Creativity loves constraints – and there’s no bigger constraint than a lack of financial backing for arts education initiatives. With budgets up in the air, Connecticut is seeking ways to support its arts educators in cost effective ways. Below are a few strategies for messaging the National Core Arts Standards (NCAS) on a shoestring budget.
1. Communicate. Nothing is scarier than the unknown. Be transparent about what is expected of districts and what your state is doing to incorporate the new standards, if anything. Attend meetings already taking place, or convene meetings to communicate the “how and why” of NCAS. Be sure to reach out to districts of all types: rural, suburban, and urban. Solicit feedback when possible, and be prepared to adjust your strategy based on that feedback. Send out electronic newsletters and communications updating educators on the process. The more free resources you can provide educators, the less daunting NCAS will be.
2. Seek home-grown volunteers. Though nationally-recognized speakers are great for inspiring your teachers, they are not necessary for quality professional learning. Arts educators are thirsty for leadership opportunities. Recruit teachers to present your NCAS message to districts, councils, parent groups, and associations. Seek stellar arts teachers to offer professional learning and develop NCAS-aligned lesson exemplars. Teachers are eager to share and learn from one another!
3. Delegate. Connecticut’s school districts are divided into six regions supported by regional education service centers. These centers have proven to be excellent resources for disseminating the latest information on NCAS. (Oftentimes, they will have more flexible budgets, as well.) Find regional convening places for the often isolated arts educators to learn from one another. Establish “arts learning councils,” run by educators in these regions, to do the leg work on offering professional learning. Use these centers or councils to help communicate your message and ease your workload.
4. Offer webinars. Webinars are a cheap, effective way to provide your educators with professional learning. Hundreds can attend at little cost to the state – and all participants need is a computer. Webinars can be recorded and uploaded to reach a wider audience. Use your teacher volunteers to develop and present the webinars.
The moral of the story is this: find assets that already exist in your state, and collaborate with them to make the NCAS shift easier for all. You will find that the more people you involve the better for creating a robust arts education community intent on developing artistically literate citizens.
Education Consultant for the Arts
Connecticut State Department of Education
Office of Academics
Bureau of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment