Blogs & Online Sources

Blogs & Online Sources: MAEIA

An Art Teacher’s Perspective on Remote Learning

Karrie LaFave    Leave a Comment   

“Can we do clay…….Pleeeeease?”  This was a question from one of my 4th grade art students during our first Zoom meeting for Remote Learning-Art.  “Uhhhh, no?” was my response. Unfortunately, when our school district...

“Can we do clay…….Pleeeeease?”  This was a question from one of my 4th grade art students during our first Zoom meeting for Remote Learning-Art.  “Uhhhh, no?” was my response.

Unfortunately, when our school district learned on Friday, March 13th that we were to shut down due to the COVID19 pandemic, some of my classes were in the middle of a ceramics unit.  We thought then that we could continue when we returned to school in two weeks. That wasn’t to happen. With the closing of schools through the end of the year the district scrambled to put a plan in place to provide online remote learning.  In our rural district many families do not have reliable internet (myself  included) and they may not have devices to use at home, let alone the know how for online learning (again, myself included!).  Families and staff were surveyed to assess the needs to accomplish online equity.  Many devices were made available and hot spots were set up in school parking lots for downloading material to work offline.

I teach visual art to grades 3-5, about 470 students.  For me, the idea of remote learning is daunting.  I teach in 2-3 week rotations, 5-6 class sections each.  Art, gym, technology and music teachers are using Google Classroom for remote learning to keep it manageable. Our administrator cautioned us to “keep it simple.”  As I set out to create art lessons for distance learning, I built upon skills and content delivered.  I had to create lessons for students who may not have any art supplies at home.  Lessons include live Zoom sessions, recorded video, and digital lessons that can be accessed from home or downloaded from the parking lot.   Although “keeping it simple” is important, I want the art learning to be meaningful as well.

I started remote learning with a chaotic zoom “live lesson.” More than sixty students tried to connect.  I had them all muted on entry and when the class started, I asked them to turn off video so that the sound was not so distorted.  However, there were audio issues for some, and video issues for others, depending on their internet quality.  It was difficult to admit participants, answer chats, and go over the two art lessons for the week all at once. I have attended several zoom meetings recently, but hosting one is another story. Yikes! I  plan to record my demonstrations from here on out so that I can better monitor and manage the meeting.  As bad as the live lesson seemed, the students are completing and turning in their projects.  I have had some email conversations with parents, and some projects emailed to me instead of turning them in via Google Classroom.  It truly is a learning curve for all of us!

This surreal and challenging situation in which we find ourselves does have its moments of positivity. I posted several drawing prompts before our remote learning officially started, encouraging students to be creative. I find that students are eager to connect. Students have requested art ideas and have emailed sketches to me. I’ve even had one student ask me to be her “pen pal.”  We have exchanged letters and drawings, and she even put forth a “needle felting challenge.” All of this renews my faith in the creativity of children; in the strength of our school community; in the teamwork of our staff; and in the resourcefulness of my art students.  And it makes me miss them even more.  Stay home. Stay safe. Stay creative. We will get through this.

Colleen Shoup is the art teacher at the Eaton Rapids Greyhound Intermediate School.

A PDF version of this blog is available here: An Art Teacher’s Perspective on Remote Learning

Continue Reading

The Practice of Adaptation – A Series in Four Disciplines Using MAEIA Performance Assessments for Online Teaching

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

As we find ourselves in unprecedented times, with the possibility of adapting your teaching to online platforms, we at MAEIA are here for you. Though our assessment catalog is not a bank of lesson plans,...

As we find ourselves in unprecedented times, with the possibility of adapting your teaching to online platforms, we at MAEIA are here for you.

Though our assessment catalog is not a bank of lesson plans, the following assessment items might provide a start from which you can reverse engineer the content you would first teach. With a vast number of video resources now being shared online, we as educators have an even greater opportunity to focus on the standards related to Create and Respond.

Using compositional and reflective units can be effective in helping students process what they are experiencing and they allow us to reinforce for our students why the arts matter and the function they can serve us personally as well as pre-professionally. As such, changes to item prompts could lead students into themselves using dance as a means to convey all they are currently holding.

