A Day in the Life of an Arts Teacher

shutterstock_121398937It is important to thank those who are able to bring the arts to our students’ lives. One of the best things about being an arts teacher is to see my students succeed. I chose to become a music teacher at the young age of eight years old. I was inspired by the great movie: Mr. Holland’s Opus. Here’s a brief description (and spoiler) of the movie for those who haven’t seen it. In the 1960s, Mr. Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss, was a composer and professional musician.

He wanted to settle down from his crazy performance schedule to spend more time with his wife. In order to do so, he became a music teacher in the local high school. Although he dreaded being a teacher because he loved to perform so much, he grew to love his students as if they were his own children. Mr. Holland taught for over 30 years and changed hundreds of his students’ lives through music both inside and outside of the classroom.

At the end of the movie, Mr. Holland was forced to retire because of funding and lack of administrative support, however, the majority of the students who he taught came back and planned a huge concert for him where they performed a piece that he spent decades composing. I want to be just like Mr. Holland. I want to be able to break through the barriers of my students’ lives to let them know that they can use music (or other arts) to express themselves.

Currently, I teach elementary instrumental and general/vocal music in Baltimore County, MD. I usually teach about 5-6 classes a day, depending on the day, with 1 planning period. Each of these classes (and the planning period) are 50 minutes long. During these 50 minutes, a lot of activities and topics are reviewed, learned and evaluated. I also make sure that what they are learning coincides with things they may be currently learning in their other classes as well as incorporate familial aspects from my students’ lives to help them better understand concepts.

5:00 a.m. – Wake up, shower, eat, and get dressed.

6:30 a.m. – Out the door, on the road from Washington, DC to my school in MD, which is about 50 miles away.

7:45 a.m. – Arrive at school, begin putting up objectives, clean instruments, rearrange classrooms, compile old papers, and sharpen pencils.

9:15 a.m. – 4th Grade. This class is composed of about 22 students who are extremely excited about music. We warm up with vocal exercises and techniques and review old topics. We then focus on the topic of the day and work in groups to explore the topic. Students usually perform at the end of each class period so that I can evaluate their understanding of the new topic.

10:05 a.m. – 5th Grade Electives, World Drumming. This class is an elective class in which students choose to participate in their favorite activity. This class consists of about 15 5th grade students who mostly compose their own songs using Orff instruments, drums and other world instruments like the claves.

10:55 a.m. – 3rd Grade. The third grade curriculum is currently a mix between Kodaly techniques and Recorder. Students essentially love music at this age because they become more responsible with purchasing their own instruments (the recorders). Depending on the day, students are both learning music theory and a new recorder piece or they are testing to receive their next belt in recorder karate.

11: 45 a.m. – Lunch

12:15 p.m. – 2nd Grade. This class loves to play with different instruments so we continue to sing, use Kodaly methods and learn about new instruments during the class.

1:00 p.m. – 10 minute break to re-adjust my classroom.

1:10 p.m. –1st Grade. This class loves to sing, dance and perform! We continue to work on our 1st grade play for our parents, which we will perform at the end of the year. We also talk about different topics in music class and how they apply to the songs that we are learning to perform.

2:00 p.m. – Kindergarten. A very playful class that loves to perform, sing and dance. They are learning the fundamentals of music such as loud vs soft (piano/forte), locomotive sounds, ostinatos, rounds, etc.

2:50 p.m. – Planning Time. Finish lesson planning for the next day, clean up room, make copies, etc.

3:30 p.m. – Afternoon Duty. Making sure students go straight to the bus and saying our goodbyes for the day.

4:00 p.m. – After-school step practice with students (or talent show practice depending on the day).

6:00 p.m. – Last student leaves for the day, and so do I!

