The Arts in Education – A Look at the Next Few Years

I am a firm believer in the core role the Arts play in developing critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation (see this report from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills organization). In light of the impending changes due to budgetary issues in New York, a new teacher appraisal process, and the national focus on the Common Core State Standards, three items stand out as a testament to the continuing need for Arts in the schools.

The first item I want to address is the coming Common Core State Standards. In a talk to a group of New York State Education Department (NYSED) stakeholders, Davide Coleman reflected on the role of the Arts:

“Rather than looking at how the Arts can serve literacy, I want to think instead about the special things that the Arts can do that literacy hasn’t been as good at today. You might say what the art teachers can teach the rest of us.”

~David Coleman, Architect of the Common Core State Standards, 28 April 2010

In Coleman’s address to NYSED, he spends a good amount of time outlining what the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) might look like. To see all of his comments related to the Arts, click here. The comments on the Arts begin at 11:00 in the video clip. Click here to see the full video (worth the 2 hours) or here for the full transcript.

Colemean attests to the central role Arts should play in school. I think this is reflected in NYSED’s timeline for implementing the CCSS. The timeline specifically addressees how the standards will be rolled out first in ELA, Math, and the Arts. Click here to see the timeline.

The second item I would like to address is the National Arts Policy Roundtable report, The Role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength. The group that produced the report represents a diverse international group of artists and thinkers who convene at the Sundance Institute. In the introduction to the report, the co-conveners Robert Lynch and Robert Redford state:

“The arts are not only what is needed to reform education—they can transform it.”

~Robert Lynch & Robert Redford, Co-conveners of the National Arts Policy Roundtable

The report does an excellent job of outlining Arts education forces around the world, including UNESCO. Reference is specifically made to the Seoul Agenda, which was UNESCO’s World Conference on Arts Education in 2010. The section of the report, Your Brain on the Arts, provides specific examples of research on brain development and the Arts.

The third item I would like to address is a report released recently by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools. What I like particularly about this report are the recommendations on how to further promote and integrate Arts in schools, in the face of changing policy and reduced funding. The recommendations are:

1. Build collaborations among different approaches [to Arts education].
2. Develop the field of Arts integration.
3. Expand in-school opportunities for teaching artists.
4. Utilize federal and state policies to reinforce the place of Arts in K-12 education.
5. Widen the focus of evidence gathering about Arts education.

The report goes in-depth in providing specific examples and building the case for the above action steps. I think it is a very concrete road map to focus on what is important in Arts education, and how to support and promote Arts in the schools.

Let me finish by saying that Williamsville has a long-standing tradition of supporting a wide variety of Arts programs, both in and outside the curriculum. The next few years will be challenging to the district, as it will be for all New York State schools, while we implement the Regents’ Reform Agenda and face severe budget issues. Perhaps the recommendations from the President’s Committee can help the conversations as we proceed.

One thing I can say for sure is that I am thrilled to be working in a district that has an exemplary model for Arts education, and am looking forward to working with our great staff as we continue the important work of Arts education.