We, at MAEIA, also recognize that online instruction will not be an effective strategy for all of our students in Michigan. We do, however, feel the following items might be helpful given the current state of education.

Below you’ll find select performance assessments in Dance, Visual Art, Theatre and Music that can speak directly to the Create and Respond elements. These items are also easily adapted for grade spans other than those listed, which can be useful for differentiation and meeting the needs of more students.

We made these selections with the belief that they could transition more easily to virtual contexts. Many include tasks that students can do by themselves, including making a video to send to their teacher. Also, students can use found objects, include siblings/parents in group work, and use available online resources for reference and research.

In the very least, we hope these assessment items help spark your thinking about how teaching Dance, Visual Art, Theatre and Music can exist within a digital environment.

Dance Assessments

Music Assessments

Theatre Assessments

Visual Arts Assessment

A PDF version of this blog post can be found here: The Practice of Adaptation – A Series in Four Disciplines 

Contributing authors: Heather Vaughan Southard, Joni Starr, Amy Pobanz, Cathy DePentu and Holly Olszweski

Continue Reading

Joni Starr: Courageous Creativity – Everything is Waiting for You

wpengine    Leave a Comment   

This is an unprecedented time. Our regular routine has been disrupted, human interactions are minimized and our relationship to the future has been compromised. The question is: Who do you choose to be in response?...

This is an unprecedented time. Our regular routine has been disrupted, human interactions are minimized and our relationship to the future has been compromised. The question is: Who do you choose to be in response?

In times of conflict and uncertainty artists have captured the moment and reflected life through their art forms:

– Kathie Kollwitz depicted German peasant revolutions in her paintings.
– Athol Fugard wrote plays denouncing apartheid in South Africa.
– Joan Baez demonstrated against the Vietnam War as a singer/songwriter.
– Kurt Jooss made dances depicting the futility of peach negotiations.

These individuals moved beyond preservation and survival and expressed a strong courageous creativity.  They embraced their artistic imagination and found artistry as a way of living. I believe this is something we can do today for our students and for ourselves. We can examine what it means to deepen and broaden our idea of creativity and artistry.

For me the first step is inspiration.  What keeps knocking at the door of my consciousness? Is it big and important, something existential? Is it small and mundane, something repetitious? Is it deep and thoughtful, something familial? Is it broad and expansive, something unreachable?

I listen to this knocking and invite it into my thought. I allow it to motivate me. I let it grow into something more tangible, then I can move it around in my own hands – next, I find I am making something. Something that connects to the world around me and reflects how I feel about it. Something unprecedented.

This is the creative process. Sometimes it is as quick as lightning, often it moves through us slowly like sap down the tree. Always it is unpredictable, like our currently unpredictable times.

One of my favorite poets, David Whyte, writes a poem titled, Everything Is Waiting For You. It prompts us to think about our place and how it is ripe with possibility. I find it comforting as I sequester in my home, listening for the starting point of inspiration, and beginning my courageous creative journey. I hope you, too, begin your journey.

Everything Is Waiting For You

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte

From Everything is Waiting for You

2003 Many Rivers Press

Joni Starr serves as Administrative Coordinator of Arts Integrated Learning for Ingham ISD and as a Teaching Artist for the Wharton Center in Theatre and Dance. 

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here: Joni Starr: Courageous Creativity – Everything is Waiting for You

Continue Reading

Cathy DePentu: “No Music Without Fun, No Fun Without Music” as the theme for a concert….

Cathy DePentu    Leave a Comment   

What does that even mean? Does it mean we just have fun all the time? No. Does it mean that we don’t work at what we do? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I...

What does that even mean? Does it mean we just have fun all the time? No. Does it mean that we don’t work at what we do? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I couldn’t figure out a way to link all these great pieces for our upcoming concert with a theme? …well, maybe.

