Category Archives: Featured

The Beat: Arts Ed NJ’s Monthly Newsletter – November 2017

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What Does an Arts Ed Now Ambassador Look Like? – Arts Ed Now Teacher Contest

As part of the Arts Ed Now campaign, we asked educators in New Jersey to create a three-photo storyboard to describe what it means to be an Ambassador. Here is what our winners had to say on social media. Meet the Winners!

1st Place: High School

Cumberland Regional High School

Elisabeth Campbell, Drama Academy Teacher

“Arts education is so important for all children.  I always find that the students who participate in arts related activities in school are the ones who are the innovators of the future.  The arts are all about being creative and being collaborative, both of which are necessary to succeed in life.  Your campaign is so important for raising awareness about how necessary it is to have the arts in education.  I am so grateful for programs such as yours. “

Hello!  My name is Elisabeth Campbell and I am the Drama Academy teacher at Cumberland Regional High School.  We have a Drama Academy that has 4 levels (Drama Academy 1, Drama Academy 2, Drama Academy 3, and Drama Academy 4), in addition to having two elective courses (Drama/Public Speaking, Advanced Drama) for non-academy students.  I teach the entire Academy courses and the Drama/Public Speaking courses, so I teach grades 9-12.  This is my 14th year teaching at Cumberland.  When I started, there was only one section of the Drama/Public Speaking class. I saw that there was a need for more sections and more levels and I collaborated with a former colleague to help create the Drama Academy program.  Our students perform a fall play and spring musical each year.  They also participate in the annual Shakesperience competition at Rider University in May.  We were also selected to be a part of the Adopt-A-School Program at Papermill Playhouse, and we will be hosting a teaching artist this year.

I am excited to say that our program has grown into one that is very comprehensive and helps prepare students for careers in the performing arts.

1st Place: Middle School

South Orange Middle School

Jake Ezzo, Choral Director

“I participated in this contest because I have made it my mission to re-define what a middle school choral program consists of. Simply put, arts education is the only domain in which students have complete agency in the art that they create. Even though each ensemble strives for common goals in repertoire pieces for public performance, each child also has personal goals which creates both group and individual agency. ”

About the Program-

Led by Mr. Ezzo, a Westminster Choir College alumni, the 300 member+,South Orange Middle School (SOMS) choral department seeks to redefine what a middle school choral experience is in the 5 different choirs offered to students. Mr. Ezzo came to SOMS in 2013-2014, and immediately began rebuilding the choir program from 11 6-8 in the past to 370+ last year. In the current school year, choir members have organized a benefit concert for hurricane victims and invited other schools, local bands, and even Broadway performers to help raise money for this cause. Choir members participate in 8 concerts throughout the year, and our select choirs travel to 6 flags for a competition, where they have scored a 99 and 100 last school year.

New for 2017-2018, Mr. Ezzo hopes to make the SOMS Chorus department the first S.T.E.A.M.(Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classroom in the state of New Jersey. Currently, Mr. Ezzo has introduced LittleBits (a modular STEM-based building system) and project-based learning into the 6th grade choral curriculum, and also has started an afterschool Robotics club to help empower students, especially girls, into the field of S.T.E.M!

Student choice and a strong community culture are absolutely key for the success of the choral program. An 8th grade executive board of 8 diverse students help make all we do possible, assist Mr. Ezzo in planning, come up with fundraising and programming ideas, and perform community outreach. Students regularly conduct, arrange, accompany, write, and perform solos for the community through the program.

2nd Place: Middle School

Crockett Middle School

Lora Marie Durr, Artist / Educator

The goal of the art department is to make it clear to all visitors of the building that arts education matters to Crockett students and staff! By creating larger-scale collaborative artwork, such as the examples in the photos we shared, students are able to make their learning visible to all who view it.  “

I am Lora Marie Durr – art teacher at Crockett Middle School (Hamilton Township School District, Mercer County). I teach 6-7-8 arts and have been here since 2001!

I love creating projects with my students, which are collaborative and involve our school community. The photos I included were part of what the art department contributed to back to school night – a scavenger hunt that encouraged parents to look closely at our student-created public art and a Photo Booth for parents and staff members to enjoy.

In addition to teaching, I paint – I recently had a piece accepted into the NAEA juried members exhibit. I am on the Board of Directors for AENJ and was named my building teacher of the year last year.

Arts Ed NJ congratulates these educators for winning the Arts Ed Now storyboard contest!

These Ambassadors have shown us how a student’s learning is enriched as a result of their advocacy and hard work.


The Beat: Arts Ed NJ’s Monthly Newsletter – October 2017

Prepare to be wowed. Arts Ed NJ has so much to share in this issue of The Beat.  Connect to the findings of the Rutgers-Eagleton Public Opinion Poll on Arts Education.  Spend time reviewing the outcomes of the NJ Arts Education Census Report.



Arts Ed NJ recognizes that understanding candidates’ views on arts education is important to voters. A healthy arts education ecosystem depends on many factors, and support of arts education by school board members represents a critical part of the ecosystem. Their support contributes to the thriving programs, student performances and memorable arts events that shape our communities.

As part of the ArtsEdNow campaign, Arts Ed NJ previously known as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership conducted the 2017 New Jersey School Board Candidate Survey on Arts Education. All 2,000 candidates for School Board across New Jersey were contacted and invited to share their views about arts education with the voters in their district. Many candidates provided detailed responses to the questions. Some of the candidates vividly described their own experiences with the arts.The survey was conducted as a public service, to help voters make informed decisions.


With the November election just around the corner, please consider passing along this information to others. Help us spread the word!

Education Leaders Assemble to Strategize on Increasing Arts Education Participation in All New Jersey Schools

Nearly 200 New Jersey Arts education leaders and education officials gathered at “Arts Ed Summit 2017” to chart the future direction for arts education in the state. The day-long event was held at the Foundation for Education Administration Center in Monroe Township on September 28.

Set against a backdrop of inspiring student artwork and performances, the Summit provided an energizing forum for discussions about strategies to increase student participation in Arts Education in all schools in New Jersey. Participants were particularly encouraged by recent findings from the 2017 Rutgers-Eagleton Public Opinion Survey released on September 14 that revealed nearly all New Jerseyans (90%) believe that arts education is important for all students. Equally promising were results from the 2017 New Jersey Arts Education Census Report released on September 20 that found that New Jersey is now reaching the point of “universal access” to arts education for all students.

Opening remarks were provided by Dr. Dale Schmid, Visual & Performing Arts coordinator for New Jersey’s State Department of Education, Nick Paleologos, executive director, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and Robert Morrison, co-director, Arts Ed NJ.

“Along with knowledge comes responsibility and so now it’s our responsibility to take the next step forward and that’s what today is about,” said Dr. Schmid. “To help ensure equity access to everybody, and to close that gap.”

“The future of arts education in our state begins here. Active participation in arts education for every student is our goal. This is our time and it’s time for Arts Ed Now for every child in every school,” said Mr. Morrison. “Our journey began 30 years ago when Governor Tom Kean signed a bill creating the Literacy and Arts Task Force with the goal of providing arts education for all children in New Jersey. The headline findings from this report was this: that arts education in New Jersey deserves barely a passing grade. Well, I’m pleased to say that that’s no longer the case. We moved from ‘barely a passing grade’ to being a national leader in arts education.”

The first panel discussion, moderated by Chris Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation was on “Arts Education in 2017 and Beyond,” and featured Rose Acerra, New Jersey PTA; Marie Blistan, New Jersey Education Association; Dr. Richard Bozza, New Jersey Association of School Administrators; Dr. Larry Feinsod, New Jersey School Boards Association and Patricia Wright, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

Remarking on the recent New Jersey Arts Education Census Report, Dr. Feinsod cautioned: “As far as the Census results are concerned there are a lot of very positive findings but it is distressing that in the lower socioeconomic districts, there is less spent per pupil on arts education. That disturbs me. We all know that poverty is not a friend of education so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do something.”

