Arts Education Now -New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Leads the WayAfter eight years operating as a program within other groups, the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) has incorporated to become an independent non-profit focused on bringing the benