As the 2012/2013 school year comes to a close — as instruments are returned, music archived, graduation ceremonies conducted — and plans for the upcoming year begin to take shape this is always a good time of year to take stock — of where we are, the condition of our programs, our prospects for a new year and ways we may work to improve our programs as well as the environment where our programs exist.
It would be easy to look at all the negative headlines about budget cuts, teacher evaluations, and the general negative tone toward teachers we have all read over the year. However, to focus on these issues would be a mistake. That is because they are not the true measures of the condition of our field or where we are heading.
Instead, I prefer to look at what has been reported over the past 10 days as a more legitimate sign of the future of our field.
Here are some headlines and some backstory about them from just the past two weeks:
Mayor Emanuel Announces $1 Million Investment in High-Quality Arts Education for All Chicago Public School Students
“Every child in this city deserves a quality education, no matter where they live. Incorporating the arts into all levels of education is an essential piece in helping our children thrive,” said Mayor Emanuel. “For the first time, our schools have a comprehensive Arts Education Plan that aligns them with Chicago’s Cultural Plan and opens new possibilities for our children.”
Notice Mayor Emanuel is focusing on EVERY CHILD.
This announcement demonstrates the city’s commitment to a long-range plan to bring music and arts education back to all students. Components of the plan include:
- Dedicated weekly arts instructional time: 120 minutes/week for elementary school students and increased arts credit options for high school students;
- Significant increases in professional development and training for teachers, principals and arts partners;
- Increased community partnerships for schools, tapping the resources of Chicago's cultural institutions and community organizations; and
- Increased funding assistance and strategies to ensure arts instruction in every school, including diversifying the types of arts offerings in schools and increasing dedicated supplies and resources.
Not to be outdone, the Mayor of Seattle decided to get in on the act:
Mayor McGinn Joins with Seatle Public Schools to Invest in Arts Education
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced that every student in the Central Pathway of SPS will “receive a minimum of two hours per week of arts education programming, as well as support for the purchase of instruments and other arts supplies for classrooms,” according to a press release on the plan.
“This investment will allow us to deepen our existing partnership with Seattle Public Schools to improve access to arts education for all students in our community” said Mayor McGinn. “Arts education has been consistently shown to improve educational outcomes, increase attendance rates and decrease discipline rates.”
Source: West Seattle Herald May 14, 2013
Probably one of my favorite stories of the year is this one from NBC News:
Principal Fires Security Guards to Hire Arts Teachers — and Transforms Elementary School
In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, principal Andrew Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.
“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don't want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”
But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.
The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.
Lastly, I share with you what I believe is the single greatest music education advocacy stunt ever:
Chris Hadfield Leads Huge Singalong from Space
International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield led a high-tech concert Monday, joining thousands of young voices from around the world — with his own voice from space.
Students, musicians and other participants across Canada and as far away as Singapore and Australia sang along with Hadfield, belting out ISS — Is Somebody Singing?, the song Hadfield co-wrote with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, to celebrate the ninth edition Music Monday, an annual celebration put on by the Coalition for Music Education.
This year, the event was a partnership with CBC Music and the Canadian Space Agency.
Source: CBC News
My point in all of this is to show everyone the evidence behind my personal opinion that the best days for arts education are ahead of us… not behind. Sure the environment is changing and yes we must continue to be vigilant, to organize our parents and community members to advocate for our programs as well as stay informed of the important educational issues of our day.
That said, as I have demonstrated above, more and more people “get it” about the importance of music and the arts for EVERY child. And now, more and more people in positions of power to DO SOMETHING to improve the conditions of arts education actually are.
Our job is to seize upon these advancements and use them to our own benefit in schools and communities across the nation.
So as you bring the curtain down on one school year and make preparations to raise the curtain on the next my question to you is this:
How will you do a better job advocating and developing advocates for your program for the upcoming year?
Email me your ideas at bob@artsedresearch,org or hit me up on twitter @bobmorrison and I will share them with everyone in my September column and online.