But beyond that, this is a phrase that has meant a lot to me since I discovered it more than ten years ago…

Ask most of my students- I can be pretty intense about what we do together. I can be loud (but mostly harmless) and can often jump from one musical concept to another, with a strange analogy thrown in for good measure. I can be serious one moment, and march with a violin (or a stuffed horse) one moment later. We paint musical pictures. We talk about the story behind the notes, the color or shape we want to convey as we play. We start with the end product in mind, and decide together how to get there. We use the MAEIA Assessments as some of our tools for problem solving…a favorite is “Performance Critique” which gives us a common vocabulary and standard for evaluating what we hear as musicians.

After we have this color, or picture in mind, we figure out how to create it with our instruments. Bow Placement, Bow Weight and Bow Speed are the tools we have to work with, but somehow, talking about lanes of traffic on the string, sending the sound to Toledo and scrubbing the silver off the string seems to be equally effective and a bit less clinical as we work…it can even be “FUN”.

Our Chamber Music Project, also a MAEIA Assessment Task, is an activity that promotes independent musicianship, collaborative skills and the ability to use all of the skills we learn and practice in class. It is a pretty hefty playing test, culminating in a class recital, but the kids look forward to it. Once you teach students what they are listening for, help them discover the specific tools to use and instill a willingness to be vulnerable and explore without fear of failure, they truly begin to embrace this challenge and have “FUN”. And isn’t that what learning is about?

I am in love with teaching music. I am more in love with teaching the “art-centric” process of thinking and learning. Through the art of performing we use: persistence, collaboration, creative thought, self-analysis, critical thinking and problem solving. We learn to fail and try again, to fall and get back up. We learn that doing less than your best is not an option. In short, we learn all of the skills and strategies necessary to be a productive, resourceful human being. All of these characteristics easily transfer to any profession or subject.

Whew, that was a heavy paragraph…it all comes down to one thing. We GET to make music together. We GET to have fun while we do it. We GET to be better versions of ourselves because of it. “No music without fun, no fun without music.”

Cathy DePentu is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and serves as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools.

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here: Cathy DePentu: “No Music Without Fun, No Fun Without Music” as the theme for a concert….

Continue Reading

Holly Olzsewski: Who’s teaching whom? Using assessment to build relationships in the classroom

Holly Olszewski    Leave a Comment   

I hear many complaints about assessment from my colleagues, those in my subject area and others. When I am in a good mood, I try to counter their complaints with “Assessment is great!”, “Assessment helps...

I hear many complaints about assessment from my colleagues, those in my subject area and others. When I am in a good mood, I try to counter their complaints with “Assessment is great!”, “Assessment helps us know our students!” This is usually met with a groan, an eye roll, or worse. I am serious when I say that assessment does help me get to know my students. It not only informs my instruction and helps me pick activities, but it helps me get to know that student as an individual.

Because I film my assessments, whether it’s singing, steady beat, movement or playing, it allows me to watch the student during the assessment for other behavior. It frees me to really focus on the student instead of the outcome of the assessment. I can see if their hands are shaking, if they are biting their lower lip, clenching their teeth or other signs of distress. It allows me to focus on that student and watching their comfort level with the assessment. I can address issues by just quietly saying something to the student, or I can use the opportunity to re-teach on the spot.

I find that the more assessments I do, the more comfortable the students get with them. Occasionally they even request the assessment! For them it is a measuring stick as well, particularly with my younger students who frequently repeat an assessment. M.E101, Singing a Song and M.E104, Performing a Steady Beat Accompaniment on instruments work really well for these frequent check-ins. This year’s favorite version of M.E104 included a special ‘Frog guiro’ or “ribbit”. While the class sang the short folk song “Frog in the Meadow”, one student accompanied the class on the ribbit, keeping a steady beat. At the conclusion of the short song, the ribbit was passed and the next student had a turn. During this assessment the camera was watching the beat, and I was watching the students. As the activity was fun, most students were very confident in their playing. A couple students were hesitant and that allowed me to then spend an extra few minutes with students at a different time.

