In New York, the state mandates that twenty percent of lower elementary school needs to be spent in arts education. Twenty percent, if you do the math, is one full day a week. In New York City, few schools are compliant with the state's mandate. This means that cultural institutions in New York City have never been more important.
Cultural institutions are filling the gap where, in fact, certified teachers are supposed to be. In many cases they are providing the only theater that these students will be introduced to. While cultural institutions are doing an admirable job introducing kids to the arts, nothing replaces regular, regimented classes in schools.
Arts programming in schools is an ongoing challenge. However. the arts are not a privilege, but a right. Sadly, arts education doesn't rank high on many people's priority list. My goal has been making the arts a priority in our schools. Having said that, one of the things we have to think about is just how we judge the quality of a school's arts education program. One of the things I have talked about is a report called the "The Qualities of Quality"
by lead researcher Steve Seidel. The focus of the report is on quality teaching and learning in the arts. Basically, the report has told us that there are four indicators of quality in arts education.
One: The Environment
Is the environment appropriate for the art form being taught? If students are taking dance, is the floor appropriate? For theater, is the space flexible with movable furniture? For visual arts, does the room have a sink?
Additionally, where do the arts live in the building? Are they a priority, or are they marginalized? Are they considered a core subject or simply an enrichment?
Are the students engaged? Are they participating in art making? Are the teachers engaging? The report states that students decide to engage in the first 3–5 minutes of a lesson. If you lose them in the first 3–5 minutes, you've lost them for the entire class period.
New Victory Teaching Artist Shelah Marie leads a classroom workshop for Mother Africa
Three (the one I find particularly important): Relationships
Not just the relationship the teachers have with their students, but the relationships that the students have with one another. The teacher's job is not done if they do a good job building relationships with their students, but the students have not developed healthy relationships among themselves. The teachers must understand the importance of all relationships: relationships with parents, administrators, among and between students, and between faculty.
Four (makes people nervous): Knowledge
Do practitioners actually know what they are teaching? In some cases, we have the English teacher teaching Shakespeare. This might be the only theater class in the building! That doesn't mean the English teacher doesn't know and understand theater, but he or she is not a certified theater teacher. In some cases you have the physical education teacher introducing students to dance. Again, we might have a great physical education teacher who's good at dance, but chances are they don't have formal dance training. Knowledge is important in making sure that our teachers actually know what it is they're teaching.
The same four principles apply to the work of teaching artists. Seidel came to New York a few years back to report out some of his earlier findings. He said when teachers really knew their subject, when the students were actively engaged and when strong relationships were built–he said there was LOVE in the room. Not something that can be included in a research report, but you could feel it in the room. It's interesting to me that people frown upon using the word "love" when talking about teaching and learning. What does that say about the current state of education?
Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos | This post was originally seen on the New Vic blog in 2010.
||Russell Granet, Executive Vice President, Lincoln Center (LC), is internationally known for his work in arts and education. He oversees education, community engagement, and international at LC. An enthusiastic, respected advocate for arts education for more than 25 years, Mr. Granet joined Lincoln Center after running his own international consulting group, Arts Education Resource (AER). Since his appointment in September 2012, he has spearheaded Lincoln Center Education’s highly successful fundraising efforts, its renovation, and the rebranding initiative that simultaneously confirms Lincoln Center’s educational mission and its message of dedication to bringing quality arts to the widest possible audience.
Prior to founding AER, Mr. Granet held leadership positions at The Center for Arts Education—The NYC Annenberg Challenge; The American Place Theatre; and was a senior teaching artist in the NYC public schools. He served on faculty of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University for twenty years.
Mr. Granet has worked on projects in Argentina, Australia, Egypt, England, India, Kenya, Mexico, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey, and throughout the United States. Mr. Granet’s leadership was cited as “visionary” in the 2013 Proclamation by the City of New York and currently serves as an advisor to the NYC Mayor’s Cabinet for Children.