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


Posted On October 10, 2017

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/