Today’s featured Festival film is a reading by Marie Howe at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival. Enjoy her poems “Part of Eve’s Discussion” and “The Moment“. For more information about Marie Howe, check out our blog about her here, or on her website mariehowe.com.
Check back with us each Friday for more Festival videos!
Last month, after years of stalled negotiations and Congressional stalemates, President Obama signed into law a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
So say goodbye to No Child Left Behind and hello to the new law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is an enormous victory for arts education advocates and a new day for arts education, with opportunities to use federal funding to increase access to arts education for all students, especially the most vulnerable.
Among the most important provisions for arts education in the law:
Enumeration of Arts and Music as Well-Rounded Subjects: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from No Child Left Behind, this language clearly articulates that arts and music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance. The prior laws — going back to 1994 — included “the arts.” However, the definition of “the arts” disappeared from No Child Left Behind leading to an effort to clearly specify individual artistic disciplines. The next effort must be to include a specific call out for dance and theater. This expanded definition may be included in the Senate Committee Report to accompany the law.
Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education, including arts education, and address any deficiencies using federal funds.
Assistance for Arts Education: The law includes a distinct authorization to promote arts education under a new program, Assistance for Arts Education. The program will promote arts education for disadvantaged students through activities including professional development for arts teachers, development and dissemination of arts-based educational programming in multiple arts disciplines, and national outreach activities that strengthen partnerships among local education agencies, communities, and national centers for the arts — all helping ensure that all students have access to a well-rounded education that includes the arts.
Accountability: Under the new law, each local educational agency plan is required to describe how they will monitor students’ progress in meeting state standards, and how they will implement “a well-rounded program of instruction to meet the academic needs of all students.” This is designed “to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education, and to close the achievement gap between children meeting the challenging state academic standards and those who are not. This is similar to what we have already implemented in New Jersey with the inclusion of the arts in our School Performance Reports.
Testing and Standards: The current Adequate Yearly Progress requirements have caused an erosion of arts instruction over the life of No Child Left Behind, as increased pressure to perform on key tests in math and reading led to the stifling of other curricula, like arts education. Under the new law, the Adequate Yearly Progress requirements are replaced (YEA!) with multiple measures — an innovation of the states — including student engagement and post-secondary readiness. This removes a huge impediment to arts education programs. In addition, each state will have full control of the development of “challenging academic standards” within their state with no federal coercion or interference.
Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program: The program calls for at least 20 percent of the funds to be directed to well-rounded education, which includes activities in music and the arts. This funding is distributed by formula (totaling $1.65 billion for fiscal year 2017, and $1.6 billion for fiscal years 2018 through 2020), reaching states and school districts. Thus, the arts have equal footing with other academic subjects. This is a consolidation of several previous programs and is in addition to the Assistance for Arts Education section.
Flexibility in the Use of Title I Funds: All Title I programs, the federal program that provides funding to local school districts to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students, both school-wide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including arts education.
More Professional Development for Arts Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of Every Student Succeeds Act, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.
STEM to STEAM: The new law includes support to schools that provide a well-rounded education through programs that integrate academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses.
Protection from “Pull Outs:” The new Every Student Succeeds Act discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction.
Pre-School Grant Program: The law authorizes a pre-school grant program (Sec. 9212) that was funded by Congress last year and for the first time, included the arts within the “Essential Domains of School Readiness” definition as an approach to learning. In addition, the program allows local preschool programs to coordinate with local arts organizations.
21st Century Community Learning Centers: The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program will continue to support afterschool, out-of-school, and expanded learning time in schools. It serves over 1.6 million children with a budget of just over $1 billion annually, and is a critical source of funding for many afterschool arts programs, especially in lower-performing school districts and higher poverty areas.
There is certainly much more in the details of the new law. We hope this “CliffNotes” version will help you understand the key important changes. We will provide further updates on how the implementation of the new law will have direct impact here in New Jersey. For now — it is time to celebrate!
Bob Morrison is chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership was established in 2007 with the mission to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.
Photo at top: Little Kids Rock students celebrate on stage at the organization’s 2014 gala. Courtesy of Little Kids Rock/Mark Jaworski
When you watch the video in slow motion, it seems impossible to miss. He’s on the screen for nine seconds, impeding the game and thumping his chest. But it turns out that completing the task you were given – counting the number of passes made by the players in white shirts – can capture your focus so completely that it is possible to ignore the gorilla, even though he is standing right there.
If you’re just skimming this blog right now and skipped watching the video, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “well, I would have seen the gorilla.” But we know that half of the people thinking that are wrong.
When we hold our Strategic Approach to Strategic Planning workshops for Dodge grantees, I always start by talking about the Invisible Gorilla test, a now-famous study conducted by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.
Their work has illustrated, as they put it, that “We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.” And this is particularly crucial when it comes to nonprofit success, since we are often forced to make decisions at the same time that we are busy counting passes, which diverts our focus from the major issues that are standing right in front of us. It’s a literal interpretation of the classic joke about the 800-pound gorilla that is so big and powerful that it can sit anywhere it wants.
I find the Invisible Gorilla exercise instructive when I’m working with a group that feels that it doesn’t really need to do strategic planning, or can skip the situation analysis phase and just write down what they want to do. When you approach planning in that way, you miss the opportunity to really look for the gorillas that are lurking nearby, and see how you can plan to respond to them. Remember: if everyone in your organization feels confident that they can accurately describe current conditions, it’s likely that 50 percent of them are wrong.
So, how do you ensure that everyone gets a good long look at those invisible gorillas during your planning process?
1) Start your process with research and analysis, before you move on to decision-making. Take the time to do a situation analysis that includes both a fair assessment of internal strengths and weakness and an evaluation of external conditions. Looking at things in this in-depth way will give you a fresh perspective on reality. Some ideas for how to do this.
2) Involve people beyond the inner circle. Seeking participation from people beyond your board and executive staff can be a great way to tackle gorillas. Their input can help you to avoid the trap of “group think,” in which people who frequently work together tend to conform to prevailing views. Group think both discourages creativity, and reduces people’s sense of responsibility for the results of decisions (making it less likely that they will work to implement the plan).
Some ideas for involving others in your planning:
Interview external stakeholders (like partner organizations, community leaders, funders, donors, politicians, and other people who understand your community) and use the results of those interviews to inform planning conversations.
Research your constituents thoroughly…conduct surveys, focus groups, or interviews in a way that allows clients to provide honest feedback. Check to see if your perception of your services matches that of your clients.
Invite outside experts to visit. A planning retreat is a great opportunity to have an expert come and speak to your board and staff about trends in your community or service area. While some of their ideas may not be big news to key staff that follow these trends closely, this big picture view can be game changing for board members and middle managers.
3) Plan differently. While there is still value to the “traditional” planning model that includes mission, vision, goals, and strategies, your organization may be looking at gorillas that can’t be contained within that linear structure. If that’s the case, don’t worry about following the beaten path – design a planning process that will help you to achieve your goals. We’ll be talking more about these alternative planning strategies at our upcoming Advanced Strategic Planning workshop, but you can also check out Alternatives to Strategic Planning, a helpful article by Jan Masaoka on Blue Avocado.
Regardless of how you go forward, remember: most people do not sign up for nonprofit careers or board service because they were so enamored of the everyday business of running a nonprofit. They got involved because they wanted to change the world.
Strategic planning is place where that work can actually happen – where big ideas can come forward and become reality. Just make sure you’ve noticed the gorilla standing in the middle of your game, and figured out how to turn him into a team player rather than a distraction.
Building on last month’s “Listening to Poetry” activities, “Giving Voice” opens up the experience of listening to poems aloud by inviting everyone in the room to participate as a reader.
“Giving Voice” also offers an opportunity to spontaneously share poems that strike us as interesting and worth sharing without requiring us to offer any detailed, studied or critical explanation or justification for our choice. Sometimes the poems that we return to throughout our lives are those that continue to resonate with us in ways we can’t explain.
But our relationship to a poem doesn’t have to be life-long. We don’t even have to love a poem to want to share it. It may just amuse, tantalize or even puzzle us. Sometimes we put too much of a burden on poetry, as if it always has to be profound and moving. This can be intimidating. Let’s not forget that even Shakespeare wrote poems that were clever and funny; and that many ancient traditions treasure poems for their lightness and seeming spontaneity. We can share poems for how they strike us in the moment just as we do with any other art, including music, movies, TV shows and videos.
You can use a Dodge Poetry Kit for Teachers for this activity (Send us an email at email@example.com to get copies of kits from past Dodge Festivals.), or use the poetry section of your textbook, or distribute a variety of anthologies you might have available, or prepare a packet of poems.
Seat your students in a circle. Distribute poet pages from the Teacher Kit, poem pamphlets or anthologies, or have them open to the poetry section of the textbook.
Give students 10 minutes to read poems. They can go back-to-front, front-to-back, or shuffle and read at random. They don’t have to finish reading a poem that doesn’t interest them. They can skim and follow their whims until they come across something that strikes them as interesting enough to be read aloud.
Ask them to pick one poem or even just a few lines of a poem, spur-of-the-moment, without too much thought, to read aloud.
Do a read-around the circle of the poems or fragments of poems they’ve selected. You can go first. (You should participate in the activity.) Then simply have them read their poems around the circle, one after the other, without introductions or explanations. No commentary or criticism should be offered. Just listen together.
If you’d like, this activity can be followed by a second reading of the same poems, with students invited to talk about why they picked the poems they did. Some of the reading and listening activities described in last month’s “Listening to Poetry” blog could be tried as next steps. You could use the poems students selected and have them use them as sources for examples of the literary terms about poetry they are learning as part of the poetry unit.
If students enjoy the poet they choose to read, they can research that poet further and share what they learn later in the week. Many poets have websites or Facebook pages, Twitter or Instagram accounts, or blogs. This activity can be repeated over and over again.
Check back with us on the first Monday of each month for more tips on how to bring poetry into your classroom!
Today’s featured Festival film is a reading by James Richardson at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival. Enjoy his poems “Essay on Wood,” “One of the Evenings” and “Northwest Passage.” For more information, check out our blog about him here, or on Poetry Foundation.
Check back with us each Friday for more Festival videos!