelmakers is all over the map).

Arts education organizations, arts organizations, and the teaching artists that they staff, offer something unique to the public education system. And some educational leaders see that. If we are to be true educational partners, we need to be up to that partnership.

Chike C. Nwoffiah - (founding Executive Director of Oriki Theater, a Mountain View, CA.based performing arts company that provides African entertainment, educational and youth development programs.  An accomplished writer, theater director/producer and filmmaker with over 30 stage and screen credits, Chike is also a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum - Silicon Valley and on the adjunct faculty at Menlo College in Atherton, California where he teaches African History.)
I am a little concerned about the notion that Arts Integration is or should be an alternative to Arts Instruction. I think this creates a distraction, an imagined dichotomy and a false premise for any reasonable solution to the challenges we face. There has to be room for a child who wants to pursue music, dance, drama, etc., as a career to train and be nurtured to full bloom. The rigor, pedagogy and the learning environment that is created for that child is what constitutes Arts Instruction.  This is different but not in opposition to the idea of Arts Integration or “teaching through the arts” which means using arts as a vehicle for a child’s learning in other subject areas: math, geography, history, science, etc.
Teaching through the arts does not mean that an artist will go to bed and wake up the next day as a geography teacher. It means affirming the geography teacher in their own classroom, but giving her some arts strategies that she can use in teaching geography. A lot of this kind of teaching is already happening but is often not recognized as teaching through the arts.  Teachers routinely have their students draw, paint or even produce videos on science projects.  It is common practice in the lower grades to have children learn complex subjects through rhymes and songs. I have seen history teachers challenge their students by dramatizing historic events; geography and biology teachers sometimes take students outside the classroom to study in nature: feel the rocks, build habitats for insects, etc.  There are several "arts" processes that occur in each of the above examples.  I believe that we begin to build artificial walls when we do not validate the creative work that is already going on before introducing our "high-end teaching through the arts" concept.  What needs to happen is validate the vast amount of creative teaching that is happening, recognize these islands of excellence as examples of teaching through the arts; and then figure out how to support the teachers with more art strategies.
The role of the artist is central to both Arts Integration and Arts Instruction. The artists and arts organizations are best positioned to work alongside teachers in sharing arts strategies and demonstrating the intersection of instruction and integration. Most traditional societies have always affirmed and honored disciplined study and training in specific art forms but have seamlessly integrated the arts into everyday life. Songs, dances, folk stories, drumming, etc., are used to teach history, geography, math, social science, civics, etc. This is the backdrop that my art comes from and this is what my colleagues and I have been doing for a few decades. Unfortunately our education system is still stuck in the old paradigm of "education" within the four walls of a classroom from the first bell to the last bell; where everything outside of those four walls and bell periods are branded "extra-curricular".  There is a lot of art going on in the so-called “underprivileged” communities across state, but since they do not fit into what might be preconceived notions of “high art” they are not valued.
Perhaps the exigencies of the moment might force us to throw away these outdated paradigms of what, where and how a child learns. It is clear that any meaningful arts education strategy must give all cultures a voice in our curriculum and not deny nor deprive our students a lifetime opportunity to become full citizens of our globe. Maybe if we are courageous enough, we might begin to tap into the vast resources of ALL artists and arts organizations that are already doing great work across the state.
“Thus the dream becomes not one man’s dream alone, but a community dream, not my dream alone, but our dream, not my world alone, but your world and my world belonging to all the hands who build.” - Langston Hughes, “Freedom’s Plow.

Sabrina Klein(Executive Director / Teaching Artists Organized, Oakland CA.   Teacher, director and occasional performer). Having myself been deeply affected (dare I say transformed?) and influenced by works of art I've experienced and works of art I've made, I am passionate about the rights of every child to find his or her own voice through a broad array of deep and meaningful arts experiences in and out of school.)

I start with an obvious, but easily overlooked clarification: not every artist or arts organization has a role in the wider arts education discussion.  The role of the artist in society is a completely different question.  For those artists and arts organizations who find connection with education and arts education (they are not the same thing), there are a few deceptively easy (and perfectly reasonable) answers to the question.  We are as diverse, complicated, temperamental, extravagant, introverted and confused as any other field of committed professionals—so our roles can vary widely and wildly, and any checklist of possible roles is likely to far short of reality.  

There are, nonetheless, two relatively straightforward “gifts” artists and arts organizations carry that can provide some  answers about our role in the arts education paradigm:  1) we hold certain expertise in the discipline, rigor, joy and challenges involved in art-making.  And 2)  we tend to engage in our own learning about life and art through inquiry, practice, engagement, experimentation and making connections, which are keys to living a life of curiosity and passion.   These hold true for most working artists, teaching artists, arts educators, and arts integration specialists, as well as for most arts organizations. 

Our role as “experts” in this way of engaging with information and ideas has natural classroom and community value.  Beyond this, we have a role to continue to find ways to articulate the more elusive value that artists and arts organization have--not just in any arts education paradigm, but in any social or civil discourse paradigm.  Many of us became artists because we seek ways of making meaning that are extremely hard to talk about.  We have a deeper obligation in the arts education conversations around us not to side-step the challenge of engaging others in dialogue and partnership about our processes of learning and making meaning.  

A checklist of what we bring as both leaders and partners with others in any arts education paradigm would include a range from the astoundingly obvious to the ephemerally subtle.  We provide both content and context for all kinds of learning.  At our best, we are nimble problem-solvers, responsive to challenges.  We are transparent about our curiosity, asking questions and looking at apparently entrenched realities as reasons to think differently about what reality really is.  We model life-long learning and wonder. 

We do our best, most of us, to meet our art with both joy and rigor, holding ourselves to very high standards both internal and external because that is the joy.  A singular role we have is to be models for this meeting of hard work and great joy in learning, and to continue to strive to find ways to engage others in this kind of learning.

Ruth Nott – (Director of Education at San Francisco Opera, overseeing programs that serve children and adults throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. She has over fifteen years of experience in opera education, having formerly worked in the Education Departments of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and New York City Opera.)

My belief is that the ideal education for all children would include sequential arts instruction by certified arts teachers in all art forms AND arts integration.  Before I continue, I would like to disagree with the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities’ definition of arts integration.  I don’t see the arts as a tool for teaching other subjects.  Learning about and doing arts teach the arts.  I believe that art-learning and other discipline-learning should be taught in equal balance and importance and natural connections between the two should be made.  It is about teaching the whole child–giving them a chance to become thinking human beings and make and understand connections between art and the world.  I also believe that great certified arts teachers teach in an arts-integrated manner.  Hm…maybe quality arts teaching is arts integration.  What do you think?

At San Francisco Opera, we see it as our role to provide arts integration.  We partner with teachers and rely on them to inform us how the art resources that we offer can connect to the disciplines they are teaching.  We provide professional development for educators in our art form and consistent time with teaching artists so that together they can make a plan for how to integrate opera and evaluate that process.  For the most part, but not always, we partner with non-arts teachers.

A divide between arts organizations and arts teachers can sometimes occur.  Arts teachers can see the community arts organizations as trying to take over, perhaps to take their jobs.  Please believe that this is not true!  In our work, we would LOVE to partner with more arts teachers and give them access to our resources.  Art teachers in San Francisco and many other cities are spread so thin, traveling to multiple schools in a week and do not have the opportunity to connect with any one of their many schools and the other teachers within.  But they are the educators who have a vast amount of knowledge about the students at each one of their schools, working with them year after year.  Again, ideally, there is sequential arts instruction and arts integration for every child.

Both the arts and non-arts teachers deal with two main obstacles to partnering with arts organizations–TIME and TESTING.  Like any quality relationship, it takes time to figure out how to best work together.  The teachers we have been successful in working with have given MANY hours of their own time, unpaid, to make our collaboration successful.  They do so because they see the difference that it makes for their students.  And they are growing as well–they are part of a learning community because of the professional development network we provide.

