Thursday, August 4, 2011

Arts Education Blog Forum - Week 2 Follow Up Questions

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

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Follow up Questions to Week 2, Question 1:

1.How do we more expansively engage parents in the kind of dialogue Gigi refers to in her post – one that effectively links the arts to the “ends” she identifies as being of primary concern to parents and which incorporate those cultural intersections she argues work best?Who can and should lead the charge in this parent engagement? How do we get away from the technical, cold and sterile words with which we talk about creative learning, and education itself, and focus on outcomes?

2. Is convincing parents of the value of an arts education, an advocacy function as Joe seems to imply, or does the essence of the challenge lie elsewhere? How is advocacy best deployed in moving more parents to first appreciate the role of the arts in the overall education of their children, and second move them to be more proactive in demanding it in their schools? How do we remove the stigma and misperception of the word “advocacy”, which can be a barrier to some parents’ participation?

3. Paul summarizes the challenge in this arena when he observed that the question is: “How to engage more of the traditionally underrepresented or uninvolved parents, and how to reach those critical next circles of potential advocates – the ones beyond what we know to be a reliable, knowledgeable and passionate core of arts education advocates already in place.” Paul describes how the PTA is trying to do that, with bilingual trainings, welcoming family activitiesetc. Are there any other ways we might accomplish that?

Follow up Questions to Week 2, Question 2:

1. Richard offers us a new model in moving from “field” to “ecology”. Perhaps a better question than “how do we move towards innovation”,might then be “how to we expand the innovation that can grow in the Petri dishes that are happening all over the place within the ecology?

2. Laura observes that the realistic approach is to first zero in on getting the arts in the schools for at least some students, then we can move to expanding that reality. She also notes that data is crucial to decision making, and that the budgetary process (or perhaps more accurately, the “politics of the budgetary process”) becomes the critical focal point. She suggests one starting point might be with the superintendents. How might we go about systematically and methodically “engaging” that group of decision makers? Are there any other possible intersections that we might make in trying to influence the budgetary process?

Ayanna Hudson (Director, Arts Education, LA County Arts Commission):  It is important to note that engaging superintendents starts long before the budget process. We have found that the path to engagement starts with asking superintendents their priorities for student learning and needs for the school district, really listening to their responses, and then articulating how the arts support their goals - helping them to see the arts aren't one more thing to do, but instead a key strategy to helping them achieve their goals. Engagement also happens when we actively support them by making it clear they are not alone and that they have a whole community behind them to help them to be successful. They especially need support and ongoing access to learning opportunities for them and their staff (to deepen knowledge about the rigor of arts education and the steps that they as leaders need to take to ensure arts education happens, etc.), along with access to up-to-date tools and information to support their efforts. By the time the budget process rolls around, a level of trust, rapport and mutual respect has been established.

Once engaged, our role becomes one of providing a real-time, accurate analysis of state and federal budgets, and identifying funds that can be used for the arts. The key is making this analysis available to school board members, superintendents, assistant superintendents for business services, district leaders and arts coordinators/arts leads, followed-by a letter congratulating them for their leadership in staying the course, as well as reminding them of their commitment to arts education. This same analysis is shared with community leaders who have been trained to track school board meetings, read school board agendas, and have developed a coordinated strategy focused on the fiscal impact of the arts in the district and the community's expectations when it comes to the arts, which they present at school board meetings. (Cultivation and presence at school board meetings also starts way before the budget process).

We have seen the arts maintained during the budget crisis through this multi-tiered strategy. We have also found the great power of small investments to make big things happen, which is why we provide modest matching grants. By requiring school districts to match an external grant with school district funds, we continue to leverage and influence the school district's investment in arts education.

3. Pedro asserts that "What we should be doing is emphasizing the development of higher order skills through an enriched curriculum, experiential learning and a holistic approach to child development." How do we go about convincing education decision makers to do that? And that the arts have to be a critical component of such a strategy?

Ayanna Hudson:  Pedro raises an excellent point about the lack of access to arts education for kids from low income communities. Through the Arts for All School Arts Survey, we found in LA County that students attending Title I schools in districts deeply committed to arts education do not have the same level of access to quality arts instruction as other children in their district and across the County. In addition to the reasons Pedro cited, one of the barriers to arts education in these schools is the utter confusion and differing interpretations around the use of Title I monies for arts education.  While the arts are core under NCLB and Secretary Duncan has stated publically and in writing that Title I funds can be used for arts education, we know firsthand that many Title I administrators throughout California continue to block the use of the funds for the arts and receive conflicting information regarding the use of these funds. Despite all of this, there are some school districts in LA County where students in Title I schools are receiving arts instruction through the concerted efforts of district leadership. And now that we have data, Arts for All and school districts across the County can better target services and resources to serve low income students.  But to really increase the numbers of students in Title I schools that have an arts education, we need our state policymakers to provide leadership and a consistent message about the use of Title I monies for the arts.

4. Who are the likely candidates to take on the role Laura describes in her comment when she says: the first step (is): putting together a community arts team that involves all the stakeholders—policy makers, administrators, teachers, arts service providers, parents, and even students—to fit the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to make a picture of what arts education should look like in their school district that’s right for them. Once the school board adopts a strong policy statement and the plan for arts education that came out of that process, that same community arts team transitions to become more of a community advocacy team, insuring that implementation of the plan keeps moving forward”?Who initiates such an effort where no such team currently exists? Is there any support available for those who might want to take such an approach?

Laura Zucker:  Who can take the leadership role on putting together a community arts team to create a plan for arts education? Anyone! While it’s great to be a neutral convener like a local arts agency, such as we are, or county office of education, as is the Alameda County Office of Education, this role could also be taken on by a funder or group of funders (Chicago) or an arts service provider (Big Thought), or parents’ council… Anyone can step up and lead this kind of effort if they’re inclusive.  The key is to have a very big welcoming tent. The California Alliance for Arts Education has an “Insider’s Guide to Arts Education Planning” that provides a roadmap for the process:
On our Web site you can search over 250 resources nationally, including looking at arts education plans from 31 school districts:

Next week: Policy:

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