Arts Education Partnership Winter Forum

January 2003

Kassie Davis

The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) held its winter forum on January 26 and 27 in San Francisco. The focus of the meeting was "Critical Issues in Arts Education: Partnering with Philanthropy."

AEP was formed in 1995 through a cooperative agreement between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and is managed by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Partner organizations include arts, education, business, philanthropic, and government organizations with national scope and impact as well as state and local partnerships that promote educational policies supportive of arts education.

As a member of AEP's steering committee, I conducted seventeen interviews among arts education, arts, and education funders to help AEP staff plan the agenda for the forum. The purpose of these interviews was to determine funder interest in various arts education topics and to identify a cluster of concerns around each one.

In order of the level of interest, the highest ranked topics were:

Professional development of teachers. With the influx of new, inexperienced teachers, what methods will instill good practice, teamwork with teaching artists and arts specialists, creation of integrated curriculum and knowledge of arts disciplines? For successful professional development, buy-in at the district level is needed, as are models of high-quality professional development.
Integrated arts education. How can we insure quality teaching of both the arts discipline as well as the other subjects?

Assessment and evaluation. How can we use evaluation to determine what has an impact on student achievement? How can we assess the aesthetic process and what students get out of it? How can we get educators to pay attention to authentic assessment in a climate of high-stakes testing?

Professional development of artists. Related topics included: establishing a baseline of quality in working with arts and academic standards, working collaboratively with classroom teachers and arts specialists, management and understanding school culture, and lack of financial support to pay artists to participate in professional development.

Pre-service education of teachers and artists. Schools of education are not teaching up-to-date methods such as creating integrated curriculum, working collaboratively with artists and arts specialists, and basic knowledge of the aesthetics of arts disciplines.

The arts and whole school reform. Does it really work? Can the arts be used to reform more than just a single school building?

Community-based arts education. After-school programs need to be better linked to the school curriculum as an extension of the school day.

Early childhood education. We need standards of quality for early child- hood arts education, and we need to link it to brain development and subsequent academic outcomes.

Other topics of interest mentioned multiple times were:
Policy and advocacy. Can we unify the efforts of funders, schools, artists, and arts organizations to advocate for systemic policy change?

Systemic change. Are there case studies of foundation intervention resulting in systemic district-wide change, not just several schools, classrooms, or partnerships?

Funding to sustain arts education in schools. How can we get commitment of public funds to take good models to scale? How can programs be sustained when public and private funding is declining?

Professional development of arts organizations. Arts organizations need to be educated in the best practices of arts education because the arts are behind educational practice and other disciplines.

Funders were also asked their opinion on where the arts education field needs to go in terms of research and practice. Fifty percent of the funders interviewed thought the highest priority should be using existing research, such as Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, and translating it into short (“keep it to a page”), easy-to-understand documents that practitioners and funders can use for advocacy purposes.

Other ideas to advance the field included: undertaking new research on the intrinsic value of aesthetic education rather than research on how arts teach other subjects; focusing on improved classroom practice; and understanding the relationship of arts education to overall school outcomes.

AEP responded to the funders' interests by adding plenaries and breakout sessions. A special funders-only breakout session was also held. A complete report on the meeting is available at AEP's Web site, as is information on upcoming meetings. Funder members of AEP's steering committee have proposed continuing the special funder sessions at future winter forums. The next is scheduled for late January/early February 2004 in Dallas.

Kassie Davis is a board member, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education.