The biggest problem is—when will educators be valued for the enormous difference that they make for the future of our country.  When will education ever be adequately funded and valued?

Nick Rabkin – (Teaching Artist Research Project, NORC, University of Chicago)

Public education is a cornerstone institution and value of our democracy, vital to both social mobility and informed and engaged citizenship.  But schools are stressed to the limit.  Thirty years of intense effort and debate about school reform has not improved the prospects of low-income students much, if at all.  It has also marginalized arts education.  In 2008, 25% fewer 18 year-olds reported that they had taken any arts classes or lessons than 18 year-olds in 1982, and the decline has largely been in schools servinglow-income African American and Latino students where the need for educational improvement is greatest.

There are really two main currents in arts education.  One has its roots in the long history of conservatories that have trained professional artists to make work at the highest levels for patrons since the middle ages.  The other is far newer, making its first appearance here in the US in the settlement movement more than a century ago, when artists began teaching new immigrants and others in low-income neighborhoods. 

The first is connected to an elite European tradition – the arts for the cultivated and the wealthy. The second is self-consciously democratic, associated with social reform, and culturally pluralistic – the arts are for everyone.  The first is grounded in master-apprentice pedagogy and focused on technical skills in the art forms. The second is more student-centered, with a greater focus on the development of voice and meaning in and through the arts.  Both have influenced public school-based arts education.  Free provision would suggest the arts are for all in public schools, but over time schools sort students so that fewer and fewer have regular access to arts education after the primary grades.  Much of the tension and confusion in the arts education universe can be resolved by seeing it through with this binocular prism.

Fifty years ago few artists taught in public schools.  Arts instruction was the responsibility of faculty members, both specialists in the arts and classroom teachers.  As school budgets were cut and curriculum narrowed, starting more than thirty years ago, the number of specialists declined, and classroom teachers were no longer prepared to deliver arts instruction on their own, even in the early grades.  By the mid-1980s arts deserts were spreading in district after district, and arts organizations intensified educational programs for schools in response and new organizations emerged, dedicated entirely to arts education programming.  These efforts did not reverse the decline, but they did mitigate it, and significant numbers of teaching artists have moved into schools in the last thirty years. 

Over the years, the best of these programs matured.  They stayed in schools longer, built lasting partnerships between classroom teachers and teaching artists, arts organizations and schools.  Artists who had been involved in community-based arts education brought the sense of social purpose rooted in the settlement tradition of reform and a commitment to the value of the arts for all.  They developed new approaches to pedagogy, innovative curriculum, and designed creative programs that engage some of the most alienated students, give them meaningful work to do, allow them to exercise their creativity and develop their problem solving capacities, and promote collaboration.  They have expanded on the arts standards, making voice, meaning, and relevance serious goals of arts education. 

A broad consensus of researchers agrees that good teaching is student centered, focused on meaningful concepts, ideas, and problems, and builds community among students.  That is what the best of these programs have brought to schools.  Teaching artists have established a track record of innovation and success that would suggest they should be a critical element of any strategy to reverse the broad decline in arts education, and distribute arts education more equitably.  More important, they can provide an outside perspective and energy that demoralized schools badly need, bringing innovation and creativity to places that are often starved for them. 

Not that partnerships between schools and arts organizations can provide comprehensive arts education for all students.  That should and must be a broader responsibility, largely shouldered by specialists.  But as schools change to meet the educational needs of all students and the cognitive demands of the new century, they clearly require outside help.  Arts organizations and teaching artists offer an abundant and rich source of help.  They already work successfully alongside arts specialists in many schools.  By studying how they have divided responsibilities and built teams in those schools, we can develop policies that can move us beyond the destructive perception that teaching artists are a form of cheap outsourcing for arts education.  That is essential. 

