Monday, September 26, 2011

Preserving Arts Education

By Guest Blogger Jessica Mele, Executive Director at Performing Arts Workshop

 It's election season and two issues impacting arts education in the Bay Area need your attention. Please read on, and take action today!

Tell the Governor to Support SB 547 - A Better Way to Evaluate Our Schools


What is SB 547? This bill would replace the current statewide accountability system that relies completely on standardized test scores to assess school success, with a new index called the Education Quality Index. The EQI would take into account broader measurements, including a Graduation Rate Index, a College Preparedness Index, and a Career Readiness Index. In addition the bill lists a Creativity and Innovation Index as one of its future priorities.

Why Support SB 547? Cultivating creativity and innovation is a vital component of a complete education and it is imperative to our state's economic recovery and future growth. According to a coalition of researchers, 81% of American corporate leaders say that "creativity is an essential skill for the 21st century work force." Yet schools have narrowed their expectations in recent years, "teaching to the test" because standardized tests are the only public measures of school success.

Take Action Today! The Governor may take action on this bill as soon as this week.

San Francisco Mayoral Candidates On the Arts

On August 23rd, Performing Arts Workshop co-sponsored the SF Mayoral Arts Forum. Over 500 San Francisco voters and arts supporters gathered to hear KQED Forum host Michael Krasny lead an informative discussion on arts issues in San Francisco with top candidates for Mayor. Reporter Jesse Hamlin described the evening in his piece for San Francisco Classical Voice.

Candidates participating on the panel were: Public Defender Jeff Adachi; Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier; Supervisor John Avalos; Board of Supervisors President David Chiu; former Supervisor Bevan Dufty; former Supervisor Tony Hall; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; Mayor Ed Lee; Green Party candidate Terry Baum; and venture capitalist Joanna Rees.

All of the candidates were invited to respond to the Mayoral Arts Forum questionnaire regarding their positions on arts-related issues and their responses have been posted at www.SFArtsForum.org. In preparation for election day on November 8, 2011, we invite all San Francisco voters to familiarize themselves with the candidate responses. Thank you!
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Jessica Mele is the Executive Director of Performing Arts Workshop, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. Jessica serves as the Advocacy Co-Chair for the Arts Provider’s Alliance of San Francisco and as a member of the steering committees of Teaching Artists Organized and the Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and French Studies from Smith College and an Ed. M.in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recreation as a Developmental Experience

By Sam Piha

 The increased emphasis on academic achievement has eclipsed our appreciation of the value of recreation, even in afterschool programs. To change this, we need research and language to promote the value of recreation and experiential education.

Afterschool leaders have an excellent opportunity to participate in a Webinar action dialogue, on October 5, 2011, that explores:

• Scope, boundaries and definitions of recreation and experiential education;
• Evidence for the usefulness of recreation programs for prevention and asset building;
• Differences between traditional recreation and the intentional youth development approach to these activities;
• Best practices in staff and professional development;
• Leverage points for changes in policy and funding, including possible alignment with obesity prevention programs.

This Webinar is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and PEAR – the Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

According to the organizers, “this webinar assembles leading experts — practitioners, researchers, and policy influencers—to discuss meaningful recreation and leisure experiences in the lives of young people… and builds upon the newest issue of New Directions for Youth Development, entitled ‘Recreation as a Developmental Experience’.”

You can sign up for this important webinar by clicking here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Afterschool Stakeholders Can Learn From Steve Jobs

By Sam Piha

After Steve Jobs announced his resignation from Apple, a number of people sent around the text of his 2005 Commencement Speech to graduates of Stanford University. We found his words inspiring. You can read a copy of the text of his speech and view a video of his presentation.

Jobs explained that after dropping out of college, what inspired him was a calligraphy class. “It [calligraphy] was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.”

In response to Jobs’ speech, Patrick Ledesma posted these questions on his “Leading from the Classroom” blog. We believe that these questions are valuable to anyone promoting young people’s learning.

“So when you plan for what your students will learn this year, ask:

1. What opportunities will my students have to be exposed to the arts and music?
2. What opportunities will my students have to explore areas of interests that may someday inspire and give them purpose?
3. What opportunities will my students have to apply their skills and interests to create something that demonstrates ‘what they love to do?’

If your students will have these opportunities this year, your students are on the track to finding what may someday be their ‘great work.’ If your students do not have these opportunities, it's time to start analyzing when these opportunities can be made available, if not during class, then perhaps through other venues such as clubs or after school programs.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Comments from Carla Sanger on Expanded Learning Opportunities

By Sam Piha

The idea of extending the school day, which is known as expanded learning opportunities, is making its way into federal education and afterschool policy. Last Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed on this topic. Our prior LIA blog posts also featured a two-part interview with Jennifer Davis, President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, on the same topic.

California already has a significant commitment to learning in the afterschool hours through the passage of Proposition 49. So, what does the idea of extending the school day mean to afterschool leaders in California? Below is a response from Carla Sanger, CEO of LA’s BEST, one of California’s largest and most effective afterschool program providers.

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“We know budget cuts and shortened school years hurt students, especially those students whose families don't have the resources to invest in tutoring and enrichment classes. But those who advocate solely for more time on task in a classroom setting are as shortsighted as the kids are shortchanged: Students need time to learn differently, through engaging activities that reinforce rather than repeat lessons learned in school, and inspire them to discover individual talents and interests. 

When community-based organizations such as LA's BEST partner with schools to provide these opportunities, the result is not only high-quality programs that improve student performance, but a delivery system at a fraction of the cost of an extended day model. 

Of the long-term evaluation results of the LA's BEST program, Eva Baker, President of the World Educational Research Association, asked, "Can we name any other reform with this empirical track record and low cost?" We can run seven afterschool sites for the price of extending the school day on one campus. That's not chump change, to us or the kids.”
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Carla Sanger has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of LA's BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow) After School Enrichment Program for 17 years. She is a long-time specialist in children's education policy and advocacy, working in both the public and private sectors in many different capacities. She serves on numerous afterschool quality and evaluation advisory committees and task forces and has been honored with a number of local, state, and national awards. Ms. Sanger has also been a featured speaker and conference presenter for numerous school districts throughout California.