A Call to Action by Kris Murray

The Executive Director of Young Audiences of Northern California, Kris Murray was asked to contribute and offer her perspective to whether the arts are dead in California's Public Schools. This discussion was originally published by Zócalo Public Square. Zócalo Public Square is a not-for-profit daily Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

 

Kris Murray:  

Are the arts dead in California public schools? Absolutely not. But they are not thriving. As pressure has increased on schools to produce graduates who meet specific competency standards in English, language arts, and math, decision-makers have understandably prioritized resources to deliver student achievement on standardized tests in those subject areas. An unintentional byproduct of that focus has been a slow starvation of arts programs in all but a very small 

percentage of California schools. And yet, through new and traditional media, young people have ready access to art. Reality television is filled with competitions in dancemusic, and visual art. YouTube and Vimeo offer a place for youth to showcase their work. KickStarter is democratizing the funding of art through crowdsourcing. Popular culture still celebrates artistic achievement. And, with support, schools will catch up. 

The prescription for arts-starved schools starts with a solid dose of information. As new school reporting mechanisms emerge (in coming years, no more than 60 percent of a high school’s API may consist of standardized test scores), the emaciated school arts programs will become evident. As awareness grows, concerned parents and community members must advocate for healthier arts programs.

A second element in a prescription for healthy arts programs lies in clarifying the goals of arts instruction. When mindfully integrated into the school day, the arts elevate students’ understanding, achievement, and experience in other core subject areas as well as in the arts discipline being taught.

 

A third critical piece of the prescription lies in collective action. If we are to boast of healthy, creative schools, everyone has to be involved—administrators, artists, teachers, community leaders, and parents. Some of this work has begun through the efforts of Create CA—Core Reforms Engaging Arts to Educate. This work must continue to expand in order to implement a recuperative strategy for arts education in California.

 

Read more for the rest of the discussion.

 

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