Teaching artists’ contributions to schools are fragile and ephemeral.  Education policymakers continue to underestimate the cognitive value of arts education, and the additional resources that would be required to expand arts education are not likely to materialize until that changes, especially as budgets shrink and public services are targeted for political attack.  While most teaching artists find teaching profoundly rewarding and believe it makes them better artists, teaching artists are also deeply frustrated by low pay, short hours, and a dearth of validation in the arts and in education.  Half have masters degrees or higher, and my research shows that most are richly experienced teachers.  Yet, more than a fifth have no health insurance.  If conditions deteriorate any further, we may see many teaching artists leave the field.

As it happens, the crisis of our schools is mirrored in an emerging crisis among non-profit arts organizations.  Data from the NEA’s surveys of arts participation show that a declining proportion of Americans finds meaning and relevance in the work of the non-profits, and declining attendance is reversing a long arc of growth in the sector.  Arts organizations find themselves asking fundamental and existential questions about the value, relevance, and the purposes of a system that produces work for a shrinking minority of Americans.  The education departments of arts organizations and community arts organizations are the sites where new and sometimes brilliant strategies are developing to integrate people into the creative process itself, engage far more diverse communities of people, and move them well beyond the relatively passive participation of the audience experience.  Wouldn’t it be marvelous if teaching artists could contribute to saving both our educational and our arts systems?     

Eugene Rodriquez – (Founder, Director Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center)

I believe that the most effective and efficient role for community arts non-profit organizations in the arts education ecosystem is to provide deeper levels of technical instruction to students, to create opportunities in cultural performance practice, and to nurture community based artists, hopefully from within the communities they serve.

The ideal arts learning paradigm begins at a young age at home through exposure to music, dance and visual and tactile arts as part of a family’s daily life. The next step is the introduction of music, dance and art fundamentals in the daily school curriculum. Just as language is introduced to children first at home and then at school with more formality, arts instruction should be treated the same. School based arts instruction introduces the concept of arts as a discipline and also create common cultural bonds that are especially critical in multi-ethnic school settings. In an era of tight budgets I recommend that schools at a minimum include group classes, or sessions within classes, of chorus, folk dance and arts & crafts to be taught in elementary school.

Community based non-profits then can fulfill the next level of training by providing specialized arts training as well as opportunities for participation and performance rooted in myriad cultural and stylistic niches. Arts non-profits can connect various levels of arts professionals with community, providing rich opportunities for learning and expressions of community identity. At Los Cenzontles, we regularly maneuver our programming to respond to community need which is in regular flux due to changed demographics. Through our cultural arts projects and exchanges we have also been able to connect students to master artists in our specific field of Mexican folk arts as well as other accomplished artists. Most importantly we have served as an incubator for local artists who are also dedicated to arts education in our community.

So in essence, I see the overall ecosystem as a pyramid with the public schools as the base to ensure arts literacy to as wide a base as possible, with the community non-profit as a vital link to cultural specialization and arts excellence. I believe that this arts ecosystem model is an efficient, effective and sustainable use of resources that best serves to invigorate arts participation and production and to create arts consumers.

More comments follow-up tomorrow and Friday.
New Week: Field Building

Don't Quit

Arts Education Blog Forum Continues

Arts Education Blog Forum – Day 2

Category:  Practice:

Question #2:  Where do we stand with higher academia in their participation in moving forward arts education?

Kristine Alexander:  (Executive Director of The California Arts Project, one of the California Subject Matter Projects, a discipline-based network of university based regional professional development centers serving K - Post Secondary educators within California in support of teaching and learning in the arts).

After agreeing to be a responder for the Arts Education Blog on the question of engaging participation from higher education, I found myself navigating through a set of complex issues, questions and summer musings as I tried to focus and craft my response. This mental journey took place while I was visiting TCAP site programs across the state and talking with teachers engaged in arts education professional development. I found myself struggling at times with some of the Blog’s background context and background materials when juxtaposed to the current reality of arts education in public education, teachers’ practice, higher education and teacher preparation. As the deadline was upon me, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t respond to the question “Where do we stand with higher academia in their participation in moving forward arts education?” if my response gave the impression that I agreed with the assumption that the approach for arts education is arts integration as described by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities.

