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ISSUE 2, VOLUME 2  •  APRIL 2016
In This Issue:

We are excited about a new series of Arts in Education Newsletters, which will focus on specific arts disciplines. In this, our first issue in the series, we focus on theatre and drama. You may notice that the articles are abridged in your inbox—this is to make it easier to scroll through the newsletter, but we invite you to read the articles in their entirety on the Arts in Education website. In our feature article, Lenore Blank Kelner lays out the benefits of drama/theatre education, and offers strategies and practical tips for making the most of professional development for classroom teachers, theatre specialists, and teaching artists involved with theatre/drama. We also spotlight two grantees implementing theatre/drama projects. In the AEMDD Spotlight, you can read about how the Arts Engage Initiative is using drama to bring history to life at participating middle schools. The PDAE Spotlight focuses on the Creative Learning Initiative at the Austin Independent School District, where teachers are learning how drama and theatre can enliven their classrooms and improve instruction. Be sure to also check out the Arts in the News section for links to advocacy resources including a blog post by Education Secretary John King and op-eds by local school and business leaders on the arts in a well-rounded education. Finally, don’t forget to peruse the Upcoming Events sections for information on national conferences, professional development events,  and other opportunities of value to your grant projects and their participants.

Stage Right 
by Lenore Blank Kelner, Teaching Artist and Author

Integrating drama has transformed my students. They are totally engaged. For my ELL students—it is the only way to teach. —Kindergarten teacher, Santa Rosa, Calif.

When you read, you think you get it. But when you do drama—you really get it! 8th grade student, Sousa Middle School, Wash., D.C.

My child has had trouble making friends. When I saw him center stage, waving the flag with the cast holding him up, I wept. My son had found his place.
—Parent, Blake High School, Montgomery County, Md.
TA article pic 1, Teacher dramaStage right is a theatre term that designates the left side of the stage from the audience's viewpoint. When an actor moves across the stage, from stage right to stage left, the audience senses strong purposeful forward movement ― movement toward a goal. It is an appropriate metaphor for what drama/theatre can achieve for educators and students in our schools.

This article examines the benefits of using drama/theatre in the schools for students in grades PreK-12 and provides some “stage direction” on best professional development practices for classroom teachers, theatre specialists and teaching artists. These practices are designed to help educators and in turn, students, to reach their full potential.
The Benefits of Drama/Theatre: Why Drama is So “Right”?

Drama/theatre provides students with authentic opportunities to:
  • Develop oral language skills that are foundational for reading and writing in any subject area.  This is key for all students but essential for students with limited language proficiency and for English language learners.
Reading and writing float on a sea of talk. 
—James Britton, educator, University of London
  • Gain a “closer read” of a text. Stepping into the shoes of a character allows students to:  
    • Experience different perspectives, settings/time periods, cultures, processes/cycles
    • Embody characters’ traits/motivations
    • Infer dialogue
    • Experience the purpose, theme, and/or message of a text
       
  • Read and re-read/revisit a text for purpose, understanding, expression, clarity and fluency.
     
  • Develop and practice writing skills as they:
    •  Compose dialogue orally or in writing
    •  Use plot elements when analyzing/composing scripts
       
  • Acquire essential 21st Century Learning Skills such as:
    • Learning and Innovation Skills
      • Creativity and Innovation
      • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 
      • Communication and Collaboration
    • Life and Career Skills
      • Flexibility and Adaptability
      • Initiative and Self-Direction
      •  Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
      •  Productivity and Accountability
      •  Leadership and Responsibility
         
  • Gain self-awareness, self-control, self-esteem by providing opportunities for students to:
    • Risk in a safe space
    • Share ideas and know all voices are valid
    • Be an essential part of a vibrant community
    • Speak with expression and clarity in front of others (one of the top five greatest fears)
    • Explore a possible career path. 
These authentic opportunities make drama/theatre a vital component for an education program of excellence.
 

How Drama/Theatre is Implemented in Schools: The “Right” Fit

There is a continuum for how drama/theatre is implemented in schools.

Preschool to 2nd Grade

As reflected in the National Core Art Theatre Standards, drama, an improvised art form, is the focus for students in preschool through grade 2.

