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Measuring Creativity and Innovation in California Schools
February 4, 2011

By Laurie Schell and Joe Landon, California Alliance for Arts Education

Last week Senator Curren Price introduced Senate Bill 789, sponsored by the California Alliance for Arts Education, which will establish an Advisory Council charged with crafting a creative and innovative education index for schools. The index would provide schools and districts throughout California with an opportunity to share evidence of how they are cultivating creativity and innovation as part of a comprehensive education.

What is a Creativity and Innovation Index?
A creativity and innovation index would provide a way for schools to rate their progress in teaching, encouraging and fostering creativity in students. Index scores would be voluntarily compiled by school and district staff from a survey of curricula and teacher reports. It would quantify the opportunities in each school as measured by the availability of classes and before and after-school programs offered by and through school districts that nurture creativity and innovation in students. Examples might include visual and performing arts education classes...

There’s a new Superintendent of Public Instruction in town…
January 11, 2011

by Joe Landon, Policy Director

Just three days after Tom Torlakson was installed as California’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction, his chief deputy, Richard Zeiger, met with the Policy Council of the California Alliance in Sacramento, to discuss the state of education in California, with a particular focus on arts education.

The previous day Torlakson had described California’s school finances as being at the level of ‘emergency’. Zeiger explained that before anything can be done to improve the education outlook, Governor Brown will first deal with the current budget crisis facing the state. He anticipated that education spending for the current year would remain the same as the past year, provided that California’s voters approve revenues in a special election later this year. He noted that we, as the public who cares about quality education for California students, will need to take an active role in assuring the approval of revenues in the special election.

Zeiger was upbeat in his assessment that for the first time in many years, the Superintendent, the State Board of Education, the Governor and the Legislature are in alignment about the need to advance education.

He explained that approximately 70% of the Department of...


Results of Arts Ed Survey Go Beyond the Election
December 14, 2010

This fall, the California Alliance undertook its first ever arts education survey of candidates for the November 2010 election. Members of our Local Advocacy Network secured the participation of school board candidates in over forty school districts. Candidates answered questions about policy as well as their personal experiences with the arts. The results were posted in early October, but the positive impact of this work is ongoing. Members of our Local Advocacy Network share some of the continuing benefits of the survey.

Increased Visibility Make the Arts Matter

Pat Wayne, Director of Programs and Education for Arts Orange County and the Orange County Organizer for the Local Advocacy Network: In the twenty-nine districts we surveyed in Orange County, we saw a clear advantage for districts that participated in the Local Advocacy Network. These had a better rate of participation among candidates (70%, as opposed to 59%) and even more striking, in these Local Advocacy Network districts, 88% of candidates who were elected had participated in the survey, as opposed to 53%, in districts that were not a part of the Local Advocacy Network. This shows us that...

Working with Elected Officials Parts 1 & 2
November 9, 2010

By Victoria Plettner-Saunders

Part 1 – What I Did on My Summer Vacation, or the Practical Application of Arts Education Advocacy

My name is Victoria Plettner-Saunders and I am one of the founders of the San Diego Alliance for Arts Education, a local advocacy network initiated by the California Alliance for Arts Education. While our formal alliance launch was in May of 2010, we actually began to gain recognition for arts education advocacy with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) in June 2009 when we successfully convinced the SDUSD School Board to remove the Visual and Performing Arts Department (VAPA) from a list of things to eliminate to save money. At that time, we were a consistent presence at school board meetings and our message was clear: a) we want to be in partnership with the district on arts education issues and b) “We aren’t going away.” Here’s what that meant in reality.

In May we officially launched the San Diego Alliance for Arts Education and invited the school board president Richard Barrera to talk to our invited guests about the status of arts education in the District. By July, I’m in his speed dial and he was calling for my help. The school board is voting on Tuesday to put forth a ballot measure for a parcel...

A “Both/And” Approach to CTE and VAPA
October 21, 2010

By Mark Slavin, Vice President of Education
Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County and
Board Chair, California Alliance for Arts Education

The California Alliance for Arts Education was very pleased to see the Governor veto AB 2446 (Furutani). This measure would have watered-down California’s already weak high school graduation requirements by allowing students to take a career technical education course, in lieu of a course in the arts or foreign language. The battle over this legislation is part of an ongoing debate about the role and purpose of public high schools. Specifically, what is the proper balance between preparing students for college and providing tangible employment skills to help students gain jobs right out of high school? Or is this a false choice? Can we imagine high schools in which every course engages kids in project-based learning, real world applications, and the development of tangible skills for the workplace?

It was unfortunate that the battle over AB 2446 placed advocates for arts education and advocates for career and technical education in opposing camps. In fact, many of us want the same thing – high schools that offer diverse options for students to find their passion and explore specific career paths...