This assessment was repeated several times over the course of the year. By the end of the year, everyone had shown growth in singing and in keeping the steady beat. I changed the song and tried to find interesting instruments that would captivate young learners. We all had fun, we grew, and assessment was not a bad word! Your students will teach you what they need to know, you will get to know them and build relationships with them by repeating assessments frequently. Look for ways to make it fun! If it is fun for you, it will be fun for them. Building those relationships, getting to know them and their strengths through assessment will help you help them overcome their deficiencies. Keep Playing, Keep Making Music, Keep Assessing!

Holly Olszewski teaches for Grand Traverse Area Public Schools and serves as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow, offering professional learning on the MAEIA tools and resources.

A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: Holly Olzsewski- Who’s Teaching Whom

Continue Reading

Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learning Differences

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504). If...

Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504).

If you teach students with special needs or learning differences and want to administer a MAEIA assessment, then you will need to apply required modifications and accommodations.  Accommodations are changes in how a student accesses information and demonstrates learning. Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn. Sometimes however, in the arts, it is difficult to know exactly what accommodations or modifications should be applied.  This blog post is intended to give arts educators ideas and options of how to best meet the needs of these students by accommodating or modifying MAEIA assessments.

One of the best things about MAEIA assessments is that they were designed and published in a way that teachers can modify or alter them to best fit teachers’ and students’ needs in widely differing arts classrooms around the state.  This kind of flexibility naturally lends itself to alterations and changes that need to be made to assessments to comply with Individualized Educational Plans, or IEPs.

The attached document is an example of a MAEIA Visual Arts Assessment called: Analyze and Describe, meant for 6th grade students.  The accommodations and modifications that I made are described and highlighted in yellow.  Some of the changes I made benefit all students and simply make the booklet more accessible, such as the images and color coding that I implemented on the Graphic Organizer, and the option to type the answers rather than hand write them.  Other accommodations were only for students with IEPs, such as the option to dictate or “tell” the answers to questions within the space of our school’s resource room with the aid of a Special Education teacher.

Here is a list of additional accommodations and modifications that you may want to consider when administering the MAEIA assessments:

  • – Download the Student Booklet into Word and rework it to print with fewer items per page or line
  • – Print the Student Booklet with larger text
  • – Read and re-read the assessment instructions aloud to the student as needed
  • – Provide an outline or checklist of the assessment tasks on a separate sheet of paper
  • – Allow students to give responses in a form (spoken or written) that’s easier for them.  For example, they  can tell you the answer instead of writing it down           or typing. Some computers have a dictate option.  The student can dictate answers to a device instead of writing it down.
  • – Allow the use of a spelling dictionary or digital spell-checker
  • – Allow students to use notes or handouts from class
  • – Offer the assessment in a different controlled and quiet setting, such as a Resource Room or library.
  • – Allow the students to sit where they can perform best (for example, up front near the teacher)
  • – Use special lighting or acoustics
  • – Take the assessment in a small group setting
  •  – Use sensory tools such as an exercise band, wiggle seat, yoga ball, stress squeeze ball, etc.
  • – Give extra time to complete a task or all of the assessment
  • – Have extra time to process spoken information and directions
  • – Allow the student to take frequent breaks
  • – Administer the assessment in several sessions or over several days
  • – Take sections of the assessment in a different order
  • – Administer the assessment at a specific time of day
  • – Use a gentle alarm or chimes to help with time management
  • – Mark text with a highlighter for organization
  • – Allow students to answer fewer or different assessment questions
  • – Select a different standard to assess than other students
  • – Students may be excused from particular parts of the assessment
  • – Provide pencil grips and wide-lined paper for writing
  • – Provide adapted scissors
  • – Accommodate students with sensory issues by removing art media that triggers them
  • – Allow the use of earplugs or headphones (without input/hookups) to block out background noise
  • – Reduce actual clutter in the room and visual clutter on the Student Booklets
  • – Insert meanings of vocabulary words continuously throughout the assessment and/or on a separate help sheet
  • – Repeat and rephrase directions
  • – Reduce multiple choice answer options using white-out tape
  • – Keep student from distractions by special seating, study corrals, etc.
  • – Give clear directions and repeat and rephrase them
  • – Write the assessment workflow schedule on board


Arts teachers are masters at being flexible, finding substitutions, differentiating instruction and in general, “Making it Work!”  However you choose to provide accommodations and modifications to students with learning differences, it is important to check-in with your building’s special education educator and review mandates outlined in IEPs.

