The “Value Added” State Arts Director

As life would have it, retirement was a short-lived experience. It had not occurred to me that, upon closing the door of public school teaching, state government would be the proverbial window that would open.
As a public school music teacher I had crossed paths with our state arts director through some projects that centered on the early renditions of state standards writing. Those of us in the music education trenches were still reeling from the first iteration and implementation of the national standards, wondering how we would address nine diverse concepts that were now being hailed as the guidelines for providing a complete and thorough arts education to students whose arts experience was delivered through a traditional “performance ensemble.” By addressing all of these standards it seemed that performing would be the last thing we might teach and students might learn! How would standards-based curriculum statements affect the “comfort zone” of traditional instructional practice in the arts? And why was the state education agency forcing us to reinvent the wheel that had just been handed to us from the national gurus? I doubt that I valued the input of our state arts director--a founding “mother” of SEADAE—and probably considered the mandates of the state education agency to be more noise than nuance, adding little value to the reality of meeting large groups of students face to face on a daily basis.
 Two decades later, as an educational consultant charged with providing some oversight to arts education curriculum and standards while developing measures of teacher effectiveness for teachers in non-tested grades and subjects, I find myself struggling with many of the same questions from my teaching days, but from a different “rung of perspective” in the educational process ladder. (Notice that I did not say “higher or lower” rung, just “different!”) I no longer am a recipient of the mandates of state government and educational policy; I now labor to help shape those mandates and policies. I no longer ask questions that reflect how my teaching life will be affected by change; I now ask questions about how the teaching lives of those who have followed me will be affected by change. I no longer look at standards in arts education as a poor thinning of tried and true performance curriculum; I now view it as an opportunity to provide rich and life-changing connections in the arts to all students in all educational settings. On a personal level, that last statement means that the value I add to the decisions that are made will affect the arts education that my grandchildren get.
For arts teachers in my home state of Pennsylvania, new national arts standards, teacher observation systems and measures of teacher effectiveness based on evidence of student achievement will all arrive at the doorstep over the next two years. For teachers in upper elementary and middle school math and English Language Arts, value-added systems will also be employed as technique toward measuring teacher effectiveness. The volume of changes that affect what teachers do, how they do it and how they will be evaluated based on product-driven outcomes is mind-boggling. As the current “overseer” of arts education in our state, what value should I seek to add to these changes in teacher practice, curriculum delivery, and to the work lives of teachers from both arts and non-arts related content areas?
Involvement with SEADAE has informed me that many of the state arts directors are involved with teacher evaluation designs in addition to work with state standards and curriculum. This leads me to wonder what our measures of “director effectiveness” might look like, and what “value added” components we are offering to the success of our state arts education professionals.
In many states, teachers in the arts are completing “student learning objectives” templates to measure teacher effectiveness based on student achievement. Embedded in these designs are “objectives” and “targets” that help to focus learning. Working with these templates causes me to reflect on the input that we as state arts leaders and directors might be evaluated:

  • What objectives and targets might state arts directors have for their state arts teachers?
  • How will we know that those objectives and targets are attainable?
  • How will we know when and to what level those objectives and targets are being achieved?
  • What projections for effectiveness in delivering a quality, standards-based arts education would we expect from our state arts teachers?
  • What resources will be needed to meet the objectives and targets?
  • How would our personal effectiveness as a state arts director be measured in a value-added system?
  • What value are we adding to the arts educators and the recipients of arts education in our state?

During next week (September 30, 2012) there will be a flurry of arts education activity taking place in the Washington DC area, with meetings of both SEADAE and NASAA (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) in process. SEADAE members are sure to be excited about the upcoming unveiling of a long awaited update to the national arts standards, and certainly stories of the lessons learned by individual states regarding implementation of new teacher evaluation systems and their affect on arts education will abound.
 I for one am thankful to SEADAE for the exemplary lead the organization has taken to guarantee that VALUE is ADDED to the ever-changing arts education landscape. The forward-thinking work of SEADAE leadership and membership has been in-value-able in helping me to understand the value I can add to the success of our state arts teachers as they begin to navigate the uncharted waters of fast-paced educational reform and improved arts instruction for ALL students!

This blog post was written by O David Deitz, Consultant, PA Department of Education. He can be reached at and the Pennsylvania Department of Education portal is located at

Posted: 09/28/2012