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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...

Are Public-Private Partnerships the Way Forward?
February 4, 2010

In recent years, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) has put together an innovative program called My Masterpieces: Discovering Art in My Community, which capitalizes on local art institutions through field trips and specifically co-designed K-6 visual art curriculum. With California facing a fiscal meltdown and harrowing cycles of budget cuts, we wondered if these kinds of public-private models offer a viable way to build sustainable arts education programs. We spoke with Marshall Ayers, the Arts Education Coordinator for the district, to learn more.

Alliance: Were there existing relationships with local art institutions before the partnership?

MA: There were long-standing relationships with many of the local institutions. But the programs varied from school to school, depending on if there was a strong interest among parents or an individual principal. We had students accessing some cultural institutions, but it was in a more or less random manner. We hoped curriculum based partnerships could address issues of equity and access.

Alliance: How did the partnerships get started?

MA: At a recent training for arts coordinators, evaluator Lynn Waldorf said, “When you don’t have...

A College Freshman Returns to her High School to Champion Arts Education
January 20, 2010

San Francisco State University freshman, theatre major and poetry slam champion, Jasmine Williams, talked to us about why she returned to her high school to talk to the next generation about a career in the arts.

Alliance: What got you so passionate about the arts?

JW: Well to be honest, when I first signed up for a theatre class in tenth grade, I took it because I just needed a few more credits and I figured it would be easy. But then, when I got in there I got introduced to all this new stuff – improv, performing, writing — that’s when I started writing poetry, and I grew to love it.

Alliance: Was it harder than you thought it would be?

JW: Yes! The teacher expected us to really work for the class! We had to write our own plays and put them on at the end of the semester. We had to do our own lighting, costume design –- whatever the audience saw, came from what we did. If we wanted to look good, we had to make ourselves look good.

Alliance: But since you were there they’ve cut most of the arts classes?

JW: Yup. No more theatre or dance, and the band is gone, too.

Alliance: So what made you go back and talk to students there about a career in the arts?



Theatre & Dance Credentialing: The Time is Now
October 7, 2009

Recently, Kathy Lynch, the Alliance’s legislative advocate, and I met with the California State Commission on Teacher Credentialing. After taking input from professional dance and theatre instructors from across California, we wanted to make the case for separate credentialing of dance and theatre instructors. Why? Because until we treat all four arts disciplines – visual art, music, theatre, and dance – as distinctive disciplines with their own methods and modes of learning, California students are missing out on the full benefits of arts learning under the guidance of professional, highly qualified instructors.

Ever since around 1970, there has been no single subject credentialing for dance and theatre teachers in California. The impact has been that while 88% of secondary music teachers and 84% of visual arts teachers meet the standards for being “highly qualified” in their respective fields, only 36% of dance teachers and 55% of theatre teachers are similarly qualified.

The Alliance often frames our goals in terms of quality, equity and access to arts education.  The debate over teacher credentialing goes to the heart of what we mean when we talk about access. Without professional credentials in these...