5 Presidential Recommendations

5 Recommendations for Advancing Arts Education from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

In October of 2008, then-Senator Obama released a powerful Platform in Support of the Arts. In it he argued for reinvesting in American arts education, and reinvigorating the creativity and innovation that has made this country great. Taking up this charge, the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) conducted an in-depth review of the current condition of arts education, surveying recent research about its documented benefits and identifying potential opportunities for advancing arts education. In 2011, in a report titled Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities made the following five recommendations for advancing arts education.

1. Build collaborations among different approaches. The PCAH urges leaders of professional associations to work with federal and state agencies to build and demonstrate connections among different educators in the arts: art specialists working on standards-based approaches; classroom teachers trained in arts integration; and project-based teaching artists. The PCAH believes that collaborations among national leadership organizations should move beyond internal debates in the arts education field about modes of delivery of arts instruction in order to address the more pressing issues of equitable access and infusing more schools with a creativity-rich environment.
2. Develop the field of arts integration. The second recommendation focuses on an expansion of arts integration. The PCAH encourages further development of the field of arts integration through strengthening teacher preparation and professional development, targeting available arts funding, and setting up mechanisms for sharing ideas about arts integration through communities of practice. In this recommendation we identify roles for regional and state arts and education agencies as well as private funders.
3. Expand in-school opportunities for teaching artists. We strongly believe that working artists in this country represent an underutilized and underdeveloped resource in increasing the quality and vitality of arts education in our public schools. The PCAH recommends expanding the role of teaching artists, in partnership with arts specialists and classroom teachers, through sustained engagements in schools. This should include supporting high quality professional development in pedagogy and curriculum. We see an opportunity for leadership in this from the regional and state arts agencies, as well as a national service program similar to the “Artists Corps” idea articulated in President Obama’s Arts Policy Campaign platform.
4. Utilize federal and state policies to reinforce the place of arts in K-12 education. This recommendation focuses on the need for federal and state education leaders to provide policy guidance for employing the arts to increase the rigor of curriculum, strengthen teacher quality, and improve low-performing schools. Building capacity to create and innovate in our students is central to guaranteeing the nation’s competitiveness. To do this it is necessary for federal and state governments to move beyond merely “allowing” the arts as an expenditure of a comprehensive education.
5. Widen the focus of evidence gathering about arts education. Finally, while the evidence base for the benefits of the arts is compelling, there is room to expand systematic data gathering about the arts, specifically in developing creativity and enhancing engagement in school. Educators need practical tools to measure the progress of student learning in the arts — an investment that dovetails with the federal education agency’s investments in more authentic assessments of complex learning. From a federal perspective, policymakers should help stakeholders make informed arguments and decisions regarding impact and equitable access. This requires policies that support ongoing data gathering about available opportunities, including teacher quality, resources, and facilities at the local and state level.

Source: Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, by President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, May 2011 http://www.pcah.gov/sites/default/files/photos/PCAH_Reinvesting_4web.pdf

Still not sure you want to give this document a peek! Then consider Arne Duncan’s, the U.S. Secretary of Education, statement in the foreword of the document.

“President Obama has made a convincing case that innovation and education are going to help America win the future. He firmly believes that arts education builds innovative thinkers who will become our nation’s leaders in government, business, and the nonprofit sectors. For today’s students to be the innovators and economic leaders of the future, they will need to have experiences as musicians and dancers, painters and sculptors, poets and playwrights –– in short, they will need to be creative innovators who will build our nation’s economy for the future. They also will sustain a rich and vibrant culture to nourish the heart and soul of the American people, and to communicate with our neighbors around the globe.

In Reinvesting in Arts Education, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities explains why American schools are falling short in providing students the opportunity for a well-rounded curriculum and a rich arts education that will prepare them for success in the future. I encourage educators, school board members, business, and philanthropic leaders and artists to read this report and to see it as a call to action.”

While this report contains more soaring rhetoric than I am inclined toward, it carries the clout of the current administration, and for that reason alone it merits consideration in your advocacy reading.