Lame Deer Jr. High chosen for Turnaround Arts

It was announced April 23rd that Lame Deer Jr. High has been chosen to participate in the Turnaround Arts initiative. See more information at the link below.

Also the story in the Billings Gazette:

Arts and the Adoption of Common Core in Montana

On November 4, 2011 the Montana Board of Public Education officially adopted the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math. Due to its unique constitutional requirement, Montana is the only state to incorporate Indian Education for All into the new standards for English Language Arts and Math.

The next week I received an email from a high school teacher who teaches one of the performing arts.

Can you read through this stuff and either call me the villain, or educate me on how this is going to make my job of encouraging the next generation of Artists to be what our culture needs?  If not can the arts council through the NEA make a statement that will help us to see the arts not as a “technical subject” but as a core area of human thought and interaction.

Disturbed to the “Core”

This was triggered by an email from the district administration saying:

Yes, the Fine Arts is in the category of “Technical Subjects” specifically defined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  . . . .  I plan to review at our meeting how basically all subjects who have a specific content vocabulary, like the Fine Arts, are considered “Technical Subjects” within the CCSS requirements.

What I shared with the teacher is the following:

P21 Common Core Toolkit: A Guide to Aligning the Common Core State Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills – see page 35 – arts are listed as a core subject here

You also might take a look at the 21st Century Skills Arts Map

FAQs re Common Core from

Why are the Common Core State Standards for just English-language arts and math?
English-language arts and math were the first subjects chosen for the common core state standards because these two subjects are skills, upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.

Of course, other subject areas are critical to young people’s education and their success in college and careers. However, the NGA Center and CCSSO will not be developing standards in other subjects and are now focusing on implementing the standards in ELA and mathematics.

Technical subjects – A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music  (p. 43 of Appendix A of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects)

So I would say from the above information that “technical subjects” only refer to “technical aspects” of an arts course. This doesn’t mean the arts are technical subjects they are just included in that section of the English language arts or math common core. So perhaps your course or section on (xyz) will need to be aware of the requirements for “technical subjects” but that isn’t the definition of the whole study of (xyz) in high school. It doesn’t have anything to do with other aspects of (your discipline.)

Why the parenthesis and the general reference to the teacher who wrote to me?  
“I can probably get fired for sharing this info, . . . .” Whether this is true or not this arts specialist and surely others feel betrayed and vulnerable. What will they be teaching in their courses – a rigorous study of a centuries-old art form or will they just be a hand maiden to English language arts and math?

As the NORC Report on the Teaching artist Research Project states, “This is certainly a challenging moment for education in America. After three decades of effort to improve schools, three decades in which arts education has substantially declined, there has been too little progress in too few schools, particularly those serving low-income children. Now the recession has imposed harsh new constraints on school budgets. Arts education will continue withering in American schools if policymakers are unwilling to rethink the strategies that have dominated school reform. Or it could become a focus of bold new efforts to develop valuable resources that engage students, deepen learning, and enliven school cultures.” pp17-18

I don’t think the requirement that “technical subjects” address the Common Core Standards is a dire condemnation. I think there are tough times ahead for arts education in K-12 schools and I think we are “creative/innovative problem solvers” who will meet the challenge with style and grace.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

Here is part of an article Alayne Dolson, Executive Director of VSA Montana, wrote for our next issue of State of the Arts:

Universal Design for Learning What is it? How will it help students and teachers in the classroom?

In April, VSA Montana had the opportunity to take a team of artist/arts educators to Boston to participate in a Universal Design in Learning (UDL) conference, joining international teams of educators, teaching artists, and administrators in a three day learning experience. I was joined by Bobby Tilton – UM Art Education professor, Marlene Schumann – Bozeman art educator, and Cheryl Bannes – Montana teaching artist, to participate in workshops, to visit Boston area schools that use arts- integrated learning and teaching strategies in inclusive classrooms, and to design a work plan that will be implemented in Montana in the fall.

In October members of the Montana team will present an introductory workshop on UDL design for teachers and paraprofessionals at the MEA-MFT conference. Included in the workshop will be hands-on arts activities that model the UDL teaching/learning strategies, along with the UDL checklist to guide lesson development, and an opportunity to engage in discussion of ways to include children with disabilities in meaningful learning activities.

VSA Montana endeavors to achieve the same success in education for all learners, making “special education” an oxymoron. Professional development in UDL can advance our mission.

Here is a link to the UDL Guidelines WordPress blog.

You can download a copy of the guidelines there. I suggest starting with the one-page graphic organizer. It is what got me hooked in the first place. It provides a valuable checklist for teaching artists and arts teachers when you are developing a lesson plan.

Status of Arts Education in Montana

A Report on the Status of Arts Education in Montana: 2009-2010 School Year

The Montana Arts Council (MAC) initiated the survey to help establish important and missing baseline information in the area of arts education in Montana. This report summarizes the status of arts education in Montana using data collected from 313 of Montana’s 847 elementary, middle and secondary schools statewide. This information was formed from responses by principals, superintendents and head teachers – it is their perception of the state of arts education in their schools.

Questions throughout the survey were designed to quantify and evaluate each school’s situation in offering the arts as a core subject. On MAC’s website you can download the Executive Summary and the full report.

I would be interested in your thoughts after reading the report and any next steps you think the arts council should take with this information. Leave a comment or go to the MT Arts Council’s website and get my phone number or email address – Beck McLaughlin
Image of a young student working on a crayon resist/watercolor.

My curriculum is going gaming

Garth’s CS Education Blog
My curriculum is going gaming

November 12, 2010

With all the blog discussions and statistics flying around it seems obvious we (the US education system) are having a little problem with attracting students into CS. Most intro books on programming just reinforce the stereotype that programming is about as exciting as watching grass grow. . . . This year I convinced the Programming I teacher to switch to Scratch and to make games. The gaming approach allows the kids to be artistic, imaginative, original and requires lots of planning.

Reading the whole post and the comments between Garth and me is worth your time – I think. There may be unsuspecting collaborations waiting down the hall in the computer science classroom.
Garth teaches in a “small Catholic high school in western Montana.” Missoula is my guess.

Professional Development in the Arts

VSA Montana and the Montana Arts Council will offer professional development workshops for teachers Oct. 21-22 at the MEA-MFT conference in Helena, at the Montana State Reading Council’s annual conference in Great Falls and at the Custer County Art and Heritage Center in Miles City. More information is available here:

Traveling Art Education

Kevin Layton has started a new blog chronicling his adventures across eastern Montana teaching visual art. Kevin is the Education Director at the Custer County Art & Heritage Center in Miles City. He travels over about 1/4 of the landmass of the state teaching in schools, nursing homes, after school programs, etc. Check it out!