Drama, especially as it is used in classrooms for learning purposes, exists for the benefit of the participants. Although it uses many theatre terms and conventions, its focus is on the process of the experience for students and teachers, not on a product produced for others.
 
Theatre, on the other hand, is a disciplined artistic experience in which artists work and re-work the same material with the goal of performing it perfectly for an audience. (A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension, Kelner and Flynn, Heinemann, 2006
  
The National Core Theatre Standards further refine the definition of drama by citing examples such 
as: dramatic play or a guided drama experiences (process drama, story drama or creative drama, etc.). 
 
Some examples of using drama in the PreK-grade 2 classroom include:

  • Dramatic Play―Children spontaneously assign roles and enact familiar events
     
  • Creative Drama:
    • Story Drama―Students enacting stories through improvisation.
    • Role Drama―Students take on roles of characters, objects, scientific processes/cycles or historical figures.
       
  • Process Drama―Teacher and students take on roles and explore an issue, story or problem episodically.

The Standards suggest that after students participate in a drama they reflect on the experience by articulating preferences and making connections to other art forms and their lives.

Grades 3-12

In grades 3-12, The National Core Theatre Standards ask students to explore both improvised and scripted texts written by playwrights or devised by students. Students gradually gain proficiency in acting technique, staging, technical elements (set, costume, lighting, props, etc.) responding/critiquing and making connections between theatre experiences, other art forms and the world.  The focus through these grades gradually becomes theatre—that is, performance for an audience. By high school, theatre is usually offered as an elective subject with performance for an audience as a key goal.

Some examples of using drama/theatre in the grade 3-12 classroom include:
Improvised Experiences:

  • Role Dramastudents are interviewed as they enact characters/historical figures.
     
  • Planned Improvisationsstudents create scenes that are modern versions of classic tales, improvise cycles in science or historic events.
     
  • Process Dramateacher and students take on roles and explore an issue, story or problem episodically.  
Scripted Experiences:
  • Writing and performing an original monologue.
     
  •  Rehearsing and performing a scene(s) from a play.
     
  • Composing and recording a mystery podcast.

Theatre Arts Integration

When objectives based on state standards or The National Core Theatre Standards are integrated with objectives from other curriculum areas, this is called arts integration. Below is the definition of arts integration created by The J.F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2009:

Arts Integration is an APPROACH to TEACHING in which students construct and demonstrate UNDERSTANDING through an ART FORM. Students engage in a CREATIVE PROCESS which CONNECTS an art form and another subject area and meets EVOLVING OBJECTIVES in both.

Drama/theatre integration can occur at any grade level and, as indicated in the definition above, with adequate professional development, can be used as an ongoing teaching approach.


Professional Development-Getting It "Right"

Drama/theatre can be implemented in the schools by a classroom teacher, a theatre specialist or a teaching artist. The professional development needs for each vary, yet there are a few common threads for all. 

Professional Development for Classroom Teachers

The most effective professional development models focus on the transfer of knowledge and skills and the gradual release of instruction to the classroom teacher over time. In order to effectively use drama/theatre in the classroom, teachers (who are non-theatre specialists) need to understand:

  • Drama/Theatre BasicsKnowledge and skills of the art form (some basics include: the actor’s tools and skills, improvisation versus scripted work, use of space, collaboration, etc.) If the classroom teacher wants to integrate drama/theatre with other academic subjects, then a deeper knowledge of drama/theatre basics is necessary since arts integration asks teachers to write and assess “evolving” (scaffolded) objectives in the art form as well as in another content area. (See definition above.)
     
  • Developmentally appropriate application of the art form that reflects the scaffolded approach outlined in The National Core Theatre Standards.
     
  • The deep and authentic connections between drama/theatre work and other subject areas, which is essential for arts integration since connections to other subject areas are integral to the process.
     
  • How to:
    • Facilitate drama/theatre in the classroom effectively;
    • Modify the drama/theatre work for specific student populations (including students with special needs, English language learners, etc.);
    • Respond, reflect and/or assess the drama/theatre work; and
    • Create original drama/theatre work that reflects teachers’ and students’ creativity as well as meeting classroom needs.
Some of the best practices to achieve this include:
  • Direct experiential instruction led by a drama/theatre teaching artist, teacher or theatre specialist who has extensive experience in the art form as well as:
    • Working in drama/theatre with students in specific grades
    • Understanding and responding to curriculum, school culture, schedule, concerns
    • Designing and leading effective and respectful adult-centered professional development for teachers delivered over time that is:
      • Practical—meets the needs of teachers
      • Comprehensive—moves from simple to complex, provides follow-up resources (handouts, assessment suggestions, bibliography)
      • Nurturing of the creative process
After participating in a professional development workshop(s), ideally teachers should be mentored/coached by the instructor. This is particularly important for effective arts integration implementation.
 
These mentoring sessions should include time for the teacher to:  
  • Observe, plan and co-teach lessons with the instructor
     
  • Reflect on every aspect of instruction and application 
     
  • Practice techniques learned, create new lessons, observe peers
     
  • Receive feedback over time (follow-up visits) from the instructor 
21st Century professional development embraces and promotes teachers as creative human beings. Students are engaged by creative environments in which the teacher facilitates learning by modeling his or her own creative process. 
—Ken Skrzesz, Coordinator of Fine Arts, Maryland State Dept. of Education
For teachers who are striving to fully integrate drama/theatre, this gradual release process may extend over several years until sufficient background knowledge is developed and teachers feel confident and competent to design and implement lessons with assessed objectives in both drama/theatre and another subject area.  Once this is achieved, arts integration can truly become their "approach to teaching."

The ideal process for professional development can be costly and time intensive. Large performing arts centers like the Kennedy Center, with its Changing Education Through the Arts Program, and Lincoln Center offer rich and in-depth programs for teachers. Arts councils around the country and other performing art centers and school systems, especially those in the Kennedy Center National Partners in Education network, offer programs that reflect many of these qualities.

Many school systems, universities and performing arts centers offer courses and summer institutes that provide teachers with experience in gaining basic knowledge and skills of drama/theatre and there are several international opportunities. The American Alliance for Theatre in Education
(AATE) is a fine resource for information about conferences/institutes in local communities, nationwide and internationally. These experiences may not be fully comprehensive but they are good start.

Professional Development for Theatre Specialists

Theatre specialists are usually certified teachers who work in a school full or part time. They teach drama/theatre classes, direct school productions and in some cases work with other classroom teachers on drama/theatre projects and/or serve as a resource to classroom teachers who are striving to integrate theatre into their daily practice. Most theatre specialists work in middle and high schools,however there are some in elementary schools as well.
 
Each theatre specialist works in a program that has its own structure and personality based on the grades served, school culture, program expectations, administrative and staff support, as well as students’ interests, needs and talents.
In the scope of arts education, we must consider the range of students with whom we work; from those who will benefit from exposure to the art form, no matter their life's interests to those for whom the arts are their life's pursuit. And we will undoubtedly encounter them in the same space. Understanding these students’ individual needs is paramount, only equaled by how we respond to those needs. 
—Nathan Diamond, director, Arts, Office of Teaching and Learning,
D.C. Public Schools
When thinking about professional development for theatre specialists, it is important to consider some of their unique needs. At many schools, there is only one theatre specialist, and their class content is often much different than others at the school. Yet too often, they are not provided professional development suited to their situation. “My present and past students who are theatre educators often express frustration at the lack of professional development targeted especially for their needs. They long for opportunities to interact with colleagues to share ideas and resources and to get inspiration and validation,” observes Dr. Rosalind Flynn, Head of the M.A. in Theatre Education at The Catholic University of America. “They need help with classroom management strategies for the active learning that theatre requires, with ways to assess and document student progress that goes beyond 'paper and pencil tests,' and sometimes with convincing administrators that their courses actually dobenefit students and should not be overly populated or cut completely."
 
Common elements for effective professional development for theatre specialists include:
  • Opportunities to talk with colleagues, visit their classrooms, rehearsals, etc. to gain insight, ideas, and resources
     
  • Professional development workshops designed to meet varying needs such as:
    • New trends in the field of theatre both on and backstage
    • Classroom management techniques for theatre classes
    • Community resources (including local theatres) and/or grants that can help build a theatre program
    • Strategies to document and assess student learning
    • Comprehensive understanding of The National Core Theatre Standards.
Professional Development for Drama/Theatre Teaching Artists

The professional development needs for the teaching artist (a theatre professional) are primarily the same as the theatre specialist but with a few modifications and additions. 
 