In any case, documentation and reporting of accommodations and modifications are required by law.  Check with your special education teacher to understand the preferred documentation process for your school.

Additional Resources:

Carrie Jeruzal is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and Visual Arts Educator in Pentwater, MI. She was recently honored by the National Art Education Association as the 2017 Western Region Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here:Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learni

Continue Reading

Zach Vandergraaff – 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

“Assessment.”  It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just...


 It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just hoops to jump through and impossible work for us to do.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Effective and applicable assessments make a huge difference in teaching. According to 10 Research And Proven Practices of Dr. John Hattie, assessment has a potential combined 0.80 effect size.

This means we can improve student learning by almost 2 years over the course of one year!

While this is important, improving your own teaching is important too, and the MAEIA assessments are a big part of what I’ve been doing to improve myself.

Here are 5 ways I use MAEIA assessments to improve my own teaching.

#1 Accurate Picture of Students

If you’re teaching elementary music as I do, you likely have more than hundreds of students (I’m at 650+). I’ve always thought ,as we did small assessment activities, that I had a decent idea of how the whole class and individual students were doing.

When I started doing more intentional assessments with MAEIA, I found something quite different. There were some students I had been assuming could do my tasks easily, but they were faking it with confidence. The assessments showed me that I was leaving them behind.

There’s no way you can accurately just “eye-ball” success in your classroom. These tools from MAEIA now help me ensure I’m getting an accurate picture of all my kids.

#2 Pushes Students to Improve

There are times over the years I’ve gotten stuck in ruts with my students. They learn the things I’m teaching them, but they have a harder time seeing the end-result they’re working towards.

This is more of a failure on my part than on theirs. Introducing some MAEIA assessments has actually helped me to push them harder.

It also gives them an idea of where they’re heading. My students talk to each other across grade level and share their pride at mastering certain assessment activities (although they don’t always realize that “tests” are what they’re doing).

They come to me later and ask when they can do what the older kids are doing. I always plan curriculum long-term, but MAEIA helps me to help them see the grand scheme of what they’re working on.

#3 Self-reflection

The MAEIA tools also help me to reflect on my plans overall. There are dozens on dozens of examples of assessments to pull from; they show me areas I’m neglecting too.

You could pick assessments you feel your kids will be successful at, or you can look at ones you’re not sure about and teach with more of those ideas in mind.

#4 Checks My Assessment Practices

Each assessment also has very specific details on how you may want to teach and administer the assessment. As I went through some of these, I learned something:

I am accidentally doing things which give students the answers!

For example, I’ve often assessed my Kindergarten students on their ability to keep a steady beat to recorded music. I also knew I shouldn’t pat the beat with them, or they would just copy me.

Going through MAEIA’s version of the assessment, it mentioned specifically how they need to do the check with their eyes closed.

This may seem obvious to everyone else, but it was something my kids needed. They were subconsciously looking to others to come up with a group answer for the steady beat.

This is just one example of the high-level assessment practices MAEIA can help you with to get the best picture of your students’ ability.

They also include various rubrics to help you see where students could be.

#5 Informs My Teaching

Finally, the act of collecting data with MAEIA assessments informs my own teaching. I can see more specifically where the gaps in my students’ knowledge are.

For example:

The rhythm reading assessment for third, fourth, and fifth grades uses different types of rhythms over 10 questions for each grade level. I used this with my fourth graders as a pretest just a few months ago.

In the assessment, I was able to see which types of rhythms in which meters the students struggled with. Then I adapted my pacing to specifically fill those gaps.


Assessments are important and make a big difference in how I reach my students better. It can be hard to know all the assessment best practices, but using the MAEIA assessments streamlines the process and helps me keep up with the current teaching practices.

I strongly encourage all music and ARTs teachers to check out this program for their own classroom and find what works for them. You won’t regret it!


Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher at Bay City Public Schools and writer for Dynamic Music Room. He also serves as Past-President of Michigan Kodaly Educators and current Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association. A downloadable pdf of this post is available here, 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching.

Continue Reading

Cathy DePentu: Career-long Learning

Cathy DePentu    Leave a Comment   

I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (...

I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (or music stand), but still, the end of August is a turning point of each year.   Even after all these years, I still toss and turn the night before school starts wondering what the year will bring. Much of my excitement is the same as when I was in elementary school: Who will I see the first day? What adventures we will share about summer?  Will the people I work with be kind? Will they like me?

Every year, I am privileged to share my passion for music and music-making with a new group of students. We work together and learn from each other. Even though only a few of these students will choose the Arts as a career, I know that the thought processes and learning strategies involved in the performing arts classroom will benefit them all throughout their life.

We learn patience, collaboration, cooperation and persistence. When we fail, we try again. We value each others contributions and celebrate our differences. We are accepting and welcoming; our classrooms are safe spaces. Of course we will encounter obstacles to success–perhaps budget, administrative or legislative. While we may not be able to control the situation, we CAN control of how we choose to respond to it.

I say “we learn” because after all of these years, I truly feel once the unique process of teaching and learning through the Arts is shared, we are all both students and teachers.

Being willing to adapt and continue to learn while I teach keeps me from teaching the same year, over and over again…and so every year can be exciting and fresh.

Have a great year everyone, and remember that MAEIA is just a click away!


On that note, we’d like to invite MAEIA-informed community members to join the Facebook closed group: MAEIA PLC. Look for us under “groups”. Request to join and share in professional dialogue with like-minds about MAEIA and arts education. 

Cathy DePentu is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and serves as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools.

A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: CathyDePentu_Career-long Learning.



Continue Reading

Amy Lynne Pobanz: The Perfect Place to Teach and Learn

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

I dream about it. The perfect place to teach and learn. A district that celebrates the arts. I fantasize about amazing arts facilities and resources for my students. I long to feel valued and supported...

I dream about it. The perfect place to teach and learn. A district that celebrates the arts. I fantasize about amazing arts facilities and resources for my students. I long to feel valued and supported as a teacher. I am a bit jealous when I visit a school district that has an amazing gallery space, a well outfitted recording studio, an orchestra, a black box theatre, or a dance studio.   If you are an arts educator, chances are you can relate. Too many of us teach in underfunded programs with meager facilities and resources. It’s easy to complain about all of the challenges that face us as arts educators. Believe me, I am guilty of my fair share of complaining. I am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that venting my frustrations did not help to improve the arts in my district or community.  

I found myself with a choice. I could either complain or I could be an agent for change. I asked myself this question, “What actions could I take that would positively change the landscape of arts education in my school district and community?” At first it felt like a loaded question and a daunting task. I wasn’t even sure where to begin. Could I even articulate my vision for a perfect place to teach and learn in the arts? 

Don’t feel overwhelmed. I began by using MAEIA (Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project) tools. MAEIA resources are free for your use and have been designed to support your work advancing arts education in your schools and communities. You can always reach out to MAEIA personnel and request additional support.     

I have come to value the word- “place.” It is a powerful word. “Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity that is deeply felt by inhabitants and visitors.”  Consider the impact of place as you envision your perfect place to teach and learn. Here are some steps that may guide your journey.

Step 1. Assemble 

Assemble a team of people who are passionate about the arts in your school and community. Be inclusive; invite all arts teachers, invite students, invite parents, invite administrators, invite community organizations, invite community leaders. I believe collaboration is an essential component to any great endeavor. 

Step 2.  Envision 

Read and reflect on the Michigan Blueprint of a Quality Arts Education Program tool (see link below). Have dialog as a group about your greatest dreams and vision for your district arts program. Imagine what could be.

Michigan Blueprint of a Quality Arts Education Program—a goal-setting document for arts education program and school improvement purposes. The Blueprint describes the highest standards of successful arts education programs in dance, music, theatre and visual arts along seven criteria that are aligned with the Michigan School Improvement Framework.

