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Electing Strong Arts Education Leaders






How do you find strong arts education leaders? Ask the right questions.

Where there’s a strong arts education advocate, chances are there is also a person who may love to draw or play the guitar or who knows the joys of running cues for a play. It doesn’t take much to awaken that passion -- you just have to ask.

For the upcoming election on November 6th, the California Alliance asked candidates about the role of the arts education in addressing critical issues like closing the achievement gap, reducing the dropout rate and preparing students for college eligibility and the 21st century workforce. But we also asked them about their personal connection to the arts because we’ve found that that very often that experience instills a strong commitment to this issue in people.

Candidate Surveys Make the Arts Matter in Elections

The Challenge: How does a well-known arts council reinvigorate its arts education messaging?

The Strategy: Seize moments of momentum like a statewide Candidate Survey Project in a big election year.

The Story: The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County has a long history of support for arts education, beginning in 1980 when it launched the nationally recognized SPECTRA program (Special Teaching Resources in the Arts) in response to Proposition 13.

Today, according to a recent white paper by the Council, the community has “the local expertise and skills needed to make a major impact in this field, numerous case studies to draw upon, a supportive community of parents, teachers, school administrators and arts organizations and hundreds of teachers, artists, and administrators who have received quality professional development in arts education.” Yet, like so many communities, its arts education offerings are also dependent on the ebb and flow of financial resources.



Remarks from Ann Morhauser, CEO and Designer of Annieglass and one of the hosts of our local advocacy launch breakfast in Santa Cruz County.

Artists do not fall fully-formed from the sky ready to create the next Mona Lisa or your next smart phone, computer, gadget, cancer cure, bridge, car, sunscreen, seat belt, MRI, solar panel, wine, ATM… They need to be taught, trained, nurtured, given room, space and time to develop their own personal vocabulary to be able to interpret and communicate their vision.

Any invention requires more than engineering. Innovation requires imagination, the ability to construct and deconstruct unhindered, analysis, and creativity. Vital to any sort of artistic development is both the nerve to carry it out and the freedom to fail.

A grateful goodbye to five board members

This month, the Alliance said a heartfelt goodbye and a hearty thank you to five amazing arts education leaders who, after many years of service, retired from our board. 
They are Carol Cosivar, current State PTA President; Leslie Johnson, Director, Education & Outreach for Center Theatre Group; Sarah Murr, who recently retired from her position as Global Corporate Citizenship, Commu

Persuasion vs. Enforcement

Persuasion vs. Enforcement: Advocating for the Visual and Performing Arts

A policy paper by Carl W. Schafer 

Opening the Door for Arts Education & Title 1

Last week California’s Title 1 Conference was held in San Diego, bringing together Title 1 administrators and school and parent representatives from around the state.
One of the breakout sessions listed was “Title 1, Student Achievement and the Arts.” The session was both the culmination of year’s work and the first step on a journey that will encourage schools throughout California to choose arts education strategies as a means of accomplishing Title 1 goals. 
To back up a little…The California Alliance for Arts Education and Arts for LA have been working, along with the solid support of letter-writing advocates from around the state,  to engage the California Department of Education in a discussion about how to provide guidance to Title 1 schools interested in pursuing arts education strategies. These efforts led to a letter to the field from the Department in February, and was followed by an invitation to the Alliance to present a panel at the statewide conference, explaining the process involved in selecting arts education strategies. 

Why We Need Props 30 AND 38

A message from California Board Chair, Mark Slavkin

The fate of public education in California is on the ballot this November.  Arts education and every other element of a quality education are at risk unless we pass Propositions 30 and 38.  

Proposition 30 is proposed by Governor Brown in order to balance the current year state budget without further devastating cuts to schools.  School districts will be forced to cut several weeks from the current school year if Proposition 30 is not approved. 

Proposition 38 will generate new state revenue and begin the process of restoring essential funding for our schools. Neither measure is about arts education per se, although Proposition 38 lists the arts as one potential use for the money. Yet if these measures are approved, they provide real hope that we can rebuild vital arts programs. If they lose, all bets are off. 
As advocates for children, it is our responsibility to work for passage of these measures.  We need to demonstrate to our colleagues in public education that we stand firmly with them, and not off to the side as a “special interest.”  

We know there are many good reasons for voters to be skeptical about new taxing and spending measures.  Much of the frustration is warranted.  Yet we owe it to our students to rise above our cynicism and do what is right for them.  Please join the California Alliance for Arts Education and vote yes on Propositions 30 and 38.

SB 1458 Expands School Assessments Beyond Standardized Tests

This week Governor Brown signed into law, SB 1458 (Steinberg), legislation which alters the structure of California's Academic Performance Index (API) by setting a 60% limit for standardized test performance for high schools. With the current API, standardized tests constitute 100% of the accountability measure. The remaining 40% must include graduation rates as well as other college and career readiness factors that reflect the expectations of public education and the needs of the state's workforce. Promotion rates for grades 7-12 may also be included. In primary and middle schools, standardized test performance would comprise at least 60% of the API.

The bill requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) submit, for approval by the State Board of Education, valid, reliable, and stable measures of college and career readiness. SB 1458 encourages the SPI to develop school quality reviews to complement the API. The review process would feature locally convened panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview pupils and examine pupil work. The bill also requires that the SPI report to the Legislature, by October 1, 2013, on alternative methods, in place of decile rank, for determining eligibility, preferences, or priorities for statutory programs currently using decile rank as a determining factor.

Making the Case for Title 1 Funds for Arts Education

For the past year the Alliance has been working behind the scenes to increase access to the benefits of arts education for students in Title 1 schools. Though Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that Title 1 funds may be used to support arts education strategies that target the program’s goals, as well as clear evidence that arts programs are linked to higher test scores and academic achievement, there has been hesitation among schools and districts to pursue arts education strategies within Title 1 programs. 
When we were brought into this conversation by Arts for LA, we were hearing reports that an entire school district had decided not to use Title 1 funds for those purposes. 
We began by seeking guidance from California's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson. His office responded by saying "Title 1 funding might be appropriately used to support arts education as a strategy to improve student achievement in English-language arts and/or mathematics", provided that certain requirements are fulfilled. 

UPDATE on SB 789 (Price)

Last Thursday, August 16, the fate of SB 789 (Price) was decided when the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to 'hold' the bill. That means that it will not be eligible for further hearings this year and so has effectively run its course. As the original sponsors of the bill the Alliance was disappointed by the decision. We believe the bill offered an important opportunity for schools to demonstrate their commitment to creativity and innovation across the curriculum, by creating an index that would measure access to those learning opportunities.

But while this piece of legislation won’t become law, it has succeeded in raising awareness about the importance of creativity and innovation in our schools. The bill was a catalyst for numerous news stories over the past year, hundreds of letters of support to state legislators and Joint Committee on the Arts hearing in Sacramento that drew a standing room only crowd as well as a robust audience streaming live. In addition, the bill’s language was integrated into larger accountability legislation (SB 547 Steinberg), marking the first time that creativity and innovation were being considered as measurable components of a complete educational experience.

The Alliance thanks Senator Curren Price and his staff for their commitment to the legislation and to our lobbyist, Kathy Lynch, who worked tirelessly on behalf of the bill. We also want to acknowledge the 'creator' of the bill, Dan Hunter of Massachusetts, where similar legislation was passed, who worked with us to develop the legislation and lobbied for its passage. Lastly, we thank arts education advocates in California for communicating their support to legislators and recognizing that creativity is not frill but a necessary agent for reviving the state economy and our public schools.