A second panel discussion, “Successful Strategies – Four Approaches to Transforming Schools” was moderated by Wendy Liscow, education program director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and featured panelists Adrienne Hill, Hedgepeth/Williams Middle School of the Arts, Trenton; Shawna Longo, Hopatcong Borough Schools, Hopatcong; Corey Petit, West Avenue School, Bridgeton, and Lisa Vartanian, Paramus Public Schools, Paramus.

When asked what advice she would give to everyone on how to keep Arts Education participation moving forward, Ms. Hill was direct: “Be persistent. Do not give up. When people tell you that you can’t do it, or that there’s no money, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The luncheon address featured Argine Safari, the 2017 New Jersey Teacher of the Year who presented a steady stream of video testimonials by students who have been positively impacted by the Arts in New Jersey schools.

The highlight of the summit was an inspiring keynote address by Sir Ken Robinson, who works with governments, education systems, international agencies, global corporations and some of the world’s leading cultural organization to unlock the creative energy of people and organizations.

“We have to think bravely and adventurously about the sort of schools we need now to do justice to our children’s talents but which also prepare them in the right way to be productive members of their world,” he said. “It’s a double agenda: to look at an education system which speaks to the nature of children and which then also looks at the world and how they can connect into it.”

The Arts Ed Summit 2017 is part of the ARTS ED NOW collective impact project and was supported in part with funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For complete details including all reports and full session videos of the Arts Ed Summit 2017 go to: http://artsednj.org/artsedsummit/


Arts Ed Summit 2017

Join with arts education thought leaders for this one-day exploration of the status of arts education in New Jersey’s schools and help craft the pathway forward to universal arts education for all students across the state.

2017 NJ Arts Education Census Project


Third Installment of the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project Reveals Only 11% of Students Have Access to All Four Arts Disciplines

WARREN, N.J. – Widely acknowledged as a national leader in arts education, New Jersey is now reaching the point of “universal access” to arts education for all students, according to a new research study by Arts Ed NJ as part of the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project. The census report, ARTS ED NOW: Every Child, Every School revealed that during the 2015/2016 school year, 99% of New Jersey schools representing 99.4% of students provided arts education.

The census also showed that only 26 schools statewide (serving 9,160 students) reported offering no arts instruction, a dramatic reduction from a decade ago when more than 77,000 students did not have access. Once universal access is achieved, New Jersey will be the first state in the nation to be able to make this claim, according to Robert Morrison, director, Arts Ed NJ, which co-sponsored the census. However, while statewide arts education access is broad, only 11% of students enjoy access to all four arts disciplines – dance, music, theater and visual art – as required by state code.

There is more positive news: Seventy-six percent of all students (nearly 1 million) participated in one or more arts education offering during the census year, including 93% of elementary, 86% of middle and 46% of high school students. Overall participation has shown steady gains, increasing by 11%, or more than 105,000 students since 2011, and 140,000 students since 2006. Likewise, Per-Pupil Arts Spending (PPAS) has increased by 12% in elementary and middle schools and 15% in high schools since 2011.

“This report shows how educators and communities are working hard to provide all students access to arts education,” said New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington. “By working to engage all students with high-quality arts education across the state, we are giving our students more opportunities to use their voice of creativity and providing them skills that will help them be successful beyond high school.”

Morrison cautions that more work needs to be done, noting that there are still more than 80,000 elementary and middle school students who should be participating in the arts (based on state policies) that are not, as well as another 40,000 or so high school students who could also be participating that are not.

Moreover, when it comes to per-pupil arts spending and student/arts teacher ratios, the census revealed that both measures are more favorable in schools serving more affluent populations – something not found a decade ago.

