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The past six months have been unpredictable and dark, to say the least. Art educators, students, and the entire team at AOEU have ebbed and flowed with the currents that were at first gentle and mild and now are in a constant pendulum swing. The landscape of education at large has also adjusted. What was once a predictable cycle of funding and curriculum has encountered new variables that will impact education for decades to come.
I can say with complete confidence that art education is here to stay. Art education and creative thinking are needed now more than ever and there is plenty of evidence for it. Here’s why:
In November of 2018, the American Institutes for Research—a nonprofit, nonpartisan behavioral and social science research, evaluation, assessment, and technical assistance organization based in Washington, D.C.—released a study titled, “Review of Evidence: Arts Education Through the Lens of ESSA,” and funding “devoted specifically to advancing arts education.”
The report explains, “The inclusion of arts in Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) shows that policymakers, not only arts advocacy groups and educators, view arts as an essential component in a well-rounded education.” ESSA is the federal grant money that helps public schools provide a quality, well-rounded education for all students. To summarize, federal funding has deemed the arts an essential part of education.
Art teachers know this, but art education greatly impacts overall student achievement, and there is data to prove it. In the same study, The American Institutes for Research has confirmed this in many ways. Their research was aimed at determining what impact well-designed and well-implemented arts education interventions have on student outcomes.
According to the meta-analysis, the average impact analyzed across a multitude of studies showed a “moderate and statistically significant” effect in the impact of the domains in art learning, social-emotional learning, overall attitude, and process abilities. “In summary, with the right interventions, art education is proven to greatly impact overall student achievement.”
Art education and creative practice are natural partners to SEL. In the next few years, as students, teachers, and communities cope with the collective trauma of this past year, the in-person or virtual art classroom is where the healing is going to happen. Art education, like all SEL anchored courses, will grow. Students will return to us with significant trauma and disrupted lives, and the art room will be there to support students in those situations. Art is one of the answers.
In fact, many school districts across the nation have already identified SEL as a focus of learning. Students need to be able to explore and understand themselves and their changing world. Art education is a vital part of that process. While obviously, the core curriculum is essential, art education with the flexibility of delivery and emotional impact can move beyond the academic limits and reach students where and how it really matters.
In serving the education technology space throughout my career, I have come to gain a unique perspective of the tremendous impact effective educators and administrators can have in influencing student outcomes. I have had the privilege to sit alongside our country’s most influential administrators and the largest school systems in crafting plans and implementing resources to restore or ensure confidence in delivering classroom instruction. Some of these organizations are most notably, The Art of Education University, Frontline Education, and School Improvement Network.
From my experience with teachers all over the nation, I have never met a group of more authentic teachers. The connections art educators are able to make with students as they solicit the best of their talents and voices is an amazing, unmatched skill. Furthermore, art educators accept students for who they are. The grace and empathy they exhibit come forward in nearly every interaction they have. Finally, the passion art educators bring to the landscape is palpable. They get excited when they see something happen for their students. It truly is a privilege to work with and for art educators.
Because of their passion and dedication art teachers are uniquely equipped to lead education into the next year. Art educators already rely on grit, and they know how to make things work. They are constantly working in organized chaos, looking at limitations as opportunities, and making something from nothing. Simply put, they are prepared to thrive and teach others to do the same.
Nothing is a guarantee. Some people are holding their breath to see what a new administration and post-pandemic return to school will bring, but whether education decentralizes or centers more control at the federal level, no one will cut funds for education. The funding allocation, however, will change, sometimes it is more, sometimes it is less, as it always has been.
That said, art education advocacy never stops. It is only in this position today because of the hard work of art educators over the past decades. It has not “arrived.” There will always be pushback for enriching art education in some districts and communities. Good work needs to continue.
Working with and for an organization truly dedicated to, “Growing amazing art teachers by providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning at every stage of their career,” I am fully confident that what we bring to the landscape benefits and brings art education to the next level.
We give art teachers the gift of time and the assurance of quality in the Magazine and Podcasts, FLEX Curriculum, PRO Learning, Graduate Courses, NOW Conferences, and the Master’s Degree program. We are a university and so much more. We are constantly adapting to the needs of teachers so they can pivot and connect with students regardless of it being online, hybrid, or in-person. We give the best of AOEU, so art educators can give the best of themselves to their students and communities.
A new year will be unpredictable. While we never really “know” what is around the corner, we can be assured that with the proven impact of the arts on student achievement, the natural connection to SEL, and most importantly, the dedication of art educators, the future will not be dim and obscure, but shine brighter than ever before.
What positive things do you see on the horizon for art education?
How have the past six months impacted your view of art education’s future?