7:30 p.m. – Finally get home. Continue to plan lessons/units for the upcoming weeks.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Quanice Floyd is the Arts Education Graduate Fellow at National PTA. She is currently working on her Masters in Arts Management at American University while teaching in Baltimore County Public Schools. She received her Bachelors of Music Education at Howard University and Masters of Music Education at Kent State University. She is passionate about arts education and one day hopes to one day open her own performing arts school for urban youth.

The Art of Sharing Power

SharingPowerCo-authored by Ethan Clark.

Lights! Camera! Action! Check out the following dramatic script to see an example of how arts education can be limited and one parent who wants to make a difference.

Colors for Timmy: A dramatic play about sharing power
by Sherri Wilson and Ethan Clark

Cast:
Timmy Wilson

Mrs. Wilson
Principal Clark

Late one evening at the Wilson’s dinner table…

Mrs. Wilson: “What was the best part of your day today, Timmy?”

Timmy: “I liked the painting we did in art class but we only had two colors to choose from and all of our pictures looked the same.”

Mrs. Wilson: “What? Only two colors? Why don’t they have more?”

Timmy: “Mr. Clark said they didn’t have any money in the budget to pay for more paint.”

Later that week, at the principal’s office…

Mrs. Wilson: “How can we get more colors of paint for the children?”

Mr. Clark: “The budget decisions were made by the committee last year.”

Mrs. Wilson: “How can I get on the committee? I’d like to make sure that all the kids get all the colors they need!”

Does this dramatic script resonate with you? Do you think your school needs more arts education? Ask your friends to role play this with you so you can practice having a voice in decisions that affect children. For inspiration check out The Quest, a national award winning film production from Reflections participant Ansel LaPier of Liberty, WA.

The PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships were developed by leading researchers and practitioners to empower PTA leaders, parents, educators, community members and students to work together for the educational success of all children. The fifth of the six standards Sharing Power. Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs. Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices and programs.

Share power and advance arts learning in your school, with these 3 steps:

  1. Create a PTA taskforce of student, teacher and other school leaders. Welcome community arts professionals.
  2. Assess your school’s arts in education needs: Survey school leaders identify school policies that support arts teaching and learning (e.g. arts learning standards, arts instructional requirements, assessment of arts learning, licensure requirements for arts teachers, etc.). Use the Arts Education Partnership’s State of the States Arts Education State Policy Summary to compare school policies with state laws. Identify areas needing improvement.
  3. Develop an action plan with recommendations to school leaders on how update, adopt, or implement art education policies. Include your “shared power” strategy in official school documents such as a school improvement plan.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Sharing Power.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact excellence@pta.org or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Fifth in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

 

The Art of Speaking Up for Every Child

Co-authored by Ethan Clark.

Roses are red. Violets are blue. Students love art and you should too! How would you express your feelings about arts education in your school community? Take a moment and write your thoughts on why the arts are important for your child’s education. Bonus points if it rhymes!

Does your poem resonate with the following key facts about arts in education?

  1. Participation in the arts through programs like PTA’s Reflections develops the whole child. Through movement, social interactions, emotional expression and application of skill, arts education provides an academic advantage to students. The arts provide safe learning environments where students take risks, explore ideas, express their individuality and support their peers in a positive way. Studies also find that students are more engaged and teachers are more effective in arts-rich schools.
  2. PTA’s Reflections program can level the playing field for underserved students. Studies find that students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, English language learners, and students with special needs—often underserved in public schools—show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement when participating in arts programs such as PTA Reflections.
  3. Participation in the arts connects families and schools to one another and to their communities. Research shows a significant relationship between arts education, family engagement, and community participation. Students who study the arts develop a sense of personal responsibility toward their communities and have the ability to positively affect the community social life through their artwork. Insert a sentence about the way Reflections accomplishes that.

That Kind of TeacherIt’s important to let your school leaders know how you feel about arts in education! Share your perspective with school leaders so that they understand why you feel your child needs opportunity for arts learning.

For an inspirational look at education through the eyes of a child, take a look at That Kind of Teacher, a national award winning poem by Reflections participant Jared Weiss of New Jersey.

