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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.

Art for Everybody

Arts education is important not just for students with artistic "talent." It is for all children.

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

The arts are useful for learning. They are more than 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?"

Preschool and kindergarten classes burst with song, movement, color and joy. Pablo Picasso observed that "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Great teachers find ways to incorporate arts into learning in higher grades. 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. (Not to mention memorizing stuff like US history, chemistry, and how to do long division.)

Arts education can improve students’ ability to communicate effectively (for example through drawing). It can teach the importance of teamwork, for example through experiences in music or other performance arts. Research on the outcomes of arts education suggest that it contributes to improved academic achievement and emotional and social development.

California schools neglect art

The arts show up in our classrooms in two ways: Integrated into lessons, and taught as distinct disciplines. Art disciplines 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." However, the primary measure of a school's achievement has been students' reading/writing and math scores. Without focus, there has been little pressure to commit instructional time to the arts.

Arts instruction measurably declined as an unintended consequence of this focus. In California, participation in music classes dropped 46% from 1999 through 2004. During the recession that began in 2008, many schools nearly eliminated arts education from their curriculum, continuing a decades-long decline. 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.

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.

Changing Standards

California's educational standards for the arts are in a moment of change. In 2017, legislation committed the state to develop and adopt new K-12 standards for art education, including (for the first time) educational standards for media arts, defined as "animation, video production, digital sound production, imaging design, and interactive design, as well as virtual and augmented reality design". The new standards for visual and performing arts were scheduled to be completed and rolled out in 2019 after a period of review and comment.

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, major arts and education advocates have joined together in a coalition, 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. 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.

Updated July 2017

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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Lisette October 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm
My daughter's first daycare was very big on arts and crafts. I could tell early-on she loved creating things. I am sad the arts have been on the back-burner for California. To supplement, my daughter has a cabinet-full of art and crafts to let her mind go wild and is in various dance classes.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar September 19, 2017 at 11:31 am
California State PTA has tips on becoming an Arts Education Champion. Download the flyer in English: http://downloads.capta.org/smarts/JobDescriptionforArtsEducationChairman.pdf
or Spanish:
http://downloads.capta.org/smarts/JobDescriptionforArtsEducationChairman_Spanish.pdf

user avatar
Carol Kocivar July 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm
Looking for some arts projects to do at home or at school? To Go! Projects features creative projects with easy to follow instructions:

https://www.psarts.org/TO-GO/
user avatar
Jeff Camp March 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm
Sometimes conversations about art, music and dance in school wander into pseudoscientific assertions about "learning styles." This tendency has always bothered me, because it often takes the form of pigeon-holing students as being of a particular learning "type." ("Sorry, flashcards can't help me -- I'm a kinesthetic learner.") It is certainly true that content can be learned through a mix of visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (movement) approaches, but it doesn't follow that students must be boxed into these fixed identities. New research further debunks the myth of fixed, rigid "learning styles."
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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