A Peek Behind the Curtain

By Kathy Dewsbury-White

It is a privilege to serve as the project director for Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA). My role has evolved to one that helps frame annual project goals, align initial resources, and then step out of the way of talented colleagues yet remain available enough to understand how we are doing and what is needed to meet our deliverables.  This December “Look Back” at the year blog post provides an opportunity to highlight accomplishments and progress. It also provides a time to reflect on how we got from point A to point B and that causes me to marvel at the MAEIA team and the amazing relationships and partnerships cultivated to advance the work.

Behind the curtain, the project work is organized into three buckets. Activity that:

  1. Keeps the existing resources and structures in good working order.
  2. Results in new resources and new structures meeting our evolving context.
  3. Accounts for the outreach focused on the wildly ambitious and wonderful vision to increase access to quality K-12 arts education for all of Michigan’s children.

Keeping resources and structures in good working order.

The MAEIA website is where educators access MAEIA resources. This is a robust website organized to support instruction, authentically assess, collaboratively score, demonstrate educator effectiveness, engage in school improvement and engage in professional learning.

The posted resources must be kept up to date. This has required a review of the Catalogue of Performance Assessments including a drafted repertoire list of artists whose work may serve as additional prompt material. We included criteria to bolster culturally responsible practices and social-emotional learning in and through the arts when conducting the catalogue review and developing the repertoire list. Watch for this update to be published in 2024.

The website is also the home for the MAEIA E-News and the twice monthly MAEIA Blog Posts. As information and needs emerge in the field, new pages are added, for example Formative Assessment in the Arts and Michigan Department of Education Music Grant (33c).

Making new resources and new structures meet our evolving context.

We recognize access to quality arts education as the equity issue that propels the development of new resources and structures. To this end, we have organized content for self-paced MAEIA Academy courses, debuting in 2024, around these topics: 

  • Support for Early Career Education
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and Assessing Through the Arts
  • Social Emotional Learning In and Through the Arts

We have been deepening our expertise in these critically important topics because we understand our field is seeking to respond to our current teacher shortage and to meet the mission of public education to serve all our children.

Continuing outreach to advance the vision.

A collective impact initiative was born in 2023, and we are calling it MI Creative Potential. We have a big vision to use data collection and strategic partnerships to develop an arts education action agenda to propel us into the future. It will be realized through the Arts Education Regional Networks and the implementation of MAEIA resources.

This past year we worked on developing structures, tools, and relationships to support our future aspirations, we:

Taking a moment to marvel.

I’m astounded by how far we’ve come and what we’ve made and I’m more than a little humbled by how much we have yet to do. We are embarking on the next act which will rely on public, private, and philanthropic support. The only reason excitement triumphs over feelings of being overwhelmed is because of the leadership provided by the MAEIA contributing cast and the continuing and new individuals and organizations that join our quest to provide access to quality arts education for all MI children. Please join me in offering a standing ovation for Heather Vaughan Southard, Barb Whitney, Karrie Lafave, Kathy Humphrey, Linda Wacyk, Ed Roeber, Jason O’Donnell, Joni Starr, Tara Kintz, Nafeesah Symonette, Chad Swan-Badgero, Chad Williams, Andy Middlestead, Delsa Chapman, and Mary Head, the MAEIA Partners and the MAEIA Leadership Fellows.

Have you heard the phrase “under promise and over deliver?” I think that characterizes what MAEIA has been and hopefully will continue to be, amplified by 10, in 2024. 

I look forward to sharing our excitement in my next blog post, MAEIA Looking Forward – 2024, to be published in early January.


Kathy Dewsbury-White serves the Michigan Assessment Consortium as current president and CEO. The MAC is the organization commissioned by MDE to develop the rich and robust resources developed through the MAEIA Project for arts educators. Kathy has provided project direction for MAEIA and is a self-described, resource wrangler, and advocate for arts education.



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