Advocate the Arts and Creativity by Providing Feedback to Your State’s Education Department
“With this bill [ESSA], we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.” — President Barack Obama
In the constantly changing climate of “educational reform,” the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama in December 2015 is the latest “flavor” of educational law to come down from Congress, serving as the re-authorization of the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Each state must now develop and adopt their own “plan” of ESSA implementation. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is considering some very broad topics for inclusion in its state plan, and is currently asking for feedback from the general public on the following (source – Pennsylvania Music Educators Association – PMEA – http://www.pmea.net/specialty-areas/advocacy/):
- Can we reduce the amount of time students spent on statewide PSSA testing (grades 3-8)?
- Is it feasible to test students at multiple times across the school year instead of only once?
- Can we eliminate double testing for middle school Algebra I students? (Would need to add advance math test in high school for those students.)
Accountability – Measures
- Future Ready PA Index – a proposed tool to measure school success
- Increased weight on growth in test scores versus point-in-time achievement
- Local options for additional assessments
- Career ready indicators and meaningful post-secondary student engagement
- More holistic measures of student success
- Measures of both inputs (i.e., course offerings) and outcomes (achievement scores)
Accountability – Interventions
- Tailored to local context and school based needs assessment.
- Intervention for lowest performing schools to include BOTH academic and holistic strategies
- Level of state intervention to be responsive to student progress over time.
Educator Preparation and Evaluation
- What are the best strategies to ensure effective, diverse educators and school leaders for all students?
- What changes in teacher preparation do we need to consider to improve the readiness of new teachers?
- How to promote alternative pathways to teacher certification?
Mark Despokatis, Chair of the PMEA Council for the Advancement of Music Education, says that music teachers and parents “don’t have to respond to every suggestion, but please feel free to respond to those on which you can provide opinions and feedback.” Comments should be shared directly with the PDE at RA-edESSA@pa.gov. Also, PMEA members should submit their feedback to PMEA via email to Mark Despotakis at email@example.com.
PDE has provided a PowerPoint presentation about the public listening tour and with a little more background on the above listed suggestions on their website at http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/tour.aspx#tab-1.
This blog-series on “creativity and education” maintains the position that a focus on the development of self-expression and artistry in the schools should be at the top of the critical “big four list” for satisfying “the real purpose of education” – personal discovery, self-improvement, and developing the building blocks for success and happiness in life:
- Global understanding
“Talk is cheap! Educational research, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills movement, and other leading-edge groups, company managers, HR Directors, and the general employee job market have known for a long time what is best for kids and the economy… in a nutshell, the need for more exploration, teaching, and mastery of student creativity, including inquisitiveness, ingenuity, inventiveness, flexibility of thought, and inquiry-based learning! In this era standardized testing, the Common Core revolution, and relentless “teaching to the test,” are we embracing the best practices of “whole child” learning? True customization, individualization, and personalization of education dictate a change in emphasis from not relying purely on lesson targets and assessments of simple objective, one-answer-only, convergent thinking, but moving towards the more complex (and richly meaningful) higher-order, multiple-pathway, divergent thinking – greatly valued skills of analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing.” — Paul K. Fox in “Creativity in Education” https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/creativity-in-education/
Here is your next installment of research and resources on rationale and application of helping our students become more creative. However, do not be shy in vocally expressing your own views and support of the arts to your state legislators and and governor. For the future of education, this is probably the most important role a music advocate can play!
Google’s Most Cited Sources for Creative Teaching and Learning
- Creativity in Education edited by Anna Craft, Bob Jeffrey, and Mike Leibling (Continuum 2007)
- Creativity and Education by Robina Shaheen (Scientific Research 2010) http://file.scirp.org/Html/3369.html
- Creativity and Education by Hugh Lytton (Routledge 1971/2012)
“Throughout the world, national governments are reorganizing their education systems to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. One of the priorities is promoting creativity and innovation. In the new global economies, the capacity to generate and implement new ideas is vital to economic competitiveness. But education has more than economic purposes: it must enable people to adapt positively to rapid social change and to have lives with meaning and purpose at a time when established cultural values are being challenged on many fronts.” — Ken Robinson in the Preface of Creativity in Education
Creativity in Education provides insightful essays by Margaret A. Boden, Ken Gale, Laura Haringman, Susan Humphries, Dame Tamsyn Imison, Mathilda Marie Joubert, Jenny Leach, Bill Lucas, Bethan Marshall, Kevin McCarthy, Susan Rowe, Leslie Safran, and Peter Woods. The book is divided into two general sections and thirteen chapters:
Part One: Creativity and Individual Empowerment
- The Art of Creative Teaching
- Creative Teaching, Teaching Creativity, and Creative Learning
- Little “c” Creativity
- Creative Literacy
- Creativity as “Mindful” Learning: A Case from Learner-Based Education
Part Two: Creativity and Pedagogy
- Creativity and Knowledge
- Teacher Education within Post-Compulsory Education and Training: A Call for a Creative Approach
- Creating Danger: The Place of the Arts in Education Policy
- Poised at the Edge: Spirituality and Creativity in Religious Education
- Creative Leadership” Innovative Practices in a Secondary School
- Effective Teaching and Learning: The Role of the Creative Parent-Teacher
- Creating a Climate for Learning at Coombes Infant and Nursery School
- A Hundred Possibilities: Creativity, Community, and ICT
Although conceived more than ten years ago, this set of comprehensive articles are a “must read.” As Sir Ken Robinson endorsed, these contributions provide arguments that “educating for creativity is a rigorous process based on knowledge and skill; that creativity is not confined to particular activities or people; that creativity flourishes under certain conditions and, in this sense, can be taught.”