Sharing your views with school leaders is the heart of Speaking Up for Every Child, the fourth of the six National Standards for Family School Partnerships. Families should feel empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.

Consider advocating for state or local policies to support arts in education. It takes a variety of policies across many areas of education to ensure a high quality learning experience, such as:

  • Arts as a core academic subject
  • Resources for early childhood learning in the arts
  • Learning and teaching standards
  • Time, space, and resources for elementary, middle and high school arts programs
  • Schools offer opportunities to participate in the arts during and after school
  • Students are graded on content knowledge and skills they’ve learned in art programs

Visit ArtScan by Arts Education Partnership to learn more about your state’s policies supporting arts education. And check out the Arts Education Field Guide by Americans for the Arts to expand your arts in education network.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the standard for speaking up for every child. When families come together at Reflections events, they have the opportunity to dialogue about the value of art education and how to work together to advocate for more.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact excellence@pta.org or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Fourth in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

ED Celebrates Award-Winning Student Art in the National PTA’s Exhibit ‘Believe, Dream, Inspire’

Reposted from U.S. Department of Education’s HomeRoom blog.

Travez

Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

On January 13, 2015, more than 200 teachers, family members, arts education leaders, PTA members, policymakers, and local-area students came together to honor student artists from 21 states at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) auditorium and art gallery. The young artists – and winners of the 2014 National PTA Reflections program — came to celebrate their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire.

Two dynamic artists performed their winning pieces. Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition, performed his rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. With a whirlwind of energy, Jillian Miller, winner of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything.

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Travez, who had traveled with his grandfather from Natchez, Mississippi, talked about his musical inspiration: the gospel rap he experienced at church. His winning composition is in response to his classmates’ fear of performing poorly on tests and failing to graduate, “Believe in yourself when other people doubt you. Dream big, even when some dreams don’t come true. Inspire yourself when others don’t.” Travez now attends community college in Mississippi.

Secretary Duncan launched the celebration by championing arts education, “The arts should be — must be — part of a well-rounded curriculum for every single child.” The National PTA’s Reflections program, he noted, “helps students gain core knowledge — in areas like history, geography, and math — alongside 21st-century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. This program prepares students for success not just in school but in life as well.”

Echoing the secretary, Dawn Small, chair of the Reflections program, observed, “These students … have gained … the ‘arts advantage.’ Their creativity is alive. … Their mind’s eye is awake. … We look forward to great things from them.”

Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, underscored the value of the exhibit and audience to help decision makers learn about the transformative power of arts education. To demonstrate that, he presented an information tool developed by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization for the advancement of arts and arts education. “If we do it right,” he charged, “the return on investment is a better child … a better nation and a better world.”

Otha Thornton Jr., National PTA president, stressed the importance of promoting arts education, observing that, “our children’s education is our future … we are their advocates. We are the conduits of their dreams.”

After the ribbon cutting, Vy Nguyen of Texas talked about her acrylic painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. A recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts, she developed her skill through sheer determination. Blinking away tears of joy, she shared her dream to graduate from high school and attend college. The silhouetted figure depicted in cap and gown represents this dream amid a class of graduating seniors in an eye full of awareness and hope.

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

One of the most exciting sights of the day was the middle school class from Jefferson Academy of Washington, D.C., critiquing student art. Their art teacher Michelle Green explained their presence, “It’s been a long and arduous process of getting them comfortable with the [art criticism] vocabulary. This is a great opportunity for us to see other kids their own age from around the nation looking at artwork” and to get the desire to “join in these competitions!”

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)


Isadora Binder is on the staff of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.

The Art of Supporting Student Success

with co-author Sherri Wilson

Art_EducationA picture is worth a thousand words! Next time you visit your school, take out your phone and take a picture of something around you that shows evidence of student success.