Since most drama/theatre teaching artists are not trained as teachers, they lack background knowledge in the pedagogy of teaching. In order to be effective (especially if working in arts integration), the teaching artist needs to understand both The National Core Theatre Standards and the subject area standards that guide teachers’ practice. They need instruction in reflection and assessment, how to modify their work for students with special needs or limited language, and to learn strategies for classroom management.

Drama/theatre teaching artists, however, need more than professional development focusing on what they do not know about education, they also need to be inspired. Since teaching artists bring a different set of gifts to schools, inspiration helps them create new work and that work
could in turn inspire students and teachers to gain new understandings and insights. 
 

Common Needs

Although each of these educators have different professional development needs, there are several key components they all need in order to grow: 
  • Time to learn, risk, fail and triumph. Providing coverage for classes, professional leave and compensation is essential for educators and artists to be supported in their professional growth.
     
  • Support from administrators, school staff and sponsors. Respecting the growth and development of these individuals and their work with students is essential. This means that everyone on a faculty understand and value the work of these professionals. 
     
  • Inspiration through exploring personal creativity in order to ignite the creative process in others. Attending and participating in performances, conferences, networking with colleagues, visiting classrooms and guest artists are just a few of the many ways these professionals can keep their own creative juices flowing.
By providing effective professional development opportunities to those passionate about using drama/theatre in the schools, we help everyone get it “right.” Students receive meaningful and engaging instruction that builds essential academic skills and self-esteem, enabling students to stand taller and reach higher. At the same time, professional development efforts help teachers, theatre specialists and teaching artists move in a strong purposeful direction, discovering new ways to reach and empower students as well as make a lasting impact in their lives. 

Lenore Blank
Kelnor is an author, educator, arts integration specialist, as well as a theatre and teaching artist. She is presently consulting with the Maryland State Department of Education serving as an Arts Education Consultant for Early Childhood. Lenore has presented her work in all 50 states and abroad. She has been a presenter with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts since 1982 and was a Master Artist for the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts for 25 years. Lenore is the author of The Creative Classroom (Heinemann, 1993) and co-authored with Rosalind Flynn, A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension (Heinemann, 2006). Lenore was awarded the 2004 Creative Drama Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.
In Focus: New National Standards for Theatre Education

The National Standards for Arts Education have shaped the way schools teach the arts for over 20 years. To ensure that arts education continues to stay on the cutting edge of research and best practices, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards recently updated the standards for five arts disciplines. We talked with Jim Palmarini from the Educational Theatre Association about the new Theatre standards.

Q: How are the new theatre standards different than the National Standards in Arts Education released in 1994, and what was behind these changes?

A: The new standards are more rigorous, more specific, and they cover more areas. The standards that came out in 1994 were at the grade band levels of 3, 5 and 8, and 9, 11 and 12, whereas the new standards offer grade-by-grade guidance that facilitates scaffolded learning at each level. This means that as a student moves up through school, they are asked to do more critical thinking and reflection, and also to collaborate more with their peers. The new standards’ high school levels are “proficient,” “accomplished,” and “advanced.” When a student meets the advanced level, it means they are ready to advance to college level work.

 
Q: Do you anticipate that the new standards will promote theatre for theatre’s sake?

A: Yes, but that doesn’t preclude them from also encouraging the integration of theatre into other disciplines. When we were developing the standards, we started with the premise that there is an innate value to the arts; arts are an opportunity to share culture and reflect on the human condition, and we want students to understand and appreciate the arts throughout their lives. At the same time, the arts in general,andtheatreinparticular, can be very effective at teaching skills that students can use to support learning in other areas, and the new standards reflect that. For example, a technical theatre project might demand math, science, and history understanding. To build a turntable for a production of Les Miserables, a student must understand the mathematics of assembling the quadrants of the turntable and the engineering demands of a rotating platform. Those students involved in costuming and set design must be knowledgeable of 17th century France and the milieu of the revolution. 

Q: The new standards include a new artistic process: connecting. Can you talk about the processes underpinning the new standards, and why connecting was added?

