5 things educators want in the state's new arts standards

A dozen arts educators from across Southern California met Monday to voice hopes and concerns about new standards.
A dozen arts educators from across Southern California met Monday to voice hopes and concerns about new standards.
Priska Neely/ KPCC

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Last fall, the governor signed legislation requiring the California Board of Education to update the state's 15-year-old visual and performing arts standards. At focus groups across the state this month, arts educators and the public had a chance to weigh in on the guidelines for teaching arts in schools. 

“California’s a local control state and we’re in a time frame now where that has really become a reality because the funding has gone down to the local level,” said Jack Mitchell, a secondary visual performing arts consultant with state education department.

“And so it’s important for the people who are stakeholders -- in arts education in our case – to have an understanding of what students are being taught in school and also to have input on what they think they need to know.” 

The superintendent has until Jan. 31, 2019, to draft the new standards, which must align with the National Core Arts Standards released in 2014. Those standards are framed around "creating, presenting, responding and connecting" in music, visual art, dance, theater, and media arts.

Monday evening, a dozen Southern California arts educators from L.A., Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties gathered at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey to responded to four questions, voicing their hopes and concerns. 

Here are five goals for the standards that educators laid out:

Leave room for creativity and diversity  

"We live in such a dynamic environment in California that we need to make sure that we are giving students the space in their own culture, validating their own experiences. We have to keep in mind our diverse our state is. Our state has got every possible kind of community – large, small, rural, mountains, valley, ocean – and I think that our art reflects that and we have to keep it flexible enough, so that a community can take these standards and run with it."

- Russ Sperling, director of visual and performing arts at San Diego Unified School District

Relate arts to other content areas

"Make sure our arts education classes are standing with the core classes, and not alone or in addition to -- so that we don’t see the shifts that happen when the budget cuts happen. We’re in a great time right now, arts are moving up, and then there’s a budget cut and they go away because they don’t stand with the core courses, they are in addition to or – as I like to refer to -- as frosting."

- Nicole Robinson, president-elect of the California Dance Education Association and a dance teacher at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana

Connect arts skills to job skills

"We use this term now, 'well-rounded education.' We're seeing that employers, in particular here in the United States with the global market, they need employees that can think in creative ways, who can work in critical and collaborative surroundings to communicate. We don't just communicate by talking. And to reinforce that type of student we're trying to nurture, I think it's crucial to bring in arts education."

- Steve Venz, visual and performing arts coordinator, Orange County Department of Education

Keep up with changing technology 

"I graduated high school in 2001 when we wanted the smallest phones possible and now we want the biggest tablet. So technology has changed in the 16 years that we’ve had these standards. I wonder how important it would be to make sure that technology is a major compenet of the standards we are looking at – mainly so that way we’re not having this conversation in another 17 years. I wonder how ageless we can make our standards by incorporating technology because that’s not going away."

- Michael Despars, president-elect of California Educational Theatre Association and teacher at Fullerton Union High School

Teach students tools for art appreciation

I would love students to be an appreciative audience. I find that skill something we often don't teach. As an audience member, being able to reflect on what they saw and articulate as opposed to 'was it good?' -- deeper, let's talk about what it did, what emotions it brought, how do you feel about it? I also think it's really important students learn to self-critique and critique others -- carefully choosing their words and with care -- moving that performance or piece of art to the next level. 

- Krista Carson Elhai, theater teacher at Claremont High School

To share your thoughts on the standards, email by February 2, 2017. Public comments will be forwarded to the Instructional Quality Commission and State Board of Education.