Building quality locally

By Edward Pauly

   Is it possible that the quality of arts learning experiences for kids will actually be improved, given the constraints others have pointedly noted?  Well, in another important piece of news from the new Rand study Revitializing Arts Education Through Community-Wide Coordination, it's not only possible, it's happening - and in ways we can all learn from.

   The cities in the Rand study, from Dallas, New York and Boston to Alameda County, Los Angeles and Chicago, are finding their own ways to build quality arts experiences for kids.  What they have in common is their effort to make quality an explicit focus of arts learning - and that's crucial, because it opens up the discussion of what quality looks like and the different ways to get there.

   - All six cities are using portfolio assessments and exhibitions to build quality and discuss what it looks like.  For example, the Boston Public Schools partnered with the Mass Cultural Council to develop and initiate grade-level assessment experiences.

   - Since many cities rely on arts organizations to enrich their arts offerings, cities are building quality by figuring out how to identify high-quality arts learning providers - so Los Angeles County's Arts for All has started asking applying arts organizations to submit streaming video of their work in schools, for review by other schools.  In Boston, after-school programs that provide arts experiences are carefully vetted before they receive contracts.

   - Peer review and modeling have stimulated and stretched arts organizations' approaches to serving kids - and they've deepened the local conversation about how to achieve high quality.  Dallas's Arts Partners has used peer review for years, and the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership in Alameda County hosts summer institutes for arts organizations and teachers to share and critique each others' ideas.

   - The creation of new kinds of curriculum supports is building quality in many places.  New York City's well-known Blueprints cover four arts disciplines and are full of ideas.  Arts for All in Los Angeles uses an interactive website with host of practitioner input to share quality-building approaches (along with model budgets, job descriptions, surveys, and strategic planning tools!) - and provides a forum for asking questions to the whole arts learning community.

   Building quality arts learning is a big challenge that lots of us shy away from - but the news is that across the country, it's a priority that local leaders are embracing and energetically pursuing.  Please take a look at Rand's Revitalizing to see if there are any ideas you can run with!

December 3, 2008 5:04 AM | | Comments (0) |

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This Conversation For decades, as teaching of the arts has been cut back in our public schools, alarms have been raised about the dire consequences for American culture. Artists and arts organizations stepped in to try to... more

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