A: The new standards offer ways to measure what happens in art making, such as imagining, rehearsing, and, in the artistic process of connecting,empathizing. The main reason for adding the artistic process of connecting is that, through the creative process of art, you connect with other subjects as well. So, for example, through preparing and producing a theatrical performance, students learn about the subject matter they are performing; they learn vocabulary from their scripts, and they learn plot and narrative devices through rehearsals.

Q: What has been the feedback you have received from teachers about the new standards?

A: It has been very positive. Teachers appreciate the standards as a pedagogical tool that helps them build curriculum and reflect on what they’re doing. Many teachers tell me that they appreciate how the standards affirm their professionalism. So much of theatre happens in an after-school environment, and that can obscure the good work theatre instructors are doing. The new standards—with their robust, sequential, and scaffolded nature—help teachers get credit for how theatre is helping students learn.

Q: The Model Cornerstone Assessments are example work products that teachers can use to see for themselves what type of student output would be considered at or above standard. It is up to the teachers to assess how their students’ work compares to the models, but the hope is that they offer teachers a tangible product to serve as a point of reference. How can they help teachers guide their instruction?

A: The goal is fortheatre to be part of a well-rounded education, and that means making it available to all students, not just those perceived to be talented. The Model Cornerstone Assessments offer examples of work products that would be considered at or above standard. This helps teachers craft lesson plans around clear examples of accessible, age-appropriate markers of success. 

 
Jim Palmarini is director of educational policy for the Educational Theatre Association, and an expert on the new theatre standards.

History Comes Alive Through the
Arts Engage Initiative

For students at Middle School 303K in Brooklyn, New York, George Washington is more than just a face on a coin or another name to memorize for their history test. Instead, he’s a person with thoughts and feelings, grappling with the ideas behind the American Revolution. Indeed, our first president comes to life in social studies classes across four middle schools participating in the Arts Engage Initiative (AEI), a 2013 AEMDD project designed by The Center for Arts Education (CAE), which focuses on the impact of integrating theatre concepts into social studies classes. As part of this project, students are writing, rehearsing, and performing monologues inspired by individuals who shaped history.
AEMDD pic 1According to Dr. Eva Pataki, project director of the grant, these activities epitomize the higher-order thinking that CAE seeks to cultivate through the project, which brings together teaching artists and social studies teachers to collaboratively design and implement integrated lessons. “We believe that students learn best when they are active participants in their learning, and that’s what our project is all about. Whether it is writing a monologue, inhabiting a character, or performing on stage, students are using theatre concepts and their own creativity to become leaders in their own learning.”

So far, Dr. Pataki’s belief seems to be well founded. Now in its second year of implementation, the grant is already yielding results. “Scores on social studies assessments have improved dramatically,” said Dr. Jerry James, Director of Teaching and Learning at CAE. “And we are especially interested in students’ creative work and evidence of learning expressed in their own voices.”

To that end, CAE worked with researcher Dr. Lawrence Scripp to develop multiple measurements of student learning, including: 1. Open-ended worksheets where students describe their experiences; 2. Historical essays informed by primary sources; 3. Original dramatic monologues about social studies topics; 4. Images and videos of student performances; and 5. Individual reflections that illustrate how elements of theatre contributed to students’ understanding of social studies concepts.

AEMDD pic 2Based on a review of the materials produced during the first implementation year, it is clear that students are responding well to the project. “Many students credit their participation with improving their confidence. Often, they mention specific lessons or activities, such as creating a scene or rehearsing in groups, that helped them grasp key concepts, both in social studies content and principles of theatre,” said Dr. Pataki.
In their final reflections, many students commented on how much they enjoyed learning through a creative process. Theatre helps students understand that they have agency, and that not only makes learning fun, it also makes it stick. 
—Dr. Eva Pataki, Middle School 303K in Brooklyn, New York
Teachers and school leaders are also enthusiastic about the project. Dr. Pataki said one reason CAE’s Arts Engage Initiative has obtained strong buy-in from schools is that classroom teachers and teaching artists are recognized as experts in their respective fields. “It has to be an equal relationship between the classroom teachers and teaching artists. We always emphasize that theatre is not just a means for teaching social studies, but that we also see social studies as an instrument for teaching theatre concepts.” This orientation, she observed, has helped maintain broad support for the project. In fact, at some schools there have been requests by teachers in English language arts, math, and science for additional professional learning sessions on arts integration. There has also been in expanding the project to include other arts disciplines, such as music, dance, or visual arts.

