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Lesson 6.8

The Arts:
Creating in School

The arts are neglected in schools. Here’s proof.

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Some children seem destined to excel in the arts. They draw incessantly. They win at Pictionary. They love music, or drawing, or dance. Arts education, however, is intended not simply for students who possess artistic “talent.” It is for all children.

Knowledge sticks more easily when it is beautiful, or compelling, or funny.

The arts are not just "what" children learn but also "how" children learn. Knowledge sticks more easily when it is beautiful, or compelling, or funny. Comedian Steven Wright quipped "Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?" Pablo Picasso observed that "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Research suggests that arts education provides children with many benefits including improved academic achievement and emotional and social development. There is a strong relationship between arts education and the fundamental cognitive skills that students use to master core subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics.

Arts education can also improve students’ ability to communicate effectively (for example through drawing) and can teach the importance of teamwork/collaboration (for example in music or other performance arts).

California schools neglect art

The arts show up in our classrooms in two ways: (1) Integrated into lessons in many areas of the curriculum and (2) taught as distinct disciplines. The latter include visual arts, music, dance, the theatre arts, criticism, history, and aesthetics. In its broadest sense, it comprises instruction in the making/creating of art and art appreciation.

Students in California receive much less instruction in visual arts and music than students in other states.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) defines the arts as a part of a "well-rounded education." The California State Board of Education has adopted content standards for Visual and Performing Arts for kindergarten through 12th grade. However, facing tough budget choices and intense pressure to improve English and mathematics performance, many schools have nearly eliminated arts education from their curriculum over the past few decades. In California, participation in music classes dropped 46% from 1999 through 2004. A statewide study of arts education in California in 2007 indicated that 89% of K-12 schools did not offer a standards-based course of study in the visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Because the primary measure of a school's achievement has been students' reading/writing and math scores, there has been little pressure to increase instructional time in untested subjects. Arts instruction has measurably declined as an unintended consequence of this focus.

California could ill afford this decline. In 2007, a study of instructional hours per year for music and visual arts in elementary schools documented that California children were spending less time on the arts than children nationally back in 1999-2000.

Students in California receive much less instruction in visual arts and music than students in other states. Students in California receive much less instruction in visual arts and music than students in other states. (From: An Unfinished Canvas, SRI International, 2007.)

Art program advocates warn that the decline in arts education has created a generation of both teachers and parents who may not now fully appreciate the broader importance of the arts. To start to address this massive decline, a 2015 report, A Blueprint for Creative Schools [PDF] outlines strategies to making the arts a core part of education for all students in California public schools.

The California State PTA has embarked on a campaign in support of arts education as well. The Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership, founded by the Alameda County Office of Education, is a collaborative network that works to develop public understanding of the essential role of arts learning in education. Statewide, a coalition of major arts and education advocates have joined together under CreateCA to advance an education model that promotes creativity and the arts for the workforce of tomorrow.

The Art Gap

Classes in the arts tend to be most available to students in well-funded schools. Based on the SRI study, for example, music and visual arts instruction are only provided to about a quarter of students in high-poverty schools in California.

Arts education is more available in wealthy schools than in schools of high poverty Arts education is more available in wealthy schools than in schools of high poverty (From: An Unfinished Canvas, SRI International, 2007.)

Many suggest that increasing arts in the schools is a key strategy for closing the achievement gap. A study of New York City graduation rates, Staying In School: Arts Education & NYC High School Graduation Rates suggests that increasing students’ access to arts instruction in schools with low graduation rates can be a successful strategy for lifting graduation rates and turning around struggling schools, not just in New York City, but nationwide.

Including the arts in a student’s education also contributes to the variety of the school experience: Kids like the arts! Access to instruments and materials can be a real obstacle to arts education, but where there is a will there is a way, so long as there is someone willing to teach.

The Right Brain Initiative makes this argument somewhat more artistically in the following video:

Ask Your School District!

In California, funding for arts education is the responsibility of school districts as part of the Local Control Funding Formula. The state does not require schools to commit a particular level of funding to the arts. If art education is starved in your district, it represents a local choice about funding priorities and strategies at the district or school level. Some districts fund arts, music and athletics as part of their core budget; others look to their school communities to raise extra money for these programs.

Next Steps

Questions to ask about arts education:

The next lesson examines another part of the school experience that many students find enjoyable: physical education.

Review

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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Carol Kocivar February 20, 2017 at 10:46 am
Great arts activities for your parent meetings...
PTA's School Smarts program helps parents make the connection between arts and learning. Here are five videos you can use at your parent meeting:
- Family Values Art Project
- Pinwheel Art Project
- Mask Art Project
- Hat Art Project
- Quilt Art Project

user avatar
Carol Kocivar October 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm
How much arts education do students really get?
The newly launched California Arts Education Data Project now analyzes and reports school-level data on arts education courses and grades 6 through 12 enrollment. You can review school-level, district, county and statewide data on their interactive dashboard.
http://www.createca.dreamhosters.com/artsed-dataproject/

Key Findings 2014-2015
* Thirty-eight percent of all students participated in arts education courses. This represents more than 1.2 million students.
* In 2015, 26% of students had access to one or more arts discipline in schools. This represents 12% of schools offering all four arts disciplines. There were nearly 2.3 million students who did not have access to all four arts disciplines.
user avatar
Albert Stroberg May 1, 2016 at 8:12 pm
Other than making arts people happy, how do we evaluate the benefit of allocation of resources to STEAM?
How do kids do 10 years later?
user avatar
Carol Kocivar April 23, 2016 at 4:17 pm
Why Making Music Matters: Music and Early Childhood Development
Carnegie Hall commissioned a new research paper “Why Making Music Matters."
"The more we learn, the clearer it becomes that live music can play a powerful role in ...development from the very start."
Find out more...
http://www.carnegiehall.org/BlogPost.aspx?id=4295019679&utm_source=mail2&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wmi-23579&utm_content=wmiblast-021216&sourceCode=23579
user avatar
Jeff Camp - Founder November 8, 2015 at 4:18 pm
Love this LA Times article that awards "grades" to school arts programs. The paper only gave 35 schools an A. http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-lausd-arts-20151102-story.html Here's a sample report card for the arts program at one school: http://schools.latimes.com/grading-the-arts/stagg-street-elementary-elementary/ How would your school do?
user avatar
shadowzwench April 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm
Our middle school restructured and decided to do a STEAM emphasis instead of just a STEM emphasis. The arts are important and can be integrated well with STEM.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar - Ed100 February 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm
What are school districts doing to include the arts in their Local Control and Accountability Plans?
The California Alliance for Arts Education takes a look at how five districts invested in arts education in their 2014 LCAPs to achieve a variety of outcomes, including student engagement, a broad course of study and closing the achievement gap between English Language Learners and other students.
Here is the link:
http://www.artsed411.org/files/5%20Examples%20of%20Arts%20Ed%20in%20District%20LCAP%20012815.pdf
user avatar
Carol Kocivar - Ed100 February 2, 2015 at 12:44 pm
So how do we move towards getting more arts in our schools?
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson’s Arts Education Task Force Submits Recommendations to Restore the Arts to California Classrooms. You can find " A Blueprint for Creative Schools" here: http://createca.net/?p=272
©2003-2017 Jeff Camp
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