So to clarify my stance, I don’t see the struggle of arts education as a choice between the “holy grail” of discipline based arts instruction v. “…the practice of using arts strategies to build skills and teach classroom subjects across different disciplines” but as part of a larger struggle we are all engaged in of rethinking education as a whole. (I am very curious to see others’ comments and interpretation of the meaning of the Arts & Humanities description of arts integration.) I also see vast differences in conversations about arts education in multiple subject (most often elementary) education and single subject (secondary) education.  Often the conversation and generalizations made about arts education are really about the arts education struggles as related to the multiple subject classroom challenges, but are framed as arts education as a whole. This can lead to the alienation single subject arts teachers and to unintended consequences on the single subject arts teachers teaching in elementary and secondary settings. I caution our community to be aware of our language and generalizations when making the case for arts education.  I remember a day that a group of us were in a room gathered about an arts education budget crisis and Barry Hessenius said, “Let us not do what we usually do in arts education to solve a crisis …stand in a circle and start shooting at each other.”

With that being said, and the deadline approaching, I’ll get back to sharing some summer thoughts on the question of engaging higher academia around arts education.

My thoughts about the question posed brought forth four areas of action we might consider in developing a stronger relationship with higher academia.  These are not new ideas nor actions not being taken at the moment in some places, but as the educational landscape has shifted and is in another stage of flux, these ideas are worth revisiting and exploring how we might build upon our collective energies. The first centers on us as a wide and diverse arts education community. One of our issues in gathering support from anyone is that until we as the arts education community clarify for ourselves the language we use and differences in outcomes from the various stances we take in talking about and advocating for teaching the arts, we continue to confuse those from whom we are seeking support and at times alienate factions within our own community. I came to the conclusion years ago that what must happen not only to engage higher academia but other players in arts education, is educating through surfacing the underlying assumptions, and the constant seeking of clarity…clarity of language, clarity of framing the many factors that exist, of the issues, outcomes, questions, and seeking clarity in the goal or goals to be accomplished. So as a first step, I hope Question 1 will help us begin the needed work on establishing agreement, at least for the immediate time frame, upon common definitions of terms we can agree to accept and use to name the instructional approaches being proposed as strategies for arts education, education, and differentiate the expected student learning outcomes related to each strategy. 

The second area of action focuses on how knowing who and how to “hook” various groups with higher academia to engage deeply in the thinking and conversation about arts education. This is not always as easy as it seems given the various configurations existing within the university systems. Teaching of the arts, either through interdisciplinary practice, yet another term, or through discipline specific approaches, or using the arts as teaching strategies for other content areas all require the teacher to have both academic content knowledge and skill in an arts discipline and related pedagogical knowledge and skill in teaching of that arts discipline. When using the arts to teach something else, that specific academic content, skills and related pedagogy is also needed.  The content part of the equation opens up conversations with and support from arts faculties within higher education.  The pedagogy, teaching skill, instructional design, and assessment strategies side opens up conversation with education faculties and researchers.  On some campuses, the faculty might be one and the same. We need all, but the hook to engage the academic most often comes from their passion and field of study and in understanding the specific campus configuration. Does there exist someplace a live, searchable California database of who is teaching what, where, and any specialized areas of research taking place across systems in education and the arts?  Is this something we could organize so we could begin larger conversations?