Although AEI currently focuses on theatre and social studies, Dr. Pataki believes that lessons learned through this grant are broadly applicable. “We have seen how well students, teachers, and school leaders have responded to this project, and what they like about it goes beyond just theatre and social studies. It’s about helping students be creative, active learners. I think we’ve shown that when you invest in arts education, beneficial outcomes can spread across the whole school. I’m optimistic about the future.”

Dramatic Changes at
Austin Independent School District

Student academic achievement and teacher engagement have improved since the Austin Independent School District (AISD) received a 2014 PDAE grant to expand its Creative Learning Initiative (CLI). But, to get a true taste of the program’s impact, project manager Yesenia Herrington says you need to visit a classroom of a participating teacher. There, you may see students embodying a character from a novel as they answer questions from their peers, or use narrative pantomime to bring a story to life. For Herrington, these sorts of activities are what the grant is all about: getting students engaged and excited about learning. “I’ve seen students who are shy or unengaged become completely invested in developing a character, exploring motivations and ambitions, and it really helps students come out of their shells and become confident,” she observed.
Creative Learning Initiative - Moving Literacy Through Movement and Gesture
VIDEO: Ms. Smith's 1st grade bilingual class from Govalle Elementary School in Austin,
Texas, use the Creative Learning Strategy "Narrative Pantomime" to bring a story to 
life.
Students are not the only ones gaining confidence through the project, which provides foundational training in drama-based instructional strategies to over 300 teachers. According to Dr. Brent Hasty, executive director of MINDPOP, the managing arts partner for CLI, teachers have remarked on how the training they’ve received makes them feel excited and inspired about integrating arts into their lessons. He credits this enthusiasm with the way the program empowers teachers to use drama in ways that work best in their classrooms. “We focus on helping teachers learn skills they can use in many contexts. We don’t just give teachers a one-size fits-all, pre-made lesson plan about, for example, teaching the Texas independence movement using a play.”

What the Creative Learning Initiative does, says Hasty, is help them think about how, when, and why to use drama concepts in their lessons, and gives them tools to do so. For example, teachers receive support on how to integrate a strategy like Tableau and learn how this instructional strategy can enrich students’ understanding and 
develop mental models of difficult concepts. To support this process, teachers are provided with job-embedded coaches to help them refine their skills and become comfortable with adapting the tools they learned in the training to their specific curriculum. Other resources include strategy cards, which have high-level guidance about implementing topics covered in the professional development; teacher guidebooks, which provide more detailed information than the strategy cards; and a blog, where teachers read about the latest developments in arts integration and share their own experiences.

Besides fostering teachers’ confidence, the training teachers receive through CLI is applicable for grades pre-K through 12. “Since we’re not just handing out lesson plans, but actually helping teachers reflect on how, when, and why to use the strategies, our program benefits teachers across grade levels,” observed Hasty. By implementing the initiative across all grades within a vertical team, which is comprised of a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools, CLI ensures that all students receive the benefits of sustained creative learning education throughout their school careers.
Our goal is to make the entire district arts-rich. We don’t
want to have isolated arts-integration classrooms here or there. Our vertical team implementation approach helps maintain continuity as students advance from grade to grade.
 
—Yesenia Herrington, Austin Independent School District
The vertical team implementation approach also means that teachers receive support from their entire school community. “In order to get the maximum impact of professional development, you can’t just think about the learning opportunities for individual teachers. You have to think about the overall systems teachers are embedded in, and that’s why we take a comprehensive approach to implementing CLI,” observed Hasty. In practice, this means that participating schools reflect on the integration of creative learning not just in the classroom, but as part of a larger campus culture. The components of an arts-rich campus ― creative teaching, community arts partnerships, sequential fine arts and after- school programming ― are embedded into annual campus improvement plans and teacher evaluations.

Through their PDAE grant, AISD added CLI to an entire vertical team, and the future looks bright. “The PDAE grant has allowed us the opportunity to expand the reach of creative learning and help us meet our goal of making the entire district 
arts rich by 2025,” said Herrington.
 