Step 3.  Reflect 

Complete the program review tool (see link below). This tool collects data that can be used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your current arts program. This is a wonderful process that provides insight into your program and promotes healthy dialog about program improvement. I cannot stress the importance of this tool. This process empowers arts educators to have conversations with administrators and school boards about the quality of their arts program. Arts educators can make statements that are supported by data from a State funded arts assessment tool. Share your findings with colleagues, administrators, and the school board. 

Note:  The PRT tool is moving from paper and pencil to a web-based assessment tool.  Please contact the MAEIA administrative team before beginning the PRT process to see if your team is able to use the web-based version.

Step 4.  Develop

Develop a District Arts Plan. Communicate the vision of your arts team with all stakeholders. Ask to meet several times a year with your school board members and present annually to the school board. Here is a link to my favorite reference resource for developing an arts plan.

Step 5.  Connect 

Connect with other arts educators and be involved in arts education and advocacy in Michigan. Meet artists, take classes, go to performances, create.  

Amy Lynne Pobanz is a visual arts educator and MAEIA Leadership Fellow with over 20 years of experience teaching in traditional, virtual, and blended learning environments.

A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: Pobanz_ThePerfectPlacetoTeachandLearn.


Continue Reading
Image: Arts Education Field Guide, Americans for the Arts

Barb Whitney: Advocating for Students through the Arts

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Access to the arts for students in schools offers an avenue for self-expression and a source of inspiration. Beyond that, the arts develop students’ critical thinking skills. Additionally, numerous studies prove the arts benefit academic...

Access to the arts for students in schools offers an avenue for self-expression and a source of inspiration. Beyond that, the arts develop students’ critical thinking skills. Additionally, numerous studies prove the arts benefit academic performance, including that of standardized testing.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

A wealth of relevant data exists proving that students regularly exposed to the arts are more successful both inside and outside of school. In the landmark 2003 Critical Links publication, 62 academic research studies collectively demonstrated that arts education improves not only academic skills, but students’ motivation and achievement.

Moreover, students in low-income schools are affected more significantly than their counterparts. James Catterall’s large-scale longitudinal study titled “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art” found that in particular disadvantaged students with arts involvement showed strong associations with voting and volunteerism, college enrollment, and better earning within careers.

Arts programs are proven to correlate with improved attrition rates and increased participation in school communities. In other words, schools benefit, too. Beyond the value of the arts for individual students, the arts build community within schools. Arts experiences provide students a non-traditional opportunity for academic success and often, a reason to stay in school.

Data from the UCLA’s Imagination Project, a longitudinal study of 25,000 participants, reported positive statistics related to arts involvement. This research recognizes the arts as a driver for increased self-esteem, as well as decreased dropout rates. In terms of application, by offering arts curriculum, schools can use the arts to effectively attract or retain families.

As illustrated by countless studies, accessibility to the arts enables individuals to succeed. However, in recent research published in 2017 by Americans for the Arts in which my research was cited, statewide leaders revealed that due to narrowing of the curriculum, standardized testing, and other factors, the arts are seen as a nicety, rather than as an integral factor in student learning.

Unfortunately, the categorical devaluation of the arts is a factor when schools are faced with difficult budget decisions; cutbacks of the arts are often considered as a potential cost-savings measure. Elimination of arts specialists has occurred in many districts across the country. This trend of unequal access relates to valuation and resources, disproportionately affecting rural and inner-city youth. Critical opportunities for self-expression and upward mobility are overlooked. Unequal access to the arts underscores a need for advocacy measures to ensure arts education access for all students.

To be clear, students do have a right to arts instruction in schools. States are required to provide arts instruction as a part of a well-rounded education within the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed in 2015. To reiterate, the right of arts education for all youth in the USA is currently guaranteed by law, and the right to equal treatment in education is also guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Image Credit: Pixabay vector graphic

In addition, a variety of state policies require school districts to provide students with arts instruction. However, surveys indicate discrepancies between policy and practice. Despite legal recognition and policies upholding the vital role of the arts in appropriately educating the nation’s students, a review of relevant scholarship and state surveys indicate that students throughout the country have not received equal access to the arts over the past two decades.

