Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Obscure state law requires all students be taught the arts

Calabasas High School musical theater students perform "Cool" from their production of West Side Story at the Pantages Theater.
Mary Plummer/KPCC

As budgets worsened over the past several years, schools throughout California cut where they could, slashing arts budgets so deeply some students have been left with no arts education at all.

Arts educator Carl Schafer of Upland, has been on a campaign to increase that instruction for a year. And in his effort, he found a line in the California education code that shocked him: the state requires arts to be taught to California students.

He'd been advocating for arts education for decades without realizing the state has a law requiring things like dance, music and theater be taught in schools. 

He recently wrote about his discovery for the website Zocalo Public Square.

While browsing through the state Education Code online, I learned (embarrassingly late in my career) that the law couldn’t be clearer. Since 1995, the teaching of the arts has been mandatory in California for grades one to 12.

Section 51210(e) mandates the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA), which includes music, dance, visual art, and theater, be included in the school curriculum for all students in grades one to six. Section 51220(g) mandates that the VAPA be offered to all students in grades seven through 12. Arts is a “course of study,” and Section 51050 states “The governing board of every school district shall enforce in its schools the courses of study”.

In short, if a school district is not teaching the arts right now, it is breaking the law.


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Study: Career-based teaching leads to more motivated students

The James Irvine Foundation released an interactive infographic on Linked Learning on July 22, 2013.

Students who attend a high school where study plans are based on preparing for a specific career are more likely to graduate and continue on to postsecondary schools than their public school counterparts are, according to a recent study by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

That's especially significant, because the schools that the were studied enrolled a higher than average percentage of students who are at risk of not graduating. 

The teaching method is called Linked Learning. It teaches academics through career-based training. Participating schools focus on a career area such as healthcare, engineering or visual arts.  Students take clusters of courses and participate in internships centered around the career. 

And the schools employ teachers with professional experience working in those fields. 


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Arcadia school district settles federal transgender discrimination investigation

Arcadia Unified Superintendent Joel Shawn.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/ KPCC

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Wednesday that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the Arcadia Unified School District to resolve a federal investigation into whether the district discriminated against a transgender student.

A 2011 complaint accused Arcadia Unified of refusing to let a transgender student, who identifies as a boy, use the boy’s locker rooms or bathrooms. Federal laws prohibit discrimination of students based on their sex.

In a settlement agreement with the federal Department of Education, Arcadia Unified agreed to several changes, including:

•      Create a safe, nondiscriminatory learning environment for students who are transgender or do not conform to gender stereotypes;

•      Amend policies and procedures to reflect that discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, transgender status, and nonconformity with gender stereotypes, is a form of discrimination based on sex; and


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After 70 years as a nonprofit, GED test switching to for-profit venture

Donald Desmond teaches Abdesa Bustina to use a computer at the New Haven Adult and Continuing Education Center. The new GED will be offered only on computer.
Diane Orson/WNPR

For more than 70 years, a nonprofit organization — the  American Council on Education — has administered the GED tests to high school dropouts who want to go on to college or just get a job that requires a high school diploma.

But in January, the General Educational Development test is going for-profit, part of a trend of privatization in education.

The group has partnered with Pearson — considered the largest for-profit education business in the world — to form the new GED Testing Service, a for-profit company to run the test.

The Council’s leadership said the partnership came because they wanted to revamp the test because they felt the GED wasn’t adequately preparing test takers for the job market. 

“For this program to remain relevant — to really have an impact on economic development and, a bottom line, to really give adult learners a chance at earning a sustainable living wage — we had to not just measure high school equivalency," said CT Turner, a spokesperson for the GED Testing Service. "We also needed to give feedback, and we need to measure people’s readiness for these college and career training programs that the majority have to go on to after a GED.”


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LA Fund brings MTA bus to the Grove to show off new arts education campaign (Photos)

Artist Shepard Fairey designed the final bus installment for the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education's #ArtsMatter project, which was unveiled on Tuesday at The Grove.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education hosted a star-studded event at the Grove shopping mall Tuesday with an unusually large guest: an MTA bus covered in artwork from street artist Shepard Fairey.

The colorful bus featuring the slogan "Create Your Future" was parked in front of J. Crew. It's part of the L.A. fund's public art campaign to promote arts education. The artwork on the bus includes a lightbulb with a giant eye inside it, as well as an oversized, red paintbrush above the front passenger entrance.

"As far as I’m concerned creativity is our number one asset and we often take our eye off it’s importance," said Megan Chernin, the wife of former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin and the L.A. Fund's CEO. Chernin is also a trustee on leave from the board of Southern California Public Radio.


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