  • Everybody’s talking about Hamilton, including Education Secretary John King, who saw the award-winning musical on Broadway recently and found it a testimony to the need for a well-rounded education. As he shares in a blog post, “well-rounded learning experiences provide students with the tools to both view and engage in our society, and even change it for the better.”
     
  • A recent study found strong evidence that arts integration accelerates math acquisition among pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. Read more about how the Wolf Trap Early Learning Institute, a 2010 AEMDD grantee, is helping teachers use creative drama to inspire and engage preschool students. A recent Arts Endowment podcast featured the Institute’s arts and math project. The study’s findings were also integrated into a succinct and compelling argument for arts integration with young children in an op-ed by Arvind Manocha of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
     
  • The Arts Education Partnership announced its new director, Jane Best, who begins her work with the national coalition and policy center at the Education Commission of the States (ECS) on April 4. Best’s background includes education research and policy analysis, teaching, and entrepreneurship. Her “wide range of experience in education policy as well as the arts will be a huge asset to the organization,” said ECS President Jeremy Anderson. 
     
  • Angela Malone, a science teacher at Oxon Hill Middle School in Md., was recently announced the winner of a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in recognition of her work integrating the arts into her grades 7 and 8 science classes. Upon receiving the award, Ms. Malone remarked that “weaving the arts into content is the natural way we are meant to learn.” 
     
  • If you watched the Super Bowl halftime show this year, you no doubt noticed a group of teenage musicians having the times of their lives on stage. The students, members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, were performing alongside Bruno Mars and Coldplay. For the superintendents of the San Diego Unified and Chula Vista school districts, the performance symbolized the arts learning opportunities all students should have available to them. In this op-ed, the two leaders tell how they have embraced arts education as a priority within their districts, and have taken “concrete steps to ensure that every student receives access to arts education as a core part of their learning experience.” The arts education renaissance in the San Diego Unified schools was spurred in good measure by a 2010 AEMDD grant.
     
  • Speaking of AEMDD grants that lead to sustained and improved arts education opportunities, this op-ed touts the more than $1.68 million raised since the SmartARTS grant to the local arts council in Greenville, S.C., ended in 2007. 
     
  • Looking for insights about turning STEM into STEAM? This year’s Nancy Hanks Lecture on the arts and public policy was delivered by venture capitalist and former president of the Rhode Island School of Design John Maeda, following an introduction from Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), and a special performance from Kaki King.
  • April 8, 2016: Deadline to apply for Community Arts Education Leadership Institute. Selected individuals attend a five-day seminar at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and receive peer mentoring and follow-up coaching. Learn more.
     
  • April 8, 2016: Deadline to apply for Teaching Artist Development Labs at Lincoln Center. This summer development program is designed for teaching artists, and has programs for introductory, intermediate, and advanced experience levels. Learn more.
     
  • April 14-16, 2016: Young Audiences is holding its annual national conference, Growing Up with the Arts, in Miami, Fla. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to take part in local Miami arts-in-education program experiences during a visit to one of three exciting site visits: the Shalala Music Reach Program, Miami Children’s Initiative, or the Lewis Art Studio. Learn more.
     
  • May 1, 2016: Deadline for session proposals for the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) Arts Assessment Symposium: Advances in Arts Assessment. The symposium, scheduled for Nov. 11-12, 2016 in Grapevine, Texas, provides a platform for sharing advancements in arts assessment policies and practices from the local, state, and national levels. Learn more.
     
  • July 27-29, 2016: The American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s national conference comes to Boston. Together We Can Spotlight How Theatre Builds Better Lives will capitalize on the city’s complex history of race relations and activism to offer provocative dialogues about diversity and inclusion and will bring some of Boston’s most renowned cultural, historic, and civic sites to life through the dynamic medium of theatre. Early bird registration closes on April 22. Learn more.
     
  • September 15-18, 2016: The Educational Theatre Association’s annual conference will focus on the changing face of theatre education to recognize and understand the needs of schools and districts with limited theatre education opportunities. The conference takes place in Las Vegas. More information is available. 
     
  • October 6-10, 2016: The National Dance Education Organization’s 18th annual conference, Speaking With Our Feet: Advocating, Analyzing, and Advancing Dance Education, in Washington, D.C., will share stories of student and personal growth through dance education—both data-driven and heartfelt. The call for session proposals has passed, but submissions for poster sessions may still be considered. Learn more.