Changing Landscape of Arts Education Policy

Arts Education Partnership introduced a visionary plan for the future.

Arts Education Partnership introduced a visionary plan for the future.

Arts education leaders and arts advocates have converged on Washington DC for a series of strategic events, including the Arts Education Partnership State Policy Symposium, Americans for the Arts Arts Education State Pilot Project, State Art Action Network and the Arts Advocacy Day.

I am here with Amber Sharples, Executive Director of Oklahoma Arts Council, who is taking the lead on our arts education policy team. I will be reporting in from several of these events to share observations and resources I find.

Many of these observations may be overly obvious to some of you who know a lot about the education system. Definitely many of the resources and research are worth sharing and hopefully will be valuable to you.

Arts Education Partnership:

Yesterday we attended the Arts Education Partnership State Policy Symposium. The Arts Education Partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers is dedicated to securing a high-quality arts education for every young person in America. They focus on research, policy and convening. See more at www.aep-arts.org

One of their most valuable resources is ArtScan, a searchable clearinghouse of the latest state policies supporting education in and through the arts. There you can see exact wording of current Oklahoma policy and compare it to other states.

Also the Arts Education Partnership offers ArtsEdSearch, a policy database showing research on student and educator outcomes for in-school and out-of-school arts education.

Among other great resources, this report gives easy ways to act if you want to improve arts education in your state.

Federal education policy updates:

A panel of advocacy leaders gave us updates on federal education policy. In a nutshell, federal education policy is complex and in flux.

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) expired 8 years ago and now is cobbled together with annual waivers and extensions. This leads to a lot of inconsistency for education leaders nationwide, not knowing what federal funding and policies will be even a few months from now.
  • Arts education policy hangs in the balance. One version of the ESEA under consideration removes arts education as a core subject. Advocates are unsure all the consequences of that change, but agree that arts education is stronger when spelled out as a priority in overall education policy.
  • There is lots of partisan rancor and tension about how much the federal policy should dictate education policy versus leave flexibility for states. This tension could either define arts education or leave room for advocates to have to push for arts education.

Follow Arts Action Fund to hear federal arts education policy updates.

State Superintendents Agree on Arts Education:

The majority of state education leaders agree that the arts should be a core subject according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, even while they may disagree about testing, time and other elements.

Two state superintendents spoke on a panel about arts education, Lillian Lowery from Maryland Department of Education, and Christopher Koch from Illinois State Board of Education.

They spoke about the various challenges—especially around assessment, teacher evaluation, and resource stability—that proscribe their work.

Looking at Arts Education In-school and Out-of-school time:

An afternoon breakout session highlighted how out-of-school arts education programs can complement, supplement and deepening arts education options and experiences.

More research demonstrates the value of after school programming for students. At the same time growing research shows the positive impact of arts education on student achievement.

Facilitator Terry Peterson, pointed out that with working families, the 3-6 pm afterschool time and summers become the third space for learning (families and school as the first two).

He said research has found that high income families spending $8-10,000 on enrichment per year, meaning music lessons, camps, etc. Meanwhile, low income families spend an average of $1,000 per year on enrichment. See Peterson’s compilation of this research in “Expanding Minds and Opportunities.”

One of the ongoing questions is “How can we be sure arts programs (in and out of school) are aligned with in-school goals for student achievement and success?”

Linking State and Local Efforts for Expanded Access to a Quality Arts Education:

This breakout session focused on two incredible initiatives to increase access to arts education.

Bringing together advocacy and training, Joe Landon from California Alliance for Arts Education provided resources and easy information for advocates to use to support positive impact of arts education in their area.

Their talking points and tools can be found at www.artsed411.org.

Barbara Shepherd, director of National Partnerships for The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, introduced the Any Given Child project that started because of need for collective impact. They created local coalitions of leaders from multiple sectors, including political leaders like mayors, to build interest in the initiative.

Tulsa, Oklahoma is one of the sites! Learn more here http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/anygivenchild/

Let me know if you have ideas or resources we should add. Watch for reports from Arts Advocacy Day next.