Plenary Sessions

AEP is excited to announce the following plenary sessions for the 2013 National Forum Arts, Education, and the Next America:

Educating the Next America

Opening Plenary SessionThursday, April 4, 10:00am

We stand at a pivotal moment in American education.  A strengthened nationwide commitment to achieve college- and career readiness for all students is occurring along with seismic shifts in our demographics and ever-expanding uses of technology.  With these dynamics, what are the policy and practice decisions we will need to address both nationally and locally in the coming months and years?  How will these decisions impact teaching and learning? This esteemed group of thought leaders will examine the national imperative to re-envision the use of people, time, space, and other resources to ensure a complete and competitive education—that  includes the arts—for every young person in this country.

Moderator: Jane Polin, Philanthropic Advisor

Jane L. Polin has 30 years of innovative leadership experience within the nonprofit and private sectors in developing and investing philanthropic resources.  Polin has created many field-building initiatives in her role as a philanthropic advisor in the arts, education, and workforce development. Her recent work includes Transforming Arts Teaching:  The Role of Higher Education (The Dana Foundation, 2007) and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (Jobs for the Future, 2007).  Polin served previously at the GE Fund where she designed and grew its award-winning arts education program. She holds a bachelor’s in music from Wesleyan University and M.B.A. in marketing from Columbia University.


Vanessa CárdenasVice President of Project 2050, Center for American Progress

Vanessa Cárdenas is the Vice President of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress which seeks to build a progressive agenda that is more inclusive of our nation’s rich racial and ethnic makeup. Prior to this, Cárdenas served as Director for Ethnic Media, elevating the organization’s profile among ethnic media outlets. She previously worked as a policy/communications associate and outreach coordinator for the National Immigration Forum. Cárdenas is a regular guest on CNN en Español, Univision, and BBC. She holds a bachelor’s in government and politics and a master’s in public administration, both from George Mason University.

Carol JohnsonSuperintendent, Boston Public Schools

Dr. Carol R. Johnson has been Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) since 2007. Under her leadership, the district has focused on closing achievement and access gaps and graduating all students prepared for college and career success. In 2012, Dr. Johnson received the nation’s highest honor for urban education leadership, the Richard R. Green Award. In 2010, BPS was recognized as one of the most improved school districts in the world by McKinsey and Company.

Prior to her appointment in Boston, Dr. Johnson was Superintendent in Memphis, TN and Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota.

Andy SmarickPartner, Bellwether Education Partners

Andy Smarick is a Partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. Prior to Bellwether, Andy served as the Deputy Commissioner of Education of the State of New Jersey, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and at the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Andy has also worked for Congress and the Maryland state legislature.

Andy’s book on overhauling the delivery of inner-city public education, The Urban School System of the Future, was released in 2012. His areas of research include school turnarounds, teacher quality, charter schools, performance pay, district reform, and Catholic schools.


Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: Young Leaders Making a Difference

Featured Discussion—Friday, April 5, 9:45am

Moderator: Lauren Stevenson—Principal, Junction Box Consulting

Lauren Stevenson is the principal at Junction Box Consulting, where she specializes in research, policy, and program development that advance the arts and youth engagement as catalysts for educational and social change. The former senior associate for research at the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), Dr. Stevenson has been a leader in arts education for over 12 years. She is the author of numerous publications on arts education and youth development and has spearheaded research and policy initiatives for organizations across the country. She holds a doctorate in education policy and a master’s in sociology from Stanford University.

Special Guest Representatives of Grammy-nominated band Foster The People:

Mark KashmanFounder, Irv’s Storytime

Mark Kashman is a father of two wonderful children (Sophie and Eli) who love to hear and tell stories. And from this, Irv’s Storytime was born. Kashman works with the illustrators contributing to each story in the persona of “Irv,” who happens to be an owl and for whom “Irv’s Storytime” is named. According to Irv, “’I’m an owl hoo likes to write & tell stories, and gets great help from others hoo draw wonderful illustrations.” Beyond writing and telling stories, Kashman lives East of Seattle where he likes to hike, bike and walk until the soles of his shoes wear thin. Look for more in Mark “Irv” Kashman on Facebook at And Irv’s a tweeter if you want to become a #hootTweep @irvsstorytime

Rebecca PontiusFounder and Director, Glue Projects and Director, Foster the Future

Rebecca Pontius is Founder and Director of Glue Projects, a company dedicated to inspiring, engaging and building community. Under Glue, she acts as Director of Foster The Future – the charity initiative of the band Foster The People, and is Co-Founder of the Do Good Bus — a transportable community service project in Los Angeles, CA. Her background is in event planning and advertising and she has worked all over the world including the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Hong Kong, and Toronto.  Her goals in business and in life are to create community, take action and remind people to have fun.


