Great Expectations for Learning: The Role of the Arts in Preparing America’s Students for College, Careers, and Citizenship
On March 22, 2014, AEP hosted a one-day Arts in Education State Policy Symposium to examine the role and contribution of the arts as states transition to greater learning expectations for America’s students. Americans for the Arts, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the NAMM Foundation, three of AEP’s partner organizations and national leaders among arts and arts education organizations, were principal collaborators with AEP in support of the Symposium.
At the Symposium, AEP launched the 2014 edition of ArtScan – a searchable clearinghouse providing the most current information for 14 policy areas related to K-12 arts education in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Attendees received a new AEP Research and Policy Brief that provides topline findings for arts education policies spanning standards, instruction, assessment, accountability, and teacher certification.
Session Recordings and Resources
Welcome and Opening Remarks: How the Arts Can Lead the Way for Change
Sandra Ruppert, Director, AEP
- Audio Recording (06:56)
A Snapshot of Federal Education Issues Through the State Lens – Spotlight on Title I and the Arts
Moderator: Peter Zamora, Director of Federal Relations, CCSSO. Panelists: Melissa Junge, Co-Founder, Federal Education Group; and Lauren Stevenson, Principal, Junction Box Consulting
Federal policies and priorities can create both opportunities and challenges for states and school districts as they prepare all students to leave high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship. This session explored steps states and districts can take to rethink and clarify the use of Title I (which targets assistance to low-income students) and other federal grants for arts education.
- Audio Recording (01:12:35)
- Slides: How to Find Flexibility in Federal Formula Programs
- A Policy Pathway: Embracing Arts Education to Achieve Title I Goals
- CCSSO Toolkit on Maximizing Funds
Preparing Students for the Next America – Three Priorities Shaping the State Education Policy Landscape
Sandra Ruppert, Director, AEP; Scott Norton, Strategic Initiative Director for Standards, Assessment, and Accountability, CCSSO; and Paul Ferrari, Program Director, College and Career Readiness Engagement, CCSSO
This conversation delved into three education priorities driving state action for ensuring all students are prepared for success in college, careers, and citizenship – all of which have implications for the arts: (1) increasing expectations through improved standards, assessment, and accountability systems, (2) preparing and supporting educators to promote excellence in instruction, and (3) leveraging innovations in the teaching and learning environment to improve outcomes for all students.
- Audio Recording (39:23)
- Slides: Public Perception of the Common Core; Assessment Update and The Role and Contribution of the Arts to College and Career Readiness
Evaluating Our Advocacy Progress – How Do We Know if it is Working?
Julia Coffman, Founder and Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation
Advocacy to influence public policy can take time to show results. As we implement our advocacy work, how can we tell if we are on the right track and making progress? What signals should we be looking for? This session offered practical advocacy evaluation basics. Designed for advocacy practitioners, it focused on what we can track that will be useful to our work, as well as how to capture it cost-effectively.
- Audio Recording (28:13)
- Slides: Evaluating Our Advocacy Progress: How Do We Know If It’s Working?
- Framework to Support Advocacy Strategy
Workshop I: Transitioning Successfully to Higher Learning Expectations for All Students
Throughout these facilitated small group discussions, participants touched on three major aspects of education policy reform: higher standards, assessing student growth, and improved accountability systems. A major focus was discussing the definition and role of the arts within the concept of college, career, and citizenship readiness. This included ways of connecting to and learning from other standards initiatives throughout the release, state review, adoption, and implementation of the new arts standards. Participants also focused on assessments in the arts with a particular emphasis on teachers, administrators, and policymakers having access to authentic assessment instruments. Additionally, the group emphasized the need to hold schools accountable for required provision of arts education to ensure all students receive an education in and through the arts. Several overarching themes included:
- Of primary concern was “making it real” through authentic standards connections, concrete assessment examples, and exemplars of discipline-specific teacher evaluations.
- Engaging a wide variety of networks and organizations (particularly those focused on areas other than arts education such as the school leader service organizations) to communicate the need and importance of arts education.
- Ensuring that all students have “equity of access” when it comes to engaging in arts learning.
Workshop II: Preparing and Supporting Effective Educators and School Leaders
The major issues explored in this workshop were teacher preparation, evaluation, and professional development. Teacher preparation programs face a challenge in the relationship between what’s being taught in prep programs and how it can be practically applied in the field. Teachers are often unprepared to teach content and may lack the depth they need in methods. Measuring outcomes and student growth is a major focus, but the arts and other subjects without standardized tests are difficult to measure. We need to develop model practices for assessments in the arts.
During the discussions of teacher evaluation, workshop attendees agreed that evaluation often places too much emphasis on test scores. Evaluation systems are rigid and very uniform and don’t always allow for flexibility or accommodate different teachings styles. As for professional development, teachers need a more personalized model as opposed to “one-size fits all” training.
- We’re “exceedingly good at” looking at achievement in the arts, but we need to focus on defining and documenting adequate student growth.
- Teachers need to learn how to advocate for themselves and their own preparation as educators.
- Lots of discussion around Tennessee and the Memphis models as exemplars.
Workshop III: Leveraging Innovation to Transform Teaching and Learning
This session broadly explored innovative teaching and learning in the classroom related to design thinking, creative problem solving, 21st century skills, technology, and evaluation. Participants spent time generating questions on these topics, including “How do we design arts and technology projects that directly relate to grade level standards?” and “What strategies exist for innovative whole school change?” The participants also examined different examples of transformed learning experiences, like Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Laboratory (SMALLab).
- Another example of a transformed learning experience – MAKESHOP Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh
- Recommended upcoming event: ISTE 2014 Conference in Atlanta
- Suggested resource: Leslie Gates’ blog
Workshop IV: Equipping State Education Leaders to Improve Policy and Practice
This session focused on strategies for reaching state education leaders and communicating the importance of the arts. Advocates need an overall strategy with goals, models of success, and an organized network. Several attendees suggested training for advocates. The importance of data to back up claims was stressed by several. Leaders need to understand the importance and value of the arts and how data and research reflect this. In order to be effective, advocates should try to establish relationships with those they are trying to reach and with each other. These connections can help get the message heard.
In appealing directly to legislators, it’s important to focus on the interests of a particular legislator. They will be interested in knowing how their constituents, organizations, and other stakeholders are directly affected. Ultimately, these are the groups who hold legislators accountable.
- Be persistent: “They need to know you’re not going to go away!”
- Unique messaging: “What is it about arts education that nothing else provides?”
- Combination of individual experience, stories, and data/research is powerful