Mike Boehm/LA Times Culture Monster blog | http://lat.ms/lfRafK
May 10, 2011 | 7:42 pm - Hoping to reverse steep declines in arts education in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has issued a report aimed at giving arts-education advocates better ammunition as they try to persuade school boards, legislators and philanthropists to stop treating the arts as a frill or an afterthought.
“Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools” offers model arts education programs that local districts can copy, and cites studies that indicate arts education helps students do better in other subjects. For the full story, click here. [smf: It, and the report, follows]
The report is already being referenced in Los Angeles, where the teachers’ union has begun an arts-specific component of its bid to stem drastic across-the-board cuts. Anticipating a $408-million drop in state funding, the Los Angeles Board of Education has adopted what one member called a "doomsday budget."
The picture could brighten if the state budget's $15-billion deficit isn't eliminated solely with spending cuts -- Gov. Jerry Brown's plan calls for erasing it with a combination of cuts and a tax increase.
According to United Teachers Los Angeles, the adopted district budget calls for slashing the arts instruction staff from 1,065 to 722 full- and part-time positions, a 32% reduction. Elementary school students would bear the brunt, losing almost 60% of their arts instructors -- from 210 to 91. Secondary school arts staffing would drop 26%.
Before the recession hit during the 2007-08 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District had spent a decade doubling its arts spending to about $124 million. Estimated current spending after two years of cuts is about $103 million, and the "doomsday budget" would drop it to about $69 million (the figures include full-salary estimates for about 200 high school teachers who divide their time between arts and other classes).
Compounding the likely woes, said Robin Lithgow, the district's head arts administrator, are seniority requirements for layoffs that would force some arts teachers who love working with young children to transfer to high schools -- replacing laid-off younger instructors who have established themselves with teenagers. High school jobs are more plentiful because LAUSD requires a year of arts instruction for graduation.
Using the slogan, “Arts Are at the Heart of Smart,” the effort to preserve state funding includes soliciting short personal videos from individuals about how the arts have mattered in their lives, a June 11 “Save the Arts” benefit art auction and performance evening at the Cocoanut Grove, and participation in a rally Friday at 4 p.m. in Pershing Square against state cuts to education and social services.
President's Committee tackles arts education
With First Lady Michelle Obama and such celebrities as Sarah Jessica Parker lending support, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities issues a report aiming to encourage a buildup of arts education in the U.S.
Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Central Los Angeles Area High School No. 9 for the visual and performing arts in 2009. The NEA found across-the-board drops in arts education, based on 18- to 24-year-olds' responses to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau survey. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/ijjBgt
May 11, 2011 - Hoping to reverse a decades-long decline in arts education in American elementary and secondary schools, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has issued a report intended to help advocates press for more money, better teaching approaches and a fresh mind-set that doesn't treat arts learning as a frill or an afterthought, readily cut when school budgets grow tight.
While acknowledging that "the overall picture can appear bleak," the President's Committee, co-chaired by film and television producer George Stevens Jr. and theater producer Margo Lion, argues in the report, "Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools," that "a critical mass" of success stories now exists. The idea is to tell them to school boards, legislators and philanthropists in hopes of reversing drastic declines documented in a study the National Endowment for the Arts issued two months ago.
The NEA found across-the-board drops in arts education, based on 18- to 24-year-olds' responses to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau survey. Among children of a college graduate, 27% said they had never taken even one arts class, compared with 12% in 1982. For children of high school graduates, the number who'd never had any arts study rose from 30% nearly 30 years ago to 66% in 2008.
In an interview, Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and vice-chair of the President's Committee, and Rachel Goslins, the committee's executive director, said the new, 76-page report consolidates in one place a raft of studies on the benefits of arts education and a list of model programs that others can copy.
"It gives [advocates] a more solid empirical basis for making their arguments," Campbell said.
Goslins said that First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to discuss the findings Wednesday during a workshop for poetry students that she will host at the White House, in a prelude to that evening's celebration of American poetry in the East Room. Beyond that, Goslins said, "we're planning a year of outreach" in which the star-studded, 36-member arts and humanities committee aims to press the case in meetings with state and local policymakers and private funders. "One thing we can do as a presidential committee is get entree and convene folks at a very high level that some of the local arts agencies may not be able to do."
Committee members include Vogue editor Anna Wintour, actors Forest Whitaker and Sarah Jessica Parker, painter Chuck Close, L.A. architect Thom Mayne, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Creative Artists Agency managing director Bryan Lourd.
The report says that "while national leadership and more federal resources for arts education are critically important," the idea is to encourage a variety of approaches rather than launch a federally-designed national arts education program.
Among the recommendations:
• Expand and intensify the use of practicing artists as teachers, including giving them instructional training to improve their work with students and ensure that their classes dovetail with the overall curriculum.
• Promote "arts integration," in which regular classroom teachers interweave the arts with other subjects. The report acknowledges that "some advocates fear" school administrators will use arts integration as a cheap, watered-down substitute for arts courses taught by specialists.
• Develop ways to test students' arts learning, comparable to achievement tests in other subjects, and promote research that will yield "more solid information" on how arts learning affects overall academic performance and students' creative-thinking ability.
The report is posted at http://www.pcah.gov. [ smf: it also follows] Its opening summary acknowledges that, though it has been shown that students who receive strong arts education tend to do better in other subjects, it remains unproven whether studying art causes those improvements.
But in practical terms, Goslins said, the evidence is strong enough to be worth acting on. "You don't hear anybody in the [Obama] administration saying 'We don't believe there's a link.'" In his forward to "Reinvesting in Arts Education," Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan, writes that the report "shows us the link between arts education and achievement in other subjects."
But some experts say the question is not settled. Ellen Winner, who chairs the psychology department at Boston College and studies the nature of arts learning, said that while she enthusiastically supports arts education, there are holes in the research being used to make the case that students who study the arts will, as a direct result, improve in other subjects.
They may do better, Winner said — but that's probably because of other positive forces at play in their schools and their lives. While it's clear that students who take the most arts courses do better than their peers on standardized college entrance exams, she said, "you can't infer arts is causing the test scores to go up. It could be kids who take lots of arts courses are very driven students."
Winner said arts education advocates have criticized her in the past for questioning research that they feel advances their cause.
She'd rather promote arts education because, as she and a colleague, Lois Hetland, put it in a 2000 article, "the arts are a fundamentally important part of culture, and an education without them is an impoverished education leading to an impoverished society. Studying the arts should not have to be justified in terms of anything else…. they are time-honored ways of learning, knowing, and expressing."PCAH: Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools Summary and Recomme... smf: Please also see this: US Dept of Ed: A Snapshot of Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009–10