Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Beat Newsletter: April 2016

Spring is Popping-up and so is the #ArtsEdNow Campaign

New Grade Weighting Law: What You Can Do NOW!

On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed A311 (Public Law 2015, CHAPTER 262), the Arts Education Grade Weighting Bill, into law!

The law’s enactment is the culmination of nearly nine years of work. The issue of unequal grade weighting was first illuminated in the 2007 Census report Within Our Power. The report showed more than 20% of high schools reported unequal grade weighting of arts courses. The arbitrary and unequal grade weighting between similar courses creates an artificial barrier to students who have a desire to participate in the arts. When a school district applies unequal weighting for equal courses students are forced to choose between their passion and their grade point average and class rank. This is not only unfair… but it flies in the face of our own educational expectations. We are now at the final step of removing this barrier once and for all.

The final step is action by local school districts! For implementation for the 2016/2017 school year it is important to START NOW!

Here are some suggestions:

For Teachers:

– Review the current course offerings

– Determine which courses may qualify for advanced, honors or AP weighting. This could include advanced courses with prerequisites (AP Art, Advanced design, AP Music Theory), audition only ensembles (like Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Advanced Chorus)

– Meet with your curriculum supervisor. Share with them the new law and the list of courses suggested for additional weighting.

– Determine the local process to have the weighting changed

For Parents/Citizens:

– Check with the arts education faculty if there are courses that may qualify for increased weighting – Email the head of curriculum and copy the superintendent a copy of the new law and ask for them to outline the process for review of arts courses for proper weighting

– Share the information with other parents and hold the administration accountable for following through with the review process

– To be clear, this is not a complicated process. However, you must start now. The administration has the legal authority to change the weighting to come into alignment with the law. They may make these changes all the way up to the start of the new school year on July 1, 2016.

The text of new law is as follows:

P.L.2015, CHAPTER 262

AN ACT concerning the calculation of pupil grade point averages and supplementing chapter 35 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

  1. a. A school district shall weight courses in the visual and performing arts equally with other courses of the same level of academic rigor and worth the same number of credits in calculating a pupil’s grade point average.
  1. As used in this section, “academic rigor” means a course’s classification as a general education course, an honors course, or an advanced placement course.

This act shall take effect immediately and shall first apply to the first full school year following the date of enactment.

State Policy Pilot Program Spring Convening Report

In March, the NJ State Policy Pilot Program (SP3) team visited Washington, D.C. for the bi-annual cohort meeting of the participating 10 states. This program, funded by Americans for the Arts (AFTA), is a three-year pilot program to strengthen arts education by advancing state policy. In addition to New Jersey, the states participating are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

The focus of the NJ project is the ArtsEdNow campaign and the survey created to capture the knowledge of and involvement in the arts and arts education for the candidates running for school board.

Our NJ team has been noted for its strength and breadth and includes: Nick Paleologos and Robin Middleman of the NJ State Council on the Arts, Dale Schmid of the NJ Department of Education, Wendy Liscow of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Mary Reece of the Foundation for Educational Administration, Ann Marie Miller of ArtPride NJ, Danielle Farrie of the Education Law Center and the NJAEP.

The recent meeting in Washington marked the halfway point of the project. The gathering allowed the NJ team to spend time with Ennis Carter of Social Impact Studios to plan for the launch of the ArtsEdNow campaign. We also met with the AFTA evaluators – who continue to be impressed by the accomplishments of the NJ project. However, as we have found in the past, the greatest benefit of these gatherings is the opportunity to share and learn from the other cohort states. The NJ team spent several hours meeting with members from the California team to learn about the STEAM initiative in their state. From their experience we learned of other state models and best practices to bring to our work in NJ. This gave us priceless information from the folks who have been doing the work – an invaluable afternoon. We look forward to continuing to share our work with the other states and will continue to reach out to others to strengthen arts education here is NJ.

An outgrowth of the SP3 works happens on April 11 at NJ Principals and Supervisors Association. The professional development session – Achieving Title 1 Goals: The Role of Arts Education includes – Laura Smyth, Lead Consultant, Title 1 Initiative, California Alliance for Arts Education. The connections we made through SP3 brings California’s work to NJ to inform administrators on how arts education can be an asset to schools receiving Title 1 funds. Studies find that integrating the arts with instruction in other academic subjects increases student learning and achievement and helps teachers more effectively meet the needs of all students.

We are excited to have made this connection between California and NJ and will continue to connect with the other SP3 states as the project moves to the next phase.


Blog: #STEAM Stories from the Garden State

2000-01-01-00.01.18-3STEAM EmPOWERment showcases the work of several schools in the Paterson Public Schools. Photo via steamempowerment.blogspot.com.

Conversations about STEAM, both in New Jersey and throughout the United States, are frequently taking place in educational circles.  STEAM — an acronym that has become synonymous with learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — is regarded by many as a worthwhile and impactful approach to learning. As with other issues related to the arts in education, New Jersey continues to make positive inroads with this topic. With educational leaders throughout the state publicly recognizing the value of STEAM learning, the support and infrastructure for hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experiences continues to grow.  To view a video from EdCamp STEAM, a professional development event held at the Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick  Click on this link

One way to think about STEAM is through the lens of arts integration: the application of one or more arts disciplines enabling students to make deep and meaningful connections with concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. For those already familiar with the long tradition of arts integration there is probably little surprise that the STEAM model has captured the attention of educators and educational leaders. With STEAM learning responsible for many positive outcomes, there seems to be just cause for the recognition it receives these days. As an instructional model, arts integration has been regarded as highly effective for decades.

Countless examples of STEAM learning take place throughout New Jersey. The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership looks for stories and details about the inspired STEAM projects practitioners develop. For example, GE Wilson Elementary in Hamilton was featured on NJTV’s Classroom Close-up recently, with a highlight on the school’s interactive murals.

The time spent creating the artwork is not only highly engaging for students, but once complete, the murals become artifacts that teachers employ to reinforce other subjects. One of the murals at GE Wilson is used to help students better understand the lifecycle of plants, while another is used as a teaching tool in 3rd grade math classes. Large-scale group projects like these represent one approach to STEAM learning.

Other STEAM projects increase students’ exposure to cultural resources in the community. This was the case on March 7, when a reception was held at the Paterson Museum in Paterson featuring a student STEAM Art Exhibition. The event was a remarkable opportunity to showcase students’ artistic accomplishments, as well as the significant learning that has taken place. The artwork resulted from cross-disciplinary learning, which was supported by William Paterson University’s Professor In Residence STEAM initiative.

Last fall, during the New Jersey School Boards Association conference there was a session devoted to a multi-year STEAM project in Beach Haven. Details about the project can be found on a blog that documents the process; a process that stretched beyond the walls of the school building. For example, in order to write an original script that would culminate in a student performance at a local theater, the young playwrights sought input from members of the community who had lived through two epic storms: one in 1962 and the other in 2012. Students engaged in the project were learning about science through the lens of island ecology.

These examples, and myriad others taking place throughout New Jersey, demonstrate the how the process of learning and the learning environment are both enlivened and expanded through STEAM. Fortunately, with support received from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, STEAM programs like those in Paterson, Beach Haven, and other communities can continue to thrive.

Do you have a favorite example of STEAM learning you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear about it.

Please visit the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Facebook page and post videos or photos with a short description of the project…or projects. If you have a blog that features examples of student work, feel free to include that, too. Let’s try to collect the most shining examples of STEAM stories from the Garden State.





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