Thursday, April 26, 2012

Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools

"W" is for Winning in the A to Z Challenge

I'm sure many of you will be relieved that this blog has gotten through "V" day and moved on. We've made it to "W" day, and today's post title is drawn from the website, the President's Committee on Arts and the Humanities.

I've been tipped off to a couple of interesting posts because I have a twitter account that is about 18 months old, and I recently started "following" @BarackObama, which is run by the Obama 2012 campaign staff. If you have no earthly idea what I'm talking about, go over to and start poking around. Explaining how twitter works is beyond the scope of this post. Anyway, there was a tweet which led me to an article titled Re-Investing Through Art's Education: Winning America's Future through Creative Schools.

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know that arts education is a subject near and dear to me. (No, I don't just write about things in an attempt to make you blush in front of your grandmother). This is the blurb from the PCAH link:

"The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) announces the release of its landmark report Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools.  The culmination of 18 months of research, meetings with stakeholders, and site visits all over the country, this report represents an in-depth review of the current condition of arts education, including an update of the current research base about arts education outcomes, and an analysis of the challenges and opportunities in the field that have emerged over the past decade. It also includes a set of recommendations to federal, state and local policymakers. A summary of the report is here."

The link in the word "here" is worth clicking. I'll summarize the summary for you though:

"It has been more than a decade since any federal entity comprehensively examined arts education data in the United States. During this time, there have been important developments in arts education research, as well as major shifts in the landscape of American education—including the impact of No Child Left Behind and increasing economic pressure."

Basically, as I've indicated elsewhere, they've discovered two things:

1)NCLB has resulted in fewer arts programs in schools
2) Kids do better when there are art programs in schools

Wow. What a surprise. I've loathed NCLB and the tyranny of standardized testing ever since my own kids, now 22 and 25, where enrolled in school. With each of these studies that are released, I'm just nodding my head. I'm glad they are finally figuring these things out, but it has been at the expense of an entire generation subjected to a failed experiment.

I'll skip over the details of the findings of the study. (After all, this is a summary of a summary, so I can have time to add parentheticals like this one!) Here are the recommendations of the study:

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

Swell. It is about time. But what does that mean in practical terms? How do you start?

How about like this:

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) announced the launch of a new arts education initiative to help turn around low-performing schools. Developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Turnaround Arts initiative is a new public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. Working in some of the nation’s lowest-performing elementary and middle schools, this program will test the hypothesis that high-quality and integrated arts education boosts academic achievement, motivates student learning and improves school culture in the context of overall school reform, announced the committee’s co-chairs, George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion.

Turnaround Arts will work in eight “turnaround schools” across the country—public schools in the lowest-achieving five percent of their state that are receiving School Improvement Grants through the U.S. Department of Education. Over the course of two years, Turnaround Arts will bring intensive arts education resources and expertise into these schools and support the school leadership in using the arts as a pillar of their reform strategy. An external evaluation of the program will measure the impact and effectiveness of this approach.

Oh wait... I asked what does that mean in practical terms. How about THIS? Pairing these schools with famous artists. Which famous artists? These:

Chuck Close
Yo-Yo Ma
Sarah Jessica-Parker
Kerry Washington
Forest Whitaker
Damian Woetzel
Alfre Woodard

I have no doubt this program will be a success, and will result in funding and regulation for artists across the country to be able get back into schools without smashing their creativity into the bland box of standardized testing curricula.

W is for Winning, and April is winding down Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. Thanks for the link...I'll be checking it out too. And Woo hoo on winding down.

  2. I agree there is a needfor arts from K on up not sure government is going to do any better than it does at anything.
    I've worked at several low performance schools that the government "took responsibility for" I will say they have the 6am to 6pm thing down / implementing programs by innovative community leaders not happening

    Will You

    1. Well, No Child Left Behind has caused a lot of destruction. I hoping to see schools being able to bring in artists and give them pretty much free rein.

  3. Thanks for the link! Interesting. Also, I agree that the no child left behind act was a disaster. A well-intentioned disaster, but still a disaster. (I was a victim of it.)

    Sonia Lal @ Story Treasury

  4. This is FANTASTIC, Arthur! I will be tweeting and Facebooking this post right now (and bookmarking it for future reference.)