Another aspect of engagement is building within our community an understanding of the framework that guides teacher preparation and how to influence change, if needed as part of the arts education solution, in that framework.  If we are knowledgeable as a community about the various constraints education faculty and credential programs are under, as guided by Commission of Teacher Credentialing, this can also open up avenues for gathering support from and opportunities within existing teacher preparation faculty. Just as much of K-12 is under mandated and prescribed programs, which often allow little flexibility for the teacher, the universities are the same when it comes to preparing teachers.  The undergraduate preparation programs, single subject and multiple subject programs, have specific mandates and guidelines that the campus faculty must follow. California’s Teacher Performance Assessments (TPA) that all teacher candidates must pass to earn a teaching credential is the primary focus of teacher preparation students. Changes in the teacher preparation guidelines happen at the Commission level, not at the campus. As a field we can join forces with higher education in recommending changes, but first we must determine if and what changes are needed to support arts education. A current reality and growing trend that should also be considered is the large numbers of new teachers who have obtained or are choosing to obtain their teaching credentials through for profit universities which provide fast tracking of the teacher preparation process. How do we engage these institutions? 

The last area that comes to mind at this time, is our need to continue to engage higher education in helping us make the case for the need of on-going professional development for educators, both multiple subject, single subject, and post-secondary in the arts.  Professional development for educators is needed just as in any profession and should not be limited to mandatory programs or teachers of specific subjects, but available to all teachers at all levels. It has been demonstrated and researched over and over again of the need for professional development to support the multiple subject teacher in teaching of the arts or in using the arts to teach other subjects. University faculty engaged in professional development for K-12 must also have that work recognized as a valuable service and given credit such service as a university professional.  As we begin to see the curriculum widen and shift, an opportunity arises for a collective voice of educational researchers, faculty and K-12 teachers to impact arts education through advocating for expanded professional development opportunities for all teachers.

In closing of my summer musing on this question, I do not want to give the impression that higher education has not and is not currently engaged in supporting arts education.  For over twenty years the three university systems, UC, CSU and the privates, have provided support for on-going professional development in-service teachers in the arts as stewards and champions of The California Arts Project.  When the curriculum and related professional development efforts were narrowed, the choice was made to continue to support the three marginalized subject matter projects of the arts, foreign language and physical education and health.  This demonstrates the three systems’ recognition of the need to and value of engaging higher education faculty and K-12 teachers in a community of learners focused on the improvement of teaching and learning of the arts and the recognition of importance of those marginalized subject areas in overall K-12 curriculum. Faculty from education, the arts, and other disciplines have rallied tirelessly over the years and work daily side by side K-12 educators in support of arts education. 

Paul Ammon: (Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Berkeley --retired after 45 years as a professor in Education at Berkeley, including 31 years as director of the Developmental Teacher Education Program, which prepares elementary school teachers, and 5 years as director of the Arts Education Initiative, a funded project promoting arts integration in the initial preparation of new teachers and school leaders.)

If our goal is to give the arts a much more central place throughout the educational experience of all students—both learning in the arts and learning through the arts—then I think higher education offers tremendous potential, but also tremendous challenges that must be met in order for that potential to be realized.

The basic problem is that most people who are becoming educators today have not experienced the arts as central to their own education. And so the beat goes on: as new educators, they continue to see the arts as peripheral to what really matters in their schools. Higher education could play a key role in breaking that cycle, and that’s because higher education has played a key role in creating and maintaining that cycle to begin with. Being an academic myself, what I see in the world of higher education is a lot of silos. Faculty members tend to be firmly entrenched in their own disciplines, and in traditional ways of teaching those disciplines. Whoever said that getting a Ph.D. is a matter of learning more and more about less and less was on to something important, and highly problematic. The result of such narrow specialization is that an idea like arts integration seems unnecessary to many academics and, even worse, is perceived as a threat to the integrity of their own beloved discipline—a view that may be held by academics in the arts as well as other fields. And because “higher education” sits atop the educational system, and because professional educators are college graduates, this point of view tends to filter down into “lower” levels of the system as well.

