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Written on May 12th, 2012 , Arts-in-Ed, Teaching Artistry Tags: ,

Arts-in-ed issues and conversations have gained momentum and greater public significance of late. ATA (Association of TeachingArtists)  is announcing National Teaching Artist Appreciation Week from Monday May 14 through Friday May 18, 2012, a week to pay tribute to Teaching Artists, to honor local Teaching Artists and acknowledge the crucial role Teaching Artists play in making sure every student receives a quality education.

In addition, a number of studies have been published in the last month or so, indicating the importance of the arts in academic success and in post-school success (my favorite is the one looking at various measures of academic success by Youth at Risk–the arts close the gap!!)You can read it here at:

For these reasons, I opted to interview an incredible friend and colleague, Marsha Wheeler, an administrator in the arts-in-ed world for many years.

Marsha is the Arts-in-Ed Coordinator of the Oswego County BOCES program in upstate NY. She is also a long-time organizer of conferences, initiator of  opportunities, and inspirer of dreams. Below are her words, followed by an excerpt from President Obama’s Remarks at the Reception for Kennedy Center Honorees.

And now, Marsha Wheeler!

As I read Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech from the Arts Education Partnership Forum in April of 2010, I was so encouraged. “Now – as we move forward with reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – is the time to rethink and strengthen arts education.” Secretary Duncan went on to enumerate the many advantages the arts can give the developing mind.

Closer to home, Dr. David Coleman, one of the key developers of the Common Core State Standards, very succinctly outlined his Guiding Principles for the Arts – seven compelling reasons why the arts benefit student learning. This is all wonderful stuff, and stated most eloquently. In fact neither of these great thinkers could have gotten to where they are without a solid well-rounded curriculum, which must have included the arts.
But who is going to rethink and strengthen arts education, and where will the money come from to do it? As one studies the Common Core State Standards ( it becomes clear how comprehensive they are. There are a multitude of opportunities for curriculum integration. But the fact remains that the arts are what are considered “non-tested areas.” The focus will, for now, remain on English/Language Arts and Math – and the positive effects that visual art, music, theater and dance will have on these important subjects will not be readily apparent.
The Arts-In-Education world of Central New York is alive and well, nurtured by enlightened and loving teachers and parents. In-school performances abound, as do multi-day residencies where artists of all genres partner with teachers on curricular specifics. Professional development in the delivery of the arts into all areas of teaching and learning has evolved [or changed – I do not mean that current PD in this area is an improvement over past practices] from focusing on a work of art to ways that the arts support the core subjects.
The evaluation of teachers has become a mysterious and uncertain territory for them and for their supervisors. The Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), depend on student standardized test scores, and Data Driven Instruction (DDI) provides a statistical basis that steers the entire learning process. The music and art professional organizations have wonderful resources on their websites – and – to help teachers navigate the maze of acronyms.
Gloom and doom? The end of a civilized society? Not at all. Based on the speeches and writings of experts like Secretary Duncan and Dr. Coleman, there is much support in high places for the value of placing the arts into education. It is exciting to be involved as our state and our nation raise the bar on student achievement. Arts professionals have been given a huge opportunity, and it is up to us to make a case for the arts, using data and research to secure funding and create a concrete plan. Let’s get to work!

PS: Check out the YouTube- Music Advocacy presentation: 

And here is a link to the speech:

In closing, I thank all of you arts-in-ed folks for your bravery, support of one another, and belief in what we do. Thank you so much, Marsha!

“In times of war and sacrifice, the arts — and these artists —- remind us to sing and to laugh and to live.  In times of plenty, they challenge our conscience and implore us to remember the least among us.  In moments of division or doubt, they compel us to see the common values that we share; the ideals to which we aspire, even if we sometimes fall short.  In days of hardship, they renew our hope that brighter days are still ahead. So let’s never forget that art strengthens America.  And that’s why we’re making sure that America strengthens its arts.  It’s why we’re reenergizing the National Endowment of the Arts.  That’s why we’re helping to sustain jobs in arts communities across the country.  It’s why we’re supporting arts education in our schools, and why Michelle and I have hosted students here at the White House to experience the best of American poetry andmusic.”


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