“This is an equity issue of great importance, centered on the significant documented benefits provided through active participation in arts education,” said Morrison. “In a world where imagination, creativity and innovation are sculpting our future, ensuring we provide the inspiration for these skills for all students must be our goal.”

The New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is a collaborative partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Arts Ed NJ, ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and Quadrant Research. ARTS ED NOW: Every Child, Every School is the follow-up report to the nationally acclaimed 2007 and 2012 reports, Within Our Power: The Progress, Plight and Promise of Arts Education for Every Child and Keeping the Promise: Arts Education for Every Child, The Distance Traveled – The Journey Remaining. The release coincides with the expansion of the Arts Ed Now statewide public awareness campaign to raise the visibility of arts education in schools and communities, and comes on the heels of a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released last week showing that most New Jerseyans believe that arts education is important for all students.

Other key findings of the third census include:

  • More than 83,000 elementary and middle school students who should be participating in arts education (based on state requirements for elementary and middle school students) do not.
  • Participation in art (69%) and music (62%) were highest among the four arts disciplines. Visualart and music are also the most widely available of the arts disciplines, at 94% and 96%, respectively. Only 6% of schools offer all four arts disciplines, as required by state policy.
  • Per-Pupil Arts Spending (PPAS) increases as poverty levels (measured by free and reduced-pricelunch and District Factor Groups) decrease. Additionally, as chronic absenteeism increases, PPAS decreases.
  • There are 8,046 arts educators employed state-wide. There are 3,521 visual art, 3,864 music,420 theater and 241 dance educators state-wide.
  • The overall student-to-arts-teacher ratio is 162:1. For visual art, the ratio is 377:1; for dance, itis 5,713:1; for music, it is 333:1; for theater, it is 3,199:1. The ratio becomes less favorable as the percentage of students receiving free/reduced price lunch or the level of chronic absenteeism increases.
  • Ninety-three percent of all schools in the state participate in some cultural activity. Thisincludes field trips (83%), assemblies (69%), long-term partnerships (28%) and artist-in- residencies (17%). These represent declines in all categories since 2006. The majority of schools (65%) engage in two or more cultural activities. However, cultural participation has declined significantly since 2006.
  • Forty-six percent of all schools reported using arts integration. Yet, only 3% of all schools report regularly planning lessons between the arts specialist and the classroom teacher.

“The Arts Education Census data identifies the status and condition of arts education which is so important to our children’s success—both academically and socially,” said Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. When it comes to educating our children, everyone has something at stake, and we hope that more New Jerseyans use their voices and the Arts Ed Now campaign tools to ensure that all children from pre-K through high school have access to arts education.

”“Third time’s a charm. Once again, this groundbreaking research has given us something to both celebrate and to shoot for: universal access and universal participation,” states Nick Paleologos, executive director, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “But most important, it has underscored New Jersey’s leadership role nationally in arts education advocacy.”


All public school principals in New Jersey were required by the Commissioner of Education to provide data on arts education from their school for this Arts Education Census Project. The participation rate is 99.3% of the 2,329 public and charter schools required to take part representing 1,295,466 students. Data were provided by the schools via a special on-line questionnaire to Quadrant Research. The data were then forwarded to Cypress Research for statistical analysis, which forms the basis of this report.

The complete report may be downloaded at http://artsednj.org/2017-arts-education-census/

Individual school information may be found at https://artsednow.org/

Information about the 2017 Rutgers-Eagleton Public Opinion Survey on arts education may be downloaded at http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/rutgers-eagleton-arts-education-nj-sept2017/ 



Just Released- Arts Ed Now Teacher Toolkit!

Resources for educators to be effective advocates for arts education, all year long!

The Beat: Arts Ed NJ’s Monthly Newsletter – September 2017

September is here and it is going to be a September to remember. In the Arts Education world in New Jersey the next month is beyond busy. Here’s what is happening:

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November 10, 2017
The Beat: Arts Ed NJ’s Monthly Newsletter – November 2017

Save the date: #GivingTuesday 2017 is November 28th. We’re proud to ...