To be sure, there are some bright spots in this generally bleak take on the culture of higher education—places where arts integration is a reality, or is at least taken seriously as a worthwhile goal. But I think the exceptions are more likely to be found in the teaching practices of individual academics than in whole programs or institutions of higher education. Still, though, bright spots of any kind, while few and far between, might provide the kind of leverage that will be needed to bring about more widespread cultural change in academia. The question, then, is how to make good use of those exceptions toward that end.

Entrenched academics seem most likely to listen to other academics they respect, particularly others in their own field. So one key to change may be testimonials from such colleagues who can attest persuasively to the benefits of embracing the arts, not only for teaching their disciple, but also for learning and practicing it themselves.

If that sort of testimony succeeds in persuading resistant academics to give arts integration a try, then the second key is to provide the kind of support they will need in order to get started and to see some benefits early on. Some of that support might come from academic colleagues who have already begun taking steps along the road to arts integration. But the possibilities for that sort of collegial support may be limited by other demands on the time academics have—particularly in these times of shrinking budgets for higher education. Fortunately, though, there is, in the world of the arts, a vast support system that could be connected with the world of higher education. It’s a question, then, of how to forge such connections and make them work well.

I’m inclined to think that a particularly promising approach would be one that emphasizes partnerships between individual academics and arts educators, so that the academic’s initial efforts to integrate the arts are tailored to the curriculum he or she is teaching. That sort of partnership seems most likely to succeed when there is mutual respect for, and understanding of, the disciplines that are being brought together. In other words, there would have to be an openness to learning in both directions. The partners might co-teach for a time, but the ultimate goal would be for them to practice arts integration of a particular sort on their own.

The idea of promoting individualized partnerships between artists and academics in other fields raises a host of questions. Not the least of them, in view of shrinking budgets, is how such a support system could, itself, be supported! I doubt that we can count on virtue being it’s own reward, so we need to address questions about appropriate compensation for the time and effort it would take for partners to engage with each other, and where that compensation would come from. But there are also questions about how to make good matches between people from the arts and people from other fields. These are the sorts of implementation questions I would like some help with, so that I can try to make the idea of partnerships work. But, of course, I’d also like to know if others see that as a worthy idea in the first place.

Eric Engdahl:  (Long ago, Eric Engdahl, Ph.D., ran away and joined a one-ring circus as Ringmaster.  He found this experience invaluable in his other roles as a theater director, artist educator, curriculum writer, charter school administrator, and now as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, East Bay.)

When I first read this question I noticed a bias in the wording which implied to me, a “we”/ “they” dichotomy.  I hope we can rapidly move beyond that and make individuals in both higher education and arts education realize we are all part of the educational continuum.  I, for example, am a member of the community of arts educators who does most of my work in an institution of higher education.  Members of the arts education community work throughout higher education, a broad category including researchers, policy makers, professional arts programs and undergraduate education.  I am going to focus on the sector of it that I know best: teacher education in a large state university, those departments which train the majority of teachers across the country.

Teacher education is a latecomer to the arts education table.  For many years the arts education community thought that professional development was the way to inform teachers about arts content, arts integration, working with artist educators and bringing arts into the schools.  Indeed, having spent a good part of the 1990’s working with The California Arts Project I was of that opinion.  I loved working with the teachers, learning from them and seeing learning communities evolve at schools.  Most working teachers who came to professional development were a great co-learners (since we were all learning) – eager, enthusiastic, and open to diverse methods of learning.  By contrast, official “Teacher Education,” when it was thought about at all, was separate and not part of the conversation.

As my career path took me into teacher education, I along with many others began to realize the importance of it to arts education.  In the earlier model where professional development was the main vehicle for reaching teachers there were always some who were not interested in the arts.  Some of them were disinterested due to a lack of exposure, understanding and knowledge.  But as we live through a generational turnover in the teaching profession the number of teachers with an interest in the arts could, I fear, dwindle further, reducing the audience for professional development even more.  I say this because, at least for California, many of my current students in teacher education courses have had little arts exposure and lack basic experience and knowledge in the arts. This is due in large part to the “arts poor” California public school system that educated them.  (I am still always a little taken aback when I have to teach college juniors the difference between primary and secondary colors.)