Student Arts Advocates: “You Need to Be an Arts Advocate”
October 7, 2010

A few months ago, the Alliance was contacted by Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA), based at Columbia University. We’re delighted to share their terrific advocacy video, “You Need to Be an Arts Advocate” as well as some lessons learned from outgoing SAA president Jonathan Lewis.

Can you share a defining moment in your advocacy work?
For several years, I’d participated in the Arts Advocacy Day in Albany. A group of students headed up there to show our support each year, but usually ended up on the sidelines. This past year, we came out to support our friend, Richard Kessler, the Executive Director of the Center for Arts Education who was to give testimony before the Joint Meeting of the Committees on the Arts Hearing at the New York State Senate for Arts Day 2010. However, there was a snowstorm, and Mr. Kessler was unable to be there, so he called and asked me to take his place.

After several in-transit cell phone calls with Kessler and a quick re-...

What Exactly Does the Superintendent of Public Instruction Do?
May 13, 2010

The Survey: This month, the California Alliance for Arts Education conducted a survey of candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction. It asked candidates to respond to go on record about a variety of issues related to arts education, including access, assessment and workforce preparation. The survey is intended to provide voters with information about how these candidates might impact arts education policy and implementation as superintendent. As we work to get the word out, many people have asked us, a little shyly, what does the State Superintendent of Education actually do?

California’s Education leadership is set up a bit differently than many other states’ and bears explanation. In most states, there is one elected official who oversees policy and administration, but in California there are two separate offices:

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected on a nonpartisan ballot for a four year term, runs the Department of Education and reports to:

The Secretary of Education, who is appointed by the Governor and serves as his primary education advisor and a member of his cabinet. The Secretary of Education works with the State Board of Education to develop the Administration’s education...

Well-Rounded Curriculum in the Spotlight as ESEA Re-Write Gains Momentum
April 28, 2010

By Heather Noonan, Vice President for Advocacy for the League of American Orchestras and Co-Chair of the ad-hoc National Arts Education Policy Working Group.

How will the next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) support access to the arts as part of a well-rounded education for every child? This month the Administration, Congress, and arts education advocates have advanced the conversation. Now is a critical time for arts advocates to engage in the real heart of the debate.

Speaking before the national Arts Education Partnership forum on April 9, US. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered his view, declaring that the arts “can no longer be treated as a frill,” and reported that, during his national listening tour, “almost everywhere I went, I heard people express concern that the curriculum has narrowed, especially in schools that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students.”

The March 13 Obama Administration blueprint for re-writing ESEA lays out the Department’s view on federal education policy. Three areas of the...

You Asked: Advocacy Tips for your District
March 16, 2010

Whether you are just getting started, or have been at it a while, organizing successful advocacy in your district can be tough. Earlier this month we brought together advocates from all over the state for a webinar, Standing Up for Arts Education. Veterans from the field offered tips on the basics, from building a team, crafting effective messages to picking the right targets. Participants asked questions and posited next steps.

This week on our blog, we answer some of the most popular questions, as well as ones that we didn’t have time to address during the event. Sonoma Alliance for Arts Education advocate, Karin Demarest and the Alliance’s policy director, Joe Landon join us with answers.

CA: Let’s start with one of the most challenging issues. When you are working with a team – usually all volunteers– how do you get people to follow through?

KD: It’s tough! In Sonoma, we created a charter for ourselves, so there is a structure that holds our work, rather than one person or project. We have a chair, a vice chair, a secretary and sub committees. And, we have the charter to go back to when we are starting a project or in the middle of one and maybe getting sidetracked.

JL: In our Local Advocacy...

Articulating the Value of Arts Education to Corporate Funders
March 4, 2010

By Jason Pugatch, Associate Director, Young Storytellers Foundation

It’s one of the great anomalies of our society that the arts are both valued and underfunded; both praised and looked upon as a frivolity.  A Harris Poll found that 93% of Americans find arts education to be a vital part of a well-rounded education. A visit to the opera or a museum opening continues to carry social caché.

Yet, when it comes to putting corporate money where the mouth is, many are unwilling to fund something as seemingly nebulous as the arts. One of the reasons for this is that quantifying the arts, and program impact isn’t easily summed up in an end-of-year-spreadsheet. How do you put a number on growth of self-expression, confidence and an increase in creative thinking?

You don’t. And as a non-profit vying for corporate funding in the arts, this can feel like an extreme disadvantage. So, it is our job to become “values” advocates as well as arts educators. One of the best means of pursuing this line of advocacy is through volunteerism, which offers a direct connection between arts education and corporate resources.

At the Young Storytellers Foundation, we’ve taken an immersion approach to funding. Because we’re a volunteer organization, we begin any...