Look at your picture. What elements of the picture lead you to believe that student success is happening in your building? Do you see examples of high quality student work? Do you see evidence that learning standards are met?

The PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships were developed to empower PTA leaders, parents, educators, community members and students to work together for the educational success of all children. The third of the six standards is Supporting Student Success. Families and school staff should continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively.

Arts programs allow for families and school staff to collaborate in ways that prepare students for the next America. The Arts Education Partnership states that, “America’s global stature, culture of innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit depend on the strength of a world-class education system. Perhaps now more than ever—as the country becomes increasingly diverse, the world more interconnected, and the workplace more oriented around technology and creativity—arts education is key to such a system and to ensuring students’ success in school, work, and life.”

Consider the following resources to support students in school, in work and in life:

  • Explore the new National Arts Standards.
  • Host a Creative Career Fair to match student’s interests in the arts with today’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math workforce.
  • Apply for a Mary Lou Anderson Grant to support art projects for the whole school community.

The Arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Supporting Student Success.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact excellence@pta.org or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Now that we’ve learned about the basic elements of supporting student success, take another look at your picture and write an artist statement to accompany your photo. Share your photo with us on twitter (@ClarkEthan & @PTAswilson)!

Third in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

 

Arts Education Is Critical for Students with Disabilities

Art_Education

At VSA, our mission is to ensure that people with disabilities—specifically students in grades K-12 and emerging artists up to age 25—have opportunities to learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts.  We believe arts education is critical for students with disabilities.  You, as a parent, guardian or caretaker, should invest in, advocate for, and participate in the arts education of your child. Here’s why:

Arts education develops critical 21st century skills such as creating and innovating, listening to and building on the opinions of others, practicing problem solving, and developing empathy. These skills are crucial for academic and professional success.  In the arts, these skills are conveyed through engaging learning experiences where the student’s voice, intuition and feelings are valued.  For many students with disabilities, these creative experiences provide opportunities to exceed expectations through the expression of unique perspectives.  And the collaborative nature of many art forms encourages students to learn to work with peers, form relationships and solve problems.  Thus, the arts offer students with disabilities unique opportunities to demonstrate understandings in ways that they may not experience in more traditional academic settings.

A growing body of research demonstrates positive life-long outcomes for students who have rich arts experiences. Music education and skills acquisition is linked to greater executive functioning skills, theater education is linked to verbal and literacy skills, dance education improves fitness and health, and the list goes on and on. All you need to do is Google “value of arts education” and you will find a veritable treasure trove of literature supporting the assertions above. Here’s one link I’ve been sharing recently:

Music: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-playing-an-instrument-benefits-your-brain-anita-collins

But we should also advocate for arts education for its own sake. Singing a song in three-part harmony brings a particular sense of joy.  What else feels like dancing but dance?  And the first time a child makes a mark on a canvas that represents her unique perspective, she knows power.

At the Kennedy Center’s Office of VSA & Accessibility, we offer arts education opportunities for students with disabilities in theater, visual arts, and music.  We also provide resources for teachers and parents to provide art experiences at home, enter a competition or online exhibition, or connect with experts in your community who are passionate about arts education for students with disabilities.

Students with disabilities deserve opportunities to develop their creative voices, individually and collectively.

By investing in your child’s arts education today, you are developing her capacity to embrace and shape her future.

We want to be your resource.  Reach out!

Here’s our website:  www.kennedy-center.org/education/vsa/

Or connect with us via email: vsainfo@kennedy-center.org

Sonya Robbins Hoffmann is Manager of VSA Programs at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  

 

The Art of Communicating Effectively

With co-author Ethan Clark

ListeningListening is the most important part of communication. Try this listening activity to identify the themes presented in this Reflections award winning music composition. Click here to listen to “Becoming a Piano Teacher” by Emily DeNucci. Actively listen for three movements and see if you can recognize the message that Emily is communicating through music.