This is where teacher education can play an important role in the training of “arts aware” elementary teachers.  Through teacher education programs the next generation of teachers can gain an understanding of the arts, be made to see the importance and usefulness of the arts in the classroom, understand that there are standards in the arts, and learn basic processes of curriculum integration.  Perhaps most importantly, it is during teacher training when students are most impressionable and receptive to the integrative processes and power of arts education.  The arts are not something to add on later, but integral to the entire of process of education.  It is a common occurrence for my students to report that their first successful solo lesson in their student teaching was an arts lesson learned in their Visual and Performing Arts Methods course.

Teacher education, it should be stressed, focuses on the complex skills of teaching.  It does not focus on content knowledge.  No teacher enters or exits an education program with all of the knowledge in all of the content areas in which they will teach.  Teachers should leave their programs knowing that they are on the beginning of a lifetime of learning.  In terms of the arts, the teachers should leave the programs ready and primed for professional development.

Does this occur all of the time?  Unfortunately no.  How can arts educators help to integrate arts education into more teacher training programs?  It is important to remember that these programs undergo rigorous accreditation procedures through agencies such as NCATE (The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) or a similar state agency, such as the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.  These agencies are not Departments of Education and do not set curriculum standards, they have no regulatory power over K-12 but they are all important to higher education teacher programs.  But I have never seen them at the arts education policy table.  We need to bring them into the conversation and help them to understand the need to include the arts in all teacher preparation programs.

So far I have been discussing the training of elementary teachers who in programs like the one I teach in, are taught the arts in a separate course.  This is not true for middle and high school teachers.  This group of pre-service teachers focuses on their content area.  They are taught how to teach math or theater or social studies or dance or music or visual art.  They are not taught how to integrate between content areas.  I believe that increased integration between secondary teachers (in all content areas) is vital to improve student learning.  Theater teachers need work with social studies teachers who need to work with math teachers who need to work with music teachers and so on.  In this area, I believe that higher education can help.  There is a movement in some teacher training programs to teach active collaboration between teachers as part of their training.  It is a trend which I think will grow and this cadre of teachers has the potential to become powerful practitioners of integrated curriculum and to help to more fully integrate the arts.

We should not forget that higher education is also responsible for teaching the future principals and administrators of schools.  We all know the importance of a leader at a school site.  A principal committed to the arts can change the direction of an entire school.  Conversely, a principal without enthusiasm can defuse the energy a staff may have for arts education.  I have been fortunate to be part of the Arts Education Initiative (AEI) at UC Berkeley, a Ford Foundation funded program of teacher educators in northern California.  One of the most important outcomes from AEI for me is a collaboration I have established with a colleague in the Department of Educational Leadership at CSU East Bay.  My teacher education students teach her educational leadership students about the necessity of the arts.  Over the last three years we have been raising the awareness of the arts among the next generation of school leaders and we hope our colleagues at other institutions will follow.

Finally a postscript about professional arts training programs in universities.  I am a product of a university professional program and have taught in them as well.  The two years I spent earning an MFA were perhaps the most powerful and influential of my life.  I learned much, much more than just becoming a conservatory trained actor and that training prepared me for a lot.  Reflecting on it, all of the competencies that Daniel Pink outlines in “A Whole New Mind” were part of that training.  But no part of the program overtly touched upon teaching or education or had a metacognitive component to reflect on the greater ramifications of what we were learning.  In Eric Booth’s excellent “The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible: Becoming a Virtuoso Educator,” he says that in essence all artists are educators.  I would ask that my colleagues in professional training programs include some reflection on the richness, complexity and importance of deep artistic training in shaping a whole individual.

So what is the state of the relationship between higher education and arts education?  I would say generally positive but with enormous untapped potential.  And in this time when we must band together to harness the power of collective impact, that potential is a resource we must develop and use for the sake of our students.

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