This week, Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss wrote about why the arts are, more often than not, the first budget cut at public schools serving predominately low-income students–even though much research has supported why the arts are critical to a child’s development. These schools’ tight budgets force them to prioritize the subjects covered in standardized tests that both measure students’ achievement as well as teachers’ ability. Ms. Strauss argues that the focus on testing has forced educators to ignore what they know about the positive and transformative impact of the arts in the classroom.
Less fortunate children have been on the receiving end of what I’d call an emergency-room approach to education —one that addresses only the parts of a child thought to be in most dire need of attention. Their curriculum may consist solely of reading, writing and mathematics – the subjects tested on high-stakes exams.
Ms. Strauss notes how, for privately funded and operated schools, the approach to the arts can be starkly different. These schools proudly highlight the arts and their importance to developing well-rounded students and individuals. With adequate funding, arts learning opportunities are not only available but celebrated.
Young Audiences has seen this disparity in access to the arts in Maryland and is striving to close the gap so that all students have the chance to learn in and through the arts. Since its launch in the winter of 2009, our Access for All Initiative has subsidized programs for students in low-income Baltimore City Public Schools to ensure that all students have equitable access to the best artists and educational arts experiences that our state has to offer. The initiative offers three rounds of grant funding each school year to schools that serve a majority of low-income students and do not have regular arts programming.
Young Audiences awarded a total of $29,600 in funding to 16 Baltimore City schools in the first round of Access for All grants awarded earlier this week to start the 2014-2015 school year. These funds will be used to bring Young Audiences artists and ensembles to students through arts-in-education programs this fall. Schools can choose from a steel drum assembly, creating a ceramic mural during an artist-in-residence program, an African drumming workshop, and many more.
Ms. Strauss summarizes why the arts are critical to the education process, writing:
Arts transport. It’s often said they are an essential part of what makes us human – and an element of that is the ability to imagine another reality, apart from the one we are living, a skill essential to resilience and ambition. Children already living a in a narrowed world need more access to the arts, not less.
Young Audiences agrees. One day, every school–no matter its resources–will value the arts for their ability to inspire and engage students in learning. Until then, we will be working to increase access to the arts so that Maryland students have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.
Learn more about the Access for All Initiative and the next grant application deadline.
Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. We extended the invitation to all candidates to respond to two questions that would be shared on our blog. We posted responses to the first question earlier this week and today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the second and last question:
Young Audiences/Arts for Learning is a nonprofit that transforms the lives and education of youth by connecting professional artists with schools and communities. Last year, Young Audiences created more than 9,000 opportunities for nearly 170,000 students and educators in 23 out of the 24 school districts, to learn in, about, and through the arts. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities made five recommendations to reinvest in arts education (included in the full report, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools”). Two of them are expanding the in-school use of teaching artists and developing the field of arts integration, the practice of using the arts as a tool to teach other academic subjects. Do you agree? If so, how would you, as governor, move these recommendations forward?
Over the last seven years, Maryland has augmented arts learning in schools through the Maryland State Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Program, which supports performances, workshops, and residencies, as well as professional development for teaching artists. More than 500 schools and many teaching artists benefit each year from this program. The Brown-Ulman Administration will not only continue our support of this important program, but work to increase funding levels.
Every student learns differently. Arts integration is an exciting concept, which can enrich learning for more students. We will encourage our educators and local school boards to explore innovative course design that integrates the arts in ways that optimize education for all students.
The Governor’s P-20 Leadership Council established a Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools in 2013, which is currently in the process of developing an action plan that ensures a quality arts education for all Maryland students.
We strongly support a high-quality arts education for every child in Maryland. We look forward to reviewing the report of the P-20 Leadership Council’s Task Force in September of this year and working together to implement recommendations that will help all Maryland children access the arts and reach their greatest potential.
As governor I would appoint members of the State Board who have a background of support in the field of art education and who would ensure that better policies move forward to expand education capacity. Some students love athletics, some love art, some both; we must provide equal acquisition on both aspects. When I taught I saw that children who were engaged in art transferred their enthusiasm to math, language arts, science, and social studies and did well across the board. I will ensure that this gets done.
I wholeheartedly agree. As someone who felt stifled by traditional learning approaches growing up, I wish I had benefited from the rich and creative approaches to teaching [Young Audiences] promotes. Expanding the use of teaching artists would give more students the opportunities to discover a mode of learning that ignites them, and more teachers the fulfillment that comes from offering classroom instruction in a form that resonates with their own creativity. Developing arts integration would enable more students to experience the arts as part of their everyday learning, and would also serve to better reinforce the subjects they learn; research shows that multimodal repetition and reinforcement help improve learning.
As governor, I will move these recommendations forward through setting goals early to deepen the reach of these approaches in our schools. Right now your work reaches nearly 200,000, but many thousands have yet to enjoy an arts-infused education, and many teachers have yet to discover how powerful the arts can be as a teaching tool. I will convene leading educators, including [Young Audiences] artists, at the start of my term to explore how we can best ensure that arts education is woven into our state’s overall education strategy. And I will work with teaching artists as I develop the Governor’s Teacher Corps, a program I have proposed to help close the achievement gap through improving teacher quality. The Governor’s Teacher Corps will pair selected new teacher recruits in our high-need elementary schools with exceptional teacher mentors for a period of three years. Participants will receive coaching, training, and professional development instructional resources and will be incentivized with loan assistance, provided the recruits attend Maryland universities. I will design the Corps to nurture aspiring teachers of all types, including aspiring teaching artists.
Fundamentally, I will be a governor who is open to new ways of approaching education. That shift in attitude alone will create a new space for visions like yours to flourish in our schools. And I will make clear to the leadership I appoint that arts education is important for helping our kids thrive. This is especially so in high-poverty areas, where arts education can serve as a vital, affirming form of enrichment for students who are subjected to daily struggles. Too often people assume arts education should be the first to go when school budgets are cut, but for many students, the arts are a lifeline, without which they may not be able to succeed in other areas of their education. Denying arts education, especially in lower-income areas, only widens the inequalities in education that are already too great in this state, inequalities that I want to work to close as governor.
I agree with all of those goals. I think they are very worthy and I support that 100%. You need to contact the artists to see if they would like to help your program. I would call artists for you for free and place volunteers to call people for you. I don’t want to replace anybody who has a job and once they leave we will replace them with a volunteer. I would never be against anything that is educational. If your coordinator leaves I would replace them with a volunteer, but I would never want them to lose their job. I support the five recommendations entirely.
Our curriculum is going through tremendous change with the implementation of Common Core. While I understand a lot of the fear that exists with such a transition, there are a lot of things to like about the new standards. There is more emphasis on practical skills like careful observation and evidence-based problem solving—and I think arts integration could play a huge role in shaping more exciting and creative teaching methods in math, reading, writing, and science.
While there is an important separation between lawmakers and curriculum development, there is an important role for the governor to step in when certain skills are not being addressed in our schools: financial, civic, and sustainability literacy all come to mind. More emphasis on the arts falls into that category, and as governor, I will work with the Maryland State Department of Education and the local school boards to make art a key component of teaching methods. We can transition our focus from STEM to STEAM, where arts is added to science, technology, engineering, and math. We have already seen this done successfully in Anne Arundel, where several elementary schools have piloted arts integration. There is no reason why it cannot be brought up to scale throughout the state.
We need to have a bigger conversation about improving the prestige of educators. We know that the single most effective way to improve our academic outcomes is to improve the effectiveness of our educators. If we are truly going to prioritize art education in our schools, then we also have to prioritize art educators. My “Thornton 2.0” commission to study school funding will also study how to help educators be their best in the classroom. I fully expect that this commission will make recommendations to increase the number of teaching artists in our schools, and I will move swiftly to implement those recommendations.
Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!
Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week!
To see all Maryland YA Week news, click here.
Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. As we mentioned earlier this week, we extended the invitation to all candidates to answer two questions that would be shared on our blog. Today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the first question:
Maryland needs creative citizens who can imagine new possibilities for our society, think critically, solve complex problems, and collaborate effectively with others to turn these new possibilities into a reality. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning believes that the arts are an essential vehicle for building these 21st Century Skills. We are concerned both by the cuts in arts education and that our standardized testing model does not recognize the full set of capacities needed to ensure that Maryland has a thriving workforce and a civil society. As governor, how would you address our concerns?
Every Maryland student, regardless of where they live or the resources of their family, deserves a world-class education that includes the arts. We often talk about STEM education, but the conversation needs to be about the broader STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Mathematics) education. Arts integration in classrooms has been shown to reduce achievement gaps among economically disadvantaged youth. Access to arts programs has been linked to greater achievement on standardized tests for older students as well. But, perhaps most importantly, the arts promote healthy expression and important skills like creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and critical thinking, which are not nurtured in the traditional classroom setting.
Recently, the Brown-Ulman campaign announced our Running Start Program to deliver universal, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K to all Maryland 4-year-olds by 2018. We look forward to working with the arts community to ensure that Pre-K programming includes arts education.
As a teacher and school administrator at the middle school level for 34 years, I have a strong support for both performing and visual arts. This has expanded for me as I watch our grandchildren participating in choirs, bands, and plays with the eldest actually designing and preparing costumes for musicals. As governor I would fund these types of projects and encourage school systems to develop Magnet and Signature programs to attract students and raise their education level–something which standardized testing undermines.
