“If Arts Education is important to creating a well-rounded education, why isn’t this value reflected in policy and funding?”
I hear this question often in various meetings with arts education stakeholders from across the State and our Nation. The literature that proves the importance of the arts is numerous, the reports plentiful, yet the general health of arts education is in a state of flux depending on region, demographics, and local education climate, among numerous other challenges. Often, schools or LEAs with a rich and rigorous arts education system/curriculum are the result of a principal or superintendent who has a background in the arts themselves. The overall call to action might be for arts educators and teaching artists to transition into roles of leadership; this discussion is centered around the idea of leveraging arts education data to tell the stories of success and development taking place in our classrooms and studio spaces.
As a teaching and performing artist myself, I have struggled in the past in my understanding of how to best connect with principals, supervisors, parents, and policymakers. I knew the work I was doing had value, and that through my students’ performances and rehearsals, a unique form of “knowing” was being created - a knowing that was important to the development of these young student artists and citizens. Upon reflection and transition into my role as an arts administrator and eventually the Arts Education Program Specialist with ADE, I have since cultivated a deeper understanding of my own role in the larger ecosystem that is arts education, and how data can serve as a powerful tool for change.
I encourage our State Directors of Arts Education, our Community Partners and fellow state-level colleagues, and our arts educators and teaching artists to begin restaging or reframing the way we discuss success in our field. If our role as artists is to communicate an idea/message/theme through a creative means to an intended audience, then we must address the language and methodologies in which we engage higher-level decision and policymakers. Your work with your students is
valuable; however, the message is not being received by the majority of our education leaders. I call upon Arts Education Leaders to learn the policies, utilize the standards, and communicate student-level growth and mastery data to those in positions of influence. By large, you are already collecting this data. Through intentional restaging/reframing, the data in which you are gathering on a continual basis can be packaged to engage those in policy because the collected data communicates in ways that policymakers can understand.
Please consider looking into a full report on this project published by the Journal of Suitability Education- http://www.susted.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Loehr-JSE-Feb-2018-Arts-Issue-PDF.pdf
By Dustin Loehr
Arts Education and Title IV-A Program Specialist
SEADAE Data Committee Member
Arizona Department of Education