Now, check on how well you listened! When you heard “Becoming a Piano Teacher” by Emily DeNucci, did you hear all three movements? Check your listening skills with her artist statement below.

“This music piece is about is that there’s a little girls, Rosalina, who loves to play the piano, and when she grows up she wants to be a piano teacher.  So the first part of my piano song is that she believes she can do it and she practices piano more and more.  The second part of my song is that Rosalina, every night dreams about being a piano teacher.  The third part of my song is that when she grows up she really does become a piano teacher, and she knew, all that time, that her teacher inspired her.” – Emily DeNucci

Like listening to a musical composition, parents and teachers need many opportunities to engage in two-way dialogue so that they can better understand each other’s perspectives and how to support student success.

Listening is the First Step for Communicating Effectively at School

The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships provide a framework for strengthening family engagement programs to focus on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. Communicating Effectively with school staff about student learning is the second of the six standards.

The goal for Communicating Effectively is sharing information between school and families. Families, the community, and school staff should communicate in numerous interactive ways, both formally and informally. After all, communication is the key to building trusting relationships, and relationships are the key to engaging all families! Indicators for this standard include providing information on current issues and facilitating connections among families.

Consider how your PTA can encourage positive, two-way dialogue between parents and school staff at these arts education events:

  • Invite families and school staff to student exhibitions and performances.
  • Recognize student achievement in the arts at school staff and school board meetings.
  • Host a student artist reception and facilitate introductions at back to school night and during activity fairs.
  • Encourage school leaders to volunteer at a fundraiser supporting afterschool arts activities.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Communicating Effectively.

We challenge you to use the arts as a listening tool – not just for music, but for creating opportunities for families and teachers to connect. And the next time your PTA and school staff work together, take a photo and upload it to your favorite social media site like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can use the hashtag #StartTheArts to expand the conversation among families, school staff, and community partners.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact excellence@pta.org or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Second in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

 

I Love It Because It’s Built By Me

Sofia, proud of her creation.

Sofia, proud of her creation.

A few weeks before school started, my daughter and I were shopping and she wanted to buy a few items that she dubbed “fancy things.” This included some colorful tape, glitter glue, nice paper and some pom pom balls.

We got home and I watched as she immersed herself in the art-making process. Her brow furrowed as she intently used the glitter glue. She pulled away from the paper to get a better look at her creation before she decided where to place the colorful tape. And then she removed it and placed it somewhere else where there was more blank space on the paper.

When she finished, she was proud and beaming and quickly brought it to me for approval. I pointed out the colors that I saw. I told her that I liked the various textures she included and asked how she got the sparkly strings to stick to the paper. And then I asked her what she liked about the artwork herself. She said:

I love it because it’s built by me.

Indeed, the very act of creation is one of the reasons that I believe so strongly that the arts are a necessary part of every child’s education. If you unpack Sofia’s statement, you realize that there were so many positive educational experiences happening while she created this artwork:

Sofia was deeply engaged in the process.

Sofia made decisions about her work and revised it as she went.

Sofia created something new that didn’t exist before in the world.

Researchers Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner describe the skills acquired during art classes as habits of mind—persistence, expression, observation, envisioning, innovation through exploration and reflective self-evaluation. These are skills that I want my daughter to be learning.

Fast forward three weeks, and Sofia started kindergarten. I went to back to school night, and I joined the PTA. I want be involved and make sure that she is learning the skills taught through the process of art-making.

If you too believe that the arts can be a powerful tool for learning, then here are a few resources that can help you ensure that your child gets arts experiences as part of their education.

Family Activities — Learning begins at home. Here are some simple ideas to help your child enjoy the arts.

10 Simple Ways — If your child’s school doesn’t provide classes in art, music, dance and theater, here are 10 simple ways to get more arts into your child’s life.

Questions to Ask — Here are questions to ask your education leaders to determine the quality of your school or district’s arts program.


