Reflections on the Arts Education Partnership's Spring Forum
By Jamie Kasper
On April 12 and 13, I attended the Arts Education Partnership's spring forum in Washington, D.C. AEP is the arts education arm of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the professional organization for the state secretaries of education. Pennsylvania's current Secretary of Education, Ron Tomalis, is a part of this group.
The forum began with a welcome and overview by AEP Director Sandra Ruppert. Rocco Landesman, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, also welcomed us. He took the opportunity to announce the Endowment's new Director of Arts Education, Ayanna Hudson. Ayanna comes from Arts for All in Los Angeles.
A student performance by Positive Directions through Dance followed. From the forum's program:
PDTD provides daily, year round, high quality training in dance techniques, styles, and history to 30 DC high school students from low income households. Dance education is coupled with life skills development – students participate in workshops on…nutrition, anger management, financial literacy, and conflict resolution.
These students were having so much fun as they danced. For their second piece, they stood in a semi-circle and traded off solos. It reminded me of a really great jazz band, where people jump in and take the lead whenever they feel they have something to add to the performance.
This forum focused on research. You can see recaps of the sessions on the AEC's blog. Of particular interest was Friday's panel session on education reform moderated by John Merrow, Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour. John was able to ask pointed, sometimes confrontation questions that required the panelists to take a stand on an issue and defend that stance. The panelists, to their credit, were articulate and well-informed regarding education reform. The panelists were:
- Dennis Inhulsen, Principal at Patterson Elementary School in Holly, Michigan, and President-Elect of the National Art Education Association
- Valerie Strauss, Education Writer at The Washington Post
- Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers
One key take away from this panel session was the education community's dissatisfaction with No Child Left Behind. Gene Wilhoit went so far as to say, "NCLB is quickly becoming obsolete." This dissatisfaction has much to do with the relative importance policymakers have placed on standardized test scores. One prominent author in the educational technology field, Will Richardson, has decided to opt his children out of New Jersey's standardized tests this spring. You can read more about his decision, including the letter he sent to his local newspaper and his state's website, at his blog.
As usual, it was great to spend a few days reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. The networking potential at AEP's forums is priceless. If you're interested in taking advantage of the networking opportunities, plan to join us for the fall 2013 AEP forum, which will be here in Pittsburgh!