I share [Young Audiences’] passion for the arts as a means for imagining new possibilities for our society, thinking critically, and connecting to the world around us. I have seen this firsthand, thanks to my wife, Laura, an author who has used the medium of writing to illustrate the lives of women imagining new possibilities for women during times–and in communities–where women were not equals. One of her books, “The Mysterious Private Thompson,” tells the true story of Sara Emma Edmonds who hid her gender to fight in the Civil War. Another, “Class Action,” recounts the true story of Lois Jenson, one of the first women hired at a Minnesota iron mine, the sexual harassment she experienced in the workplace, and the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States that resulted from it. That book inspired “North Country,” which used the medium of film to dramatize this important subject. As my wife’s books and the response to them demonstrate, art can provide meaning, insight, and understanding that moves us to reconsider our perspective and improve our world–often when our government and its leaders are unable to do so.
For our state–and our democracy–to flourish, we need to support our artists, and this includes funding for the arts and arts education. Unfortunately, over the last seven years, state funding for the arts has been largely uncertain, cut from $15.2 million in FY2008 down to $13.3 million by FY2010, only increasing last year for the first time in several years; and the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts has been left unfunded for periods of time as well.
State funding for the arts and arts education will be secure during my administration as governor. I will work to make sure that arts education is supported and recognized as a vital component of education to be defended and protected, and that state leaders view it as a type of education that can translate into jobs. When evaluating the many achievement gaps in our state’s schools, we should also be looking at arts gaps, and should recognize that arts integration has the capacity to transform learning and close these gaps. I will work to ensure equal access to arts education–and the creativity and innovation it fosters–as governor. As President Obama has said, “The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”
Lastly, as we continue our state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards, I will look for ways to help teachers find opportunities to use the arts to improve their instruction. It is true that our standardized testing model does not recognize how skills in the arts can empower our young people to be talented leaders in the workforce and in society as a whole, so I will seek more ways to integrate arts education into our overall education program. I am thrilled by the work organizations like yours do to advance this effort.
My education program, “The Pre-K Plan” is a plan for education for grades one through college. I am a teacher and I am in favor of education. It starts with a mother and father. When I used to teach in 1964 I had a parent come see me for parent teacher conferences. This parent said: “I don’t understand my son is doing well in your class but my other son is not doing well in the 10th grade.” We have lost the family as an institution. We have to have a mother and father or surrogate mother or father who is willing to give care. You have to spend time with your children every day and we have to ask about their day every day. Until we fix the family our education is going to be a mess. It is not the money that makes the education system work; it is the effort, time, and commitment to working with your children.
One of the first things I am going to do [as governor] is call a conference of every church leader and every leader of the Jewish community and I am going to tell them they have to go back to their synagogues and churches and tell their members they have to take an interest in their children. Even businesses have to participate in the tracking of a child and be involved in mentoring and communicating with children. There must be a tracking system for everyone who is in the public education system. That doesn’t cost money, it is about leadership.
Any 21st Century innovation economy will need a private sector that knows how to capture the imagination of consumers. My 10-point jobs plan is centered in empowering middle-class families to earn more, be taxed less, and in turn, spend more money in our economy. Maryland needs a creative workforce to not only encourage our consumers to invest in the private sector, but also bring our communities closer together.
That is why I include the arts in my plan for growing our 21st Century innovation economy. Investing in science and technology fields is absolutely crucial—they will create enormous benefits in quality of life advances. But the arts are just as crucial, with regard to both culture and innovation. I have always believed that emotional intelligence is just as important for innovation as scientific intelligence. Look at Apple as just one example. Its products are not necessarily more useful than those of competitors, but the artistic design is extremely user-friendly and it completely captures the imagination of its consumers.
This all has to begin in our schools—a culturally aware and creative workforce has to be developed in our education system. Unfortunately, art has become the stepchild of school subjects. In my time on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, I have stood up against cuts to the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), which provides many important grants for arts education in both schools and extracurricular settings. As governor, I will work to expand funding for the MSAC, with a focus on providing more grant funding for school systems that need it most. We also need to look at arts as a more important element of the school day and I plan on making that message very clear to local school systems as governor.
This shift in vision for our education system also has to take form in our accountability measures. I am deeply concerned about the growing high-stakes testing culture that is spreading throughout our schools. Learning is not about consuming the right answers—it is about producing the profound questions and chasing those questions passionately. Teaching to the test does not spark creativity and a love for learning. As governor, I will put in place a four-year moratorium on using standardized tests scores for educator evaluations, and explore alternative assessments to PARCC that do more to encourage innovation and creativity in the classroom.
Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!
Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week. On Thursday, we will post each candidate’s response to the second of our two questions.
Click here to learn more about Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week proclamation.
To see all Maryland YA Week news, click here.