Kristen Engebretsen is the arts education program manager for Americans for the Arts. She also is a member of the Takoma Park Elementary PTA in Maryland.

The Art of Welcoming All Families

Family School PartnershipsIf you were to paint a picture representing how you felt the first time you entered your child’s school building, what would it look like? Go ahead, take a minute to draw a picture of the feelings you had when you entered the building. We’re serious, go ahead and grab a crayon or marker from your kids’ excessive crayon collection or a trusty pen from that catch-all kitchen drawer.

  • Consider using colors that represent how you felt as you approached the front door. Include people you interacted with and when you’re done, write one sentence describing what your picture represents.
  • Take a photo and upload it to you favorite social media site like Twitter, Facebook or Instragram and use the hashtag #StartTheArts.

The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships provide a framework for strengthening family engagement programs to focus on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. Welcoming All Families into the school community is the first of the six standards.

When schools are successful in meeting this standard, families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class. When families walk into the school building, they should feel it’s a place where they belong. Also, all of the school policies and programs should reflect, respect and value the diversity of the families in the community.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Welcoming All Families.

#StartTheArts with PTA Reflections and bring families together during National Arts in Education Week — the second full week in September. Learn more about PTA Start the Arts Week and use the Reflections Toolkit to get started today.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact excellence@pta.org or call (800)307-4782 for more info.


First in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.

Got Art?

PTA Start the Arts Week—September 15-19, 2014—is the official Reflections kick-off celebration to promote the benefits of arts education. During Start the Arts Week, PTA invites students, teachers, families, schools and communities to celebrate and participate in the arts. We celebrate this week in conjunction with National Arts in Education Week.

Sandra Ruppert is Director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP).

Sandra Ruppert is Director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP).

Another school year has started. You’ve likely checked and double-checked your children’s backpacks to make sure they have their lunch, notebooks, pencils, and textbooks before letting them run out to catch the bus. But have you checked for their flute or paint brushes? Do they even need them?

Unfortunately, for many students across the country, the answer is no. The U.S. Department of Education’s survey data reveal that millions of students attend schools that provide limited or no access to arts education opportunities. This is despite the fact that we are accumulating more and better evidence all the time about the multi-faceted and beneficial outcomes associated with learning in and through the arts for all students.

As we get ready to kick off another National Arts in Education Week, what can you, as parents, do to ensure that your children receive a complete and competitive education that includes the arts? Here are a few steps to consider:

Investigate your arts education policies

Find out about your state’s arts standards and what else your state requires at ArtScan on the AEP website, then ask what your school or school district is actually providing to students. If there are disparities between what’s required and what’s being offered, find out why and go from there to explore what can be done to ensure all kids are receiving a high quality education that includes the arts.

Know the benefits of an arts education

A growing body of knowledge documents that, in addition to academic outcomes, an education in the arts contributes directly to the success in all areas of school, work, and life. AEP’s most recent research bulletin, Preparing Students for the Next America: The Benefits of an Arts Education provides an overview of many of these benefits.

If you want a little more depth, ArtsEdSearch.org is AEP’s one-stop shop for research about the educational outcomes associated with arts learning across arts forms and grade levels, both in and out of school. We developed ArtsEdSearch because there was nothing else like it, where high quality research is available in one place, readily accessible, and easily understandable.

Make a case for the arts

Overall, one key challenge we face is how to shape and influence both public and political will to ensure that the arts in education matter. Depending on your audience, be prepared to make a strong case that includes at least three key points related to the role and contribution of the arts:

  1. Academic achievement and student success
  2. Economic development and workforce preparation
  3. Quality of life and civic engagement

A balanced education that includes the arts as an essential component is vital to ensuring that all students are graduate ready for college, career, and citizenship. Take these few steps to help ensure that your child has the arts education necessary for him or her to succeed!

AEP LogoSandra Ruppert is Director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), which is part of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Washington DC-based nonprofit and nonpartisan membership organization representing the top leaders of state education agencies.