Creativity and Education comes to us via Scientific Research Open Access of “Creative Education” 2010, Vol. 1, No. 3. Robina Shaheen shares interesting research focused in her three sections of her paper:
- The Link Between Creativity and Education
- Changing Role of Education
- The Inclusion of Creativity Within Education
She cites numerous authorities in support of the essential rationale for promoting creativity in schools.
“Fostering creativity in education is intended to address many concerns. As a summary, this includes dealing with ambiguous problems, coping with the fast changing world and facing an uncertain future ( Parkhurst, 1999). Perhaps the most dominant current argument for policy is the economic one. The role of creativity in the economy is being seen as crucial (Burnard, 2006) to assist nations for attaining higher employment, economic achievement (Davies, 2002) and to cope with increased competition. It is for this reason that creativity cannot be “ignored or suppressed through schooling” (Pool e, 1980) or its development be left to “chance and mythology” (NESTA, 2002). It is predominantly for this reason that there is a call for its inclusion in education as a “fundamental life skill” (Craft, 1999) which needs to be developed to prepare future generations (Parkhurst, 1999) so that they can “survive as well as thrive in the twenty–first century” (Parkhurst, 2006). Developing children’s creativity during their years in education is the start of building “human capital” upon which, according to Adam Smith and successive commentators, depends the “wealth of nations” (Walberg, 1988).” — Robina Shaheen
Shaheen discloses the new focus of the Foundation Stage Curriculum and National Curriculum for schools in England, with the aim that the school should “enable pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better. It should give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, and enterprising.” The key points on the National Curriculum website are:
- What is creativity?
- Why is creativity important?
- How can you spot creativity?
- How can teachers promote creativity?
- How can heads and managers promote creativity?
She concludes that there has been a recent upsurge in “creativity and education” in most European, American, Australian, and East Asian countries, as reflected in their policy documents. She cites the example of what UNESCO now proposes should be taught to Asian students:
- Rather than “learning how to learn” – “learning how to learn critically”
- Rather than “learning how to do” – “learning how to do creatively”
- Rather than “learning how to work together” – “learning how to work constructively”
- Rather than “learning how to be” – “learning how to be wise.”
Another excellent reading, the book Creativity and Education rounds off the third most cited online reference on this subject.
Author Hugh Lytton (1921-2002) was a distinguished scholar in the field of developmental psychology. His table of contents displays an amazing wealth of thought-provoking material:
- The creative process
- Imagination and intuition
- Creative moments
- The poet’s inspiration
- The scientist’s insight
- “Convergent” and “divergent” thinking, or how intelligent is a creative and how creative is an intelligent person?
- Origins of intelligence tests
- Mechanics of intelligence tests
- Theory of intellect
- “Intelligence” and “creativity”
- Do “creativity tests” measure creativity
- What are creative people like?
- Creative men
- Young creatives
- Madness and genius
- Nurturing creativity
- Home background
- Pre-school education
- Developing productive thinking
- The creative child at school
- Is education biased against creativity?
- Teachers’ and pupils’ attitudes
- A propitious school climate
- Teaching for creativity
- Specialization in arts or science
Although a little pricey, the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon, which provides the following description.
“The author provides a lucid account of creativity and its educational context. He discusses the creative process, the character of different kinds of creativity, creative people, developing creativity, and the creative child at school, to give his readers an understanding of the issues that home or school have to face in fostering a creative, non-habit-bound child. The book should be particularly welcome to all concerned with education in view of the present stress on child-centerd education and on the development of individual children’s abilities, especially their powers of original thought and search to the full.” — Amazon re: Creativity and Education by Hugh Lytton
Politically, very little is in the forefront on nurturing creativity in education. Our legislators, administrators, and curriculum revisionists continue to be more concerned about standardized tests, the Common Core, and the “basics” of math, reading, and writing. Most states (PA included) do not embrace the recently revised and released National Core Arts Standards, for which “creating” has three major essential targets:
- Anchor Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
- Anchor Standard #2: Organize artistic ideas and work
- Anchor Standard #3: Refine and complete artistic work
As stated in the first “lessons in creativity,” we should all venture out on our own expedition… to find additional strategies to implement teaching and learning creativity. As you can see, there is a lot of material to review, at least on the rationale of creativity in education, if not the “how to” of bringing it into the classroom. Happy hunting!
© 2017 Paul K. Fox
Picture credits: Photographers Collwyn Cleveland, Cienpies Design, Nevvit Dilmen, Shamseer Sureash Kumar, John Nyberg, Gerrit Prenger, Jeff Vergara and cover photo artist Cecilia Johansson at http://www.freeimages.com