Monthly Archives: July 2015

Breaking News: Senate Vote is a Big Win for Arts Education

The United States Senate has passed its bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), by a final vote count of 81 to 17. The Senate’s action today is an important step forward in ensuring that all students-regardless of their socioeconomic status-experience the demonstrable positive impact that arts education has on learning and life.

Here is a sampling of reactions:

From NAfME:

By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.

The music education community has worked tirelessly to get the Senate’s bill to this point. Music education advocates have sent more than 14,000 letters to Capitol Hill on behalf of music teachers and students. There is bipartisan support for music and arts in this legislation– senators from across the country are acknowledging that these subjects should be national education priorities.

“It is our strong hope that a motivated Congress will remain focused on ensuring that music education orchestrates success in the lives of all students throughout America,” said Michael Butera, NAfME Executive Director and CEO. “Music energizes and elevates, it makes schools better, and it creates better employees and citizens, later on in life. We look forward to working with Congress to get a good bill across the finish line.”


From NAMM:

During closing remarks on S.1177, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) expressed support for the bill and noted that the Senate was able to reach consensus on the urgent need to fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind). He stated that the bill keeps academic measures, while turning the rest of decisions over education to states and school districts that are closer to students, parents and communities. This point is relevant to our mission of strengthening access to music education and is empowered by the bill’s inclusion of the definition of core academic subjects, including music and the arts. He went on to say that over the past few years there has been a national school board and S.1177 will reverse that by putting an end to waivers, required evaluations, and adequate yearly progress. Ranking Committee Democrat Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) noted that under the current law there has been an over emphasis on test scores and that S.1177 will eliminate the one-size-fits-all approach, enabling teachers and parents to have a say in the education of students and to the goal of providing all students with a well-rounded education. She expressed that they have worked together to maintain federal protections in the bill to ensure that students graduate prepared to succeed. Finally, Senator Murray (D-WA) said that she will continue to work in conference to address accountability measures, a sticking point for civil rights groups.


From Americans for the Arts

In a statement, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts said, “Arts education leaders across the country are looking for federal leadership, certainty, and support to ensure access to the arts for all students, in school and out of school. Today, we all can take pride in seeing a huge step toward achieving this goal with the Senate’s action. There is hope for an end to the current patchwork of state waivers, and to advance policy to enable every child to receive a complete education that includes the arts.”


Next Steps:

The next step in the process is for the Senate and House to begin a formal conference process to develop a consensus bill which will need to be passed in both chambers. Senator Alexander indicated negotiations with the House will begin in a few weeks. This will be a challenging process as the House version of ESEA reauthorization (H.R. 5, Student Success Act) narrowly passed the House last week with no Democratic votes and many dissenting votes by Republicans . The consensus bill just passed in the Senate strengthens their negotiating position, but the task of crafting a bill in conference that can pass the House will be difficult. In addition, a bill will ultimately go to the President for signature and the Administration is insisting on a legislative product that addresses inequality (the core mission of ESEA) and strengthens accountability.

While there is certainly much to celebrate getting this far down the road in the process… there is still a long way to go through the conference process and hopefully to the President for signature. The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership will be working with our colleagues at the national level to provide you with the latest information in the process and how YOU can make a difference.
Best regards,

Bob Morrison
New Jersey Arts Education Partnership

The Beat: A New Ally for Arts in State

The Beat: A New Ally for Arts in State

New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Launches as Independent Group

Arts Education for All-New Statewide Advocacy Organization
New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Launches as Independent Group

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2015

Contact: Kristin Wenger

Phone: 973-­327-­2090

After eight years operating as a program within other groups, the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) has incorporated to become an independent non-profit focused on bringing the benefits of an education in the arts to every student in every school across the state.

While the legal structure may be new the work of the organization is not.

NJAEP was created to be the unified voice for arts education, established in 2007 following years of planning and input by arts and education leaders statewide. The core beliefs that shaped the Partnership’s beginning remain the same today: a) arts education is essential to basic knowledge and a fundamental right of every citizen in our schools and across our communities, and b) the collective voice of diverse stakeholders is the most effective means for advancing the arts in education.

Launched in conjunction with the release of the first-ever Arts Education Census Report, the Partnership’s first task was to focus on carrying out the recommendations of the Report. To date, the efforts of NJAEP have led to increased access to arts education for more than 75,000 students.