As an example, the Arts Education Partnership’s ArtScan database currently illustrates that nearly all states have developed content standards for elementary and secondary arts education; yet oversight for the provision of arts education at a school, district, and statewide level is relatively limited, as very few states offer means to monitor policy. In other words, students across the country are not equally receiving regular, sequential, curriculum-based arts instruction, which is proven to help them succeed in school, work, and life.

In some cases, schools or districts assume that volunteers, artists, and community arts organizations will provide increased arts education programming. However, these supplemental tactics require additional resources to upscale arts and cultural programs.

Certainly students benefit from supplemental arts education through community arts education providers. As one example, the recent study of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas included a large-scale randomized lottery selection of youth to tour the museum. Findings revealed causal relationships between increased critical thinking, social tolerance, empathy, and interest in the arts. However, occasional field trips or site-visits from teaching artists ideally supplement classroom coursework and instruction in conjunction with arts specialists. A model without arts specialists supporting the other roles diminishes quality arts instruction for all youth.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Pictured you will note a guiding document provided by national partners that supported the stance on the value of each role pictured, the important providers of arts education, including: Certified Arts Educators, Community Arts Providers, and Certified Non-Arts Educators.

Image: Arts Education for America’s Students: A Shared Endeavor. Americans for the Arts.

The shared endeavor is best understood by examining the intersections of the Venn diagram. Certified Arts Educators and Certified Non-Arts Educators or classroom teachers, working together, offer students sequential, standards-based arts curriculum. Classroom teachers and community arts providers offer students standards-based connections between the arts and other content areas. Finally, community arts education providers intersecting with certified arts educators offer students deep expertise and professional experience.

As another resource for deepened understanding of our roles within the arts education ecosystem, the Arts Education Field Guide from Americans for the Arts illustrates spheres of influence. As a prescriptive document, the field guide encourages stakeholders in arts education to build more effective relationships in school, community, and statewide that will allow arts education to thrive. By viewing the student as the primary stakeholder at the center of the ecosystem, examination may be made regarding current relationships and opportunities for new connections. Policy and funding decisions should ideally be made with the view of how it will affect a student’s learning experience.

Image: Arts Education Field Guide, Americans for the Arts

To reiterate, the benefits of an arts curriculum without regular, sequential exposure are qualitatively and quantifiably less successful for students and for school communities. The decision has implications to potentially hinder students’ future success. While the reduction or elimination of specialists can mean a reduction in salary expenditures for schools or districts, decisions such at this are made at great cost to students and school communities.

Recognizing the vital importance of arts education is an important first step in a journey toward advocacy. Stakeholders can look to the excellent work from Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment project (MAEIA), Creative Many Michigan, and Americans for the Arts to build networks, providing connections and communications about the benefits of arts education and potential crises in reduction or elimination of specialists. We can research, facilitate and build consensus about best practices, solutions and models of excellence. We can understand and participate in policy, which drives measures toward arts education equality for all students.

As we begin to truly understand the value of the arts for students, schools, and communities, we can share this message: the arts matter. We can publicly support arts education and the roles of educators within a shared endeavor. We can interact with and coach others to become advocates in the arts education ecosystem, such as legislators and elected officials, administrators, parents, and even students. Based on the legal mandate for the arts, we can actively promote its inclusion in schools and combat its reduction or elimination. We can identify as champions for the arts and advocates for arts education.

As a MAEIA Leadership Associate I am hoping to make a bigger impact by sharing the vital role the arts play in supporting children’s learning, educational experiences, and future prospects as United States citizens. My goal is that by providing data and recommendations for how the arts can help students, communities, and our society, I will help create a new group of advocates in students, educators, administrators, and more.

Barb Whitney serves as Executive Director for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, on the faculty in two departments at Michigan State University, and as a MAEIA Leadership Associate.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: BarbWhitney_AdvocatingforStudents.

Continue Reading

Professional Learning Resources and Blogs

Have a favorite blog that we have missed? Contact us to share the title!