Implementing the Common Core: Opportunities and Challenges for the Arts

Morning Plenary Session—Friday, April 5, 10:45am

Over the past three years, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and/or English Language Arts and, today, most states are deep into implementation of those standards. That implementation includes new expectations for students, professional development for educators, outreach to parents and other education stakeholders, and, just on the horizon, challenging assessments aligned with the Common Core. So, in this new era of the Common Core, how are state education agencies, school districts, and schools grappling with the challenges and opportunities while maintaining a focus on the need for every student to experience the arts as an essential component of a complete and competitive education? How are strategies for learning in and through the arts both relevant and applicable to the various aspects of Common Core implementation efforts?

Moderator: Erik Robelen, Assistant Editor and Reporter, Education Week

Erik W. Robelen is an assistant editor at Education Week where he covers school curriculum across subject areas, including the arts, math, science, and social studies. He is also co-author of the Curriculum Matters blog on Prior to joining Education Week, Robelen was an education analyst and writer at ASCD and was also a reporter and editor covering federal and state environmental issues for Inside Washington Publishers. Robelen earned a bachelor’s from Dickinson College and a master’s in English from the University of Virginia. He also spent a year studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.


Karol Gates Arts Content Specialist, Colorado Department of Education

Karol Gates is the Content Specialist for the Arts for the Colorado Department of Education. In her career, she has been privileged to teach grades 1,2, 4, and 5, serve as a Talented and Gifted and Curriculum Coordinator, and also an elementary school administrator.  In 2011, Colorado Education Association honored Gates with the Distinguished Service award. She holds a bachelor’s in music from the University of Northern Colorado, a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, and also a Creative Arts and Learning license. Gates feels privileged to share the incredible collaborative and creative spirit of the highly talented arts educators in Colorado

Paul KingExecutive Officer, Office of Arts and Special Projects, New York City Department of Education

Paul King is Executive Director of the Office of the Arts and Special Projects at the New York City DOE which serves NYC public school communities with resources to enable every student to achieve a full education in the arts. King previously served as the Director of Education for New York City Opera and Director of the Young Artist Training Program for Glimmerglass Opera.

Mr. King has been an artist educator for opera companies and theaters with high, middle, and elementary school arts programs.  He holds a bachelor’s in theater from Colorado College and a M.F.A. in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College.

Patrick PopePrincipal, Savoy Elementary School

Patrick Pope has worked in DC Public Schools since 1980 as a teacher and principal. Pope is an advocate for arts education: as principal of Hardy Middle School in DC, he ensured that all 6th-8th grade students received music and visual arts classes, and opportunities in school theatre. Pope has received numerous awards including the MetLife Foundation Ambassador in Education Award. As principal of Savoy Elementary School, Pope and the school are part of the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities Turnaround Arts Initiative. He holds a master of education degree in Supervision and Instruction and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.


Keynote Address: Redesigning Leadership

John Maeda, Ph.D, President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Closing Plenary Session—Friday, April 5, 3:30pm

What does leadership look like for the next America? Maeda uses perspectives from his various and diverse backgrounds—as an artist and designer, a technologist, and a professor—to discuss new leadership lessons he’s learned since taking the helm of RISD months before the Great Recession.

Keynote Speaker: John Maeda, Ph.D

John Maeda is a leader who imagines how design can simplify technology and help leaders respond to new challenges in the era of social media. His work as a graphic designer, computer scientist, artist and educator earned him the distinction of being named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire.

In June 2008, Maeda became president of Rhode Island School of Design, and in late 2012, Business Insider named RISD the #1 design school in the world. At RISD, Maeda is leading the movement to transform STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to STEAM by adding Art. Called the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes, he believes art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century like science and technology did in the last century.

Maeda previously served as associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab. He serves on the boards of Sonos, Quirky, and Wieden+Kennedy, and on the Davos World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership. His books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code, and Redesigning Leadership, which expands on his Twitter feed at @johnmaeda, one of TIME Magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012. Maeda received the AIGA Medal in 2010 and is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.