“One of the Council’s proudest moments was founding the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership back in 2007 alongside our partners: Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and the Music for All Foundation,” stated Nick Paleologos, Executive Director of New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “The idea for NJAEP sprung from the Council’s first Arts Education Summit back in 2004, and has been putting up a string of other “firsts” ever since: the first statewide arts education census; the first interactive arts education web tool; and the first state to include the arts in the annual school report card. This important moment is a tribute to the most talented collection of arts education practitioners in the country and yet another reason that New Jersey continues to lead the way.”

Since 2007, NJAEP has had a significant impact on arts education across the state:

· In 2007, NJAEP released the first state wide census report on the status and condition of arts education providing accountability for state policies and highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement;
· NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education to include arts education in local school district accountability reviews;
· In 2009, NJAEP coordinated the revision of Core Curriculum Content Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts – the document used to guide the development of local arts curriculum;
· In 2012, NJAEP worked with other subject area associations to protect the role of non-tested subjects as part of the states Core Curricular Content Standards;
· In 2014, NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education to include arts education measures as part of the School Performance Reports released for every school becoming the first state in the nation to have such measures; and,
· In 2014 and 2015 NJAEP released a series of interactive dashboards to allow citizens to review and compare arts education information for every school in the state.

“The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats eloquently acknowledged that ‘education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire,’” stated Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. “High quality arts education practices designed and led by nonprofits such as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership have sparked teacher innovation and student creativity across New Jersey. NJAEP is central to all of Dodge’s arts education strategies and continues to be an important partner in ensuring that every New Jersey child has access to a quality arts education.”

New Jersey adopted its first set of core curriculum content standards in the arts in 1996. In short, all districts are expected to provide opportunities for learning in four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and visual arts through sequential arts instruction from grades k-12. Ensuring that these standards are thoroughly understood and implemented throughout the state is among the NJAEP’s highest priorities.
“Working to uphold these content standards has been incredibly gratifying,” says Kristin Wenger, Director of NJAEP, “And we’ve seen access to the arts rise dramatically. Since our inception, we’ve worked to restore arts education for 75,000 New Jersey students.”

Conducting and disseminating research has been a focus for NJAEP. By documenting arts education in every school, NJAEP has been able to issue two statewide school-by-school census reports, added the arts to the NJ School Performance Reports, and has created interactive Arts Education Report Cards. In addition, NJAEP’s accomplishments include: identifying Model Schools in the Arts; becoming a central clearinghouse of information for all arts education resources and services in New Jersey; working closely with a diverse group of stakeholders; becoming the presenting organization for the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education; and, providing professional development for teachers and school administrators.

But there is more work to be done to assure that arts education becomes part of the core curriculum for every child.

“The good news is, 97% of New Jersey students have access to arts education in their schools, and access to arts education is on the rise,” says Bob Morrison, Chairman of the NJAEP board of directors, “However, the majority of schools fail to offer instruction in all four mandated disciplines, per pupil arts spending has decreased and educators across the state are grappling with the rising tide of Common Core standards and state-mandated tests leading to the unintended consequences of displacing the value of creative work and decreased time and access for arts education. We need to change this dynamic from the focus on testing to a focus on a well-rounded education.”

NJAEP continues to strive for its original vision: arts education for every child, every day, every school, every year. As an independent organization, it will continue to raise the bar, and champion arts education for every child at every stage of learning.

The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) was originally founded in 2007 as a cosponsored program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and Music for All Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Prudential Foundation, and ArtPride New Jersey. The mission of the NJAEP is to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.

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Like a Bird Without Wings

Like a Bird Without Wings

Music, Arts, Education, and History

A Story as Told by the National Mall in Washington, DC

As interpreted by Robert B. Morrison

It had been an incredibly invigorating week in Washington DC and my mind just would not turn off. More than seventy music and arts education advocates had been convened by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) for their annual “fly in.” This was a chance to meet with our members of Congress to help advance arts education in the United States.

Between the training and events, food, more events, music, more food, press conferences, fabulous speakers (The legendary Congressman John Lewis, Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Yankee Legend Bernie Williams, Political Pollster Charlie Cook, Actor Doc Shaw and Opera Star Carla Dirlikov), did I mention food – we had been busy. On Wednesday, we culminated our time together by spending the day lobbying for music and arts education with our congressional leaders.

On our first evening together, Congressman John Lewis regaled us with stories from his youth in Troy Alabama. He spoke of raising chickens, segregation, and his calling to the civil rights movement. He spoke of Selma and Dr. King. Of the violence in the south to the historic moment on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and the famous words… “I have a Dream.”

He then looked up at all of us and stated:

“Without Music, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”

It would take some time for the gravity of those words to truly sink in.

