Recently, a coalition of twelve national organizations led by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE), called on policy makers and the public to re-examine support for quality arts education in a document called Arts Education for America’s Students, A Shared Endeavor.
According to SEADAE’s press release, A Shared Endeavor defines what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourages partnerships, and calls on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote:
- Policies and resources for arts education.
- Access to arts education for all students.
- Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
- Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.
The twelve organizations, which include the National Association for Music Education, the National Art Education Association, American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Kennedy Center, and the National Education Association, among others, believe students benefit from sequential, standards-based arts curriculum, deep expertise and professional experience, and standards-based connections between the arts and other content areas.
Two things I take away from A Shared Endeavor:
1. I appreciate that the document reinforces the importance of certified arts teachers with deep expertise. In many Montana schools, both urban and rural, and especially in elementary schools, you will often find not enough certified arts teachers in any subject. The arts are often left to be taught by certified non-arts teachers who receive little professional development in how to teach any of the art forms. Or, the school scrapes together funds (often through the parent organization, or funding programs like the Montana Arts Council’s Artists in Schools and Communities grant) to bring in a teaching artist to work with the students for a residency that is a wonderful opportunity for students with little access to the arts, but is almost always too short and limited in its scope. In parts of the country, this practice has sometimes also had the unintentional consequence of pitting teaching artists and certified arts teachers against each other. Teaching artists should be brought in to enhance and support school curriculum, never to replace certified arts educators.
2. I also like that the document stresses the critical importance of collaboration. Collaboration between schools, districts and arts organization; and between certified arts teachers, certified classroom teachers, and teaching artists, working in partnership to deliver a high-quality arts education for all students, not just the ones that are lucky enough to live in the districts that have lots of resources to afford it. Collaboration, more than money, creates great arts education in schools. Arts organizations can bring schools access to cultural opportunities they might never encounter otherwise. Teaching artists and certified non-arts teachers can partner to create great learning experiences tied to the Common Core. Certified arts specialists can enrich what they are already teaching by bringing in guests artists to share their unique talents with students. Everyone working toward a shared endeavor–the best possible education for all students.
It is an endeavor we all should share, because there is no high-quality education without the arts. I wonder who else can share the endeavor with us besides artists and educators? We need parents, we need CEOs, we need scientists, we need policymakers. I would love to see organizations added to A Shared Endeavor who are outside of the arts or education field. Just imagine. What if NASA signed on? How about the National Academy of Sciences? How about the National PTO? Boeing? Apple? The U. S. Chamber of Commerce? An arts education advocate can dream, can’t she?