After two days of meetings and making the case for music and arts education with our nation’s leaders the excitement and adrenaline rush would just not subside. I was back at my hotel (on New Jersey Avenue no less) and I just could not sleep. As the night wore on I tossed and turned. A brief doze here and a short one there. By 5:30 AM I had had enough. Determined to do something useful I decided I would go for a walk/jog (to work off some of the food, of course).

Seeing that we were only a few blocks from the National Mall I decided to shun my hotel treadmill routine, put on my shorts, workout shirt and sneakers and headed down to Constitution Avenue where I entered the mall at the very foot of the capitol steps. I decided to walk from the Capital to the Lincoln Memorial and back then head to Starbucks for my morning green tea.

As I entered that great green lawn of the National Mall my brain was still on overload with thoughts racing by a mile a minute. I decided to shun my routine of listening to music to just walk/jog in silence so I could take in the sights and sounds as I tried to organize the jumble going on inside my head.

My family and I had lived in Northern Virginia twenty years ago. We had been on the National Mall dozens of times for fun and dozens more for work. This time, something was different.

What stuck me immediately was something I had never seen or heard at the Mall. SILENCE! There were no cars, no tourists, no mega buses, no joggers, no construction, no whistles, no families with pets or kids running across blankets.

The place was empty.

Not one person appeared for as far as I could see. It was like having the entire National Mall all to myself! Then I noticed some sounds. What was that? Birds! They were chirping from the forest of trees that line both sides of the Mall and with their call they invited me to see our nations capital through a new set of eyes.

I began my walk toward the Washington Monument and my frenetic brain activity began to organize itself… almost as if this great historic national park was calling to me eager to share a story… so I listened.

As I traversed the Mall I passed the National Museum of Art on one side and the Air and Space Museum on the other. Places that celebrate both our creativity and imagination that literally transcend both time (centuries!) and space (on our own planet and beyond). On my left appeared the National Museum of the American Indian and the celebration of the history and culture of this continent’s great native people. Next came the Hirshhorn Museum which houses so many great works of contemporary art.

I continued on, passing on my right the National Museum of Natural History with our nation’s natural wonders and then to the National Museum of American History filled with our man made wonders and home to that most iconic of all flags, the Star Spangled Banner; the flag that flew high over fort McHenry signaling the country had survived the night in what could have been the downfall of the fledgling republic in September of 1814, and the inspiration for what is now our national anthem.

A musical and artistic theme was starting emerge in my mind. This idea of the connection between music and arts education and our great national history began to reveal itself to me as I passed the National Museum of American History was fitting since this is also the home to one of the great musical instrument collections.

Just past the Museum of American History and rising from the Mall to my right was the still under construction museum of African American History and Culture… the soon to be home for cultural icons like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, Chuck Berry’s car and Leadbelly’s songbook.

From there I went to the Washington Monument and thought about the man who was our greatest Army General and our first President. I thought of fifes and drums calling our Revolutionary soldiers to battle under his command. I also thought of his duets playing the flute with his granddaughter. I looked to my left to see the Jefferson Memorial and the silhouette of the statuesque Jefferson in the soft gray morning haze of the Potomoc. I thought of him playing his violin and the importance he placed on the arts in his own life.

I turned to my left to see the south portico of the White House which brought back the memory of its first inhabitant, John Adams. His voice was suddenly in my head:

“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”

– Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, post 12 May 1780

And then I remembered my own experience sitting under a huge white tent on the south lawn of the White House in the fall of 1999 where I was executive producing a live Concert for Music Education. My good friend and colleague Joe Lamond (NAMM CEO) was in the tent with me. President Clinton climbed upon the stage to tell HIS story of the important roll of music in his life and then uttered these words historic words:

“I would not have become President if it were not for my school music teachers.”

As this phrase and the southern drawl through which they were replayed faded from my memory I continued from the Washington Monument staring out to the Lincoln Memorial to see nothing between us… no people or noise… just some ducks, their ducklings and this story our National Mall was committed to telling me.

I entered into the reverent World War II Memorial and was awestruck by its beauty. The fountains were running, breaking the silence of the dawn. Iron wreaths hung over each pillar in tribute to every state and territory. I went to the left center pavilion constructed to honor the war in the pacific. I passed the inscription honoring Pearl Harbor and then entered the pavilion and stood in awe of the massive eagles holding a horizontal wreath above my head. I then looked below to see the inscription “Victory on Land, Victory in the Air and Victory at Sea.” It was here that I heard the words of Winston Churchill. During World War II, Britain’s finance minister recommended to Winston Churchill that they cut arts funding in order to better support the war effort. Churchill’s reply was clear and to the point:

“Then what are we fighting for?”

I then continued on my journey toward the stoic statues of the Korean War Memorial slogging through the muck and mire to my left and the elegant angled black marble wall paying tribute to those who fought and died in the Vietnam War to my right.

Indeed… what are we fighting for?

I walked along the reflecting pool and started to contemplate my journey this week. I then came to the Lincoln Memorial and started to climb the steps. As I reached the top of the steps I passed through those huge marble columns and entered the Memorial to look at President Lincoln in complete and total peace and quiet. No people, no sounds, no crowds. I read the inscription over his head. And then turned to my left to read the poetry of the Gettysburg Address chiseled into the white marble wall.

I walked back out between those same marble columns and looked out upon the still empty vista, across the vast reflecting pool to the Washington Monument and Nation’s Capitol in the distance beyond. I stood on the place where Martin Luther King stood some 50 years prior. Where his noble Lieutenant John Lewis stood by his side.

I felt a shiver.

And then, finally, the scramble in my brain started to make sense.

You see, John Lewis stood before us just three days earlier… himself a living statue to the great struggle for civil rights. He was a partner with Dr. King and is now a sitting Congressman from Georgia. He spoke about the struggle for civil rights, his life growing up in the segregated south, his efforts to raise chickens and his struggle to raise his people.

Reflecting on his past, his own place in history and this specific moment in time he uttered those words:

“Without Music, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”

The words came back to me and hit me hard as I stood on that spot, Dr. King’s spot, John Lewis’s spot on the Lincoln Memorial.

What this great National Mall had revealed to me on this morning, the sense it had made of my scrambled brain activity was this:

Our collective national, state and local efforts on behalf of music and arts for everyone are connected in real and meaningful ways to the through lines of our great national history.

We are just one small part of a much larger continuum; we are fulfilling the desires and dreams of our both our founding fathers and world leaders of our recent past that traverse across our history for centuries with a centrality to our humanity I had not really understood before.

The Mall reminded me how we had new icons in our midst as we tackled the current educational challenges of our time — From Congressman Lewis who spoke on our first night, to Bernie Williams (former Yankee now suiting up for the music and arts education team) who walked the halls of Congress with us. And sitting with us through it all, advising and counseling us throughout the week was the person I have placed on my own personal Mount Rushmore of individuals who have gone above and beyond for music and arts education, Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley. He is the man who when he had the chance showed true leadership by making music and the arts a core subject in federal law some twenty two years ago.

All of us who gathered in Washington, and indeed the thousands of people back in their own homes who advocate for music and arts education are just the current keepers of the flame… working to keep the dreams of our forefathers alive by protecting and advancing the right of this and the next generation of citizens to a complete education that includes music and the arts and to whom we shall pass this torch for them to carry on for the next.

We are building our chapter of this larger story and have been given great gifts of support, information and guidance to make a difference in Washington and our own communities right now.

We are the keepers of the flame handed down from our forefathers. Our job, our obligation, and yes our duty is to not let them down.




Blog: More than Meetings

More than Meetings:

They’re on your calendar nearly every day. They can be time consuming and disruptive. An average American employee of a mid-size company can spend over 40% of their work week in meetings; taking them away from the task at hand, and — potentially — more than a little frustrated. But we don’t look at meetings that way.

At the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, we have the great fortune of sitting down with arts and education leaders across the state on a regular basis. At these times, we share information, we learn about the challenges and opportunities in the arts education landscape, and we collaborate with valuable partners.

Nick Paleologos, Executive Director of The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, has become an invaluable colleague at these convenings, including a meeting held recently in Trenton at the NJSCA offices.

The day was wet and raw, but – among a gathering of dedicated arts education partners – the take-away buoyed us all: thanks to so much hard work, arts and education continue to thrive in New Jersey.

Nick put it this way:

“I don’t think in my professional lifetime I’ve ever worked with a more thoughtful and effective group of arts education practitioners than the people sitting around this NJAEP table. It is both exhilarating and humbling for me because what is happening here in New Jersey—because of your vision, and just plain hard work, is a shining example for the rest of the country. The focus, clarity, eloquence and persistence you have shown for more than a decade is truly an amazing story of how like-minded advocates can get big important things done together—one meeting at a time!”

Thanks, Nick. We’re looking forward to sitting down with you again soon.

10 Points About Arts Education by Elliot Eisner

Elliot Eisner was a visionary in the field of arts and education. He maintained that the arts were critical to developing skills in young students:

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.

Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it
is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution

and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.

One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity.

Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know.

The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects.

The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material.

All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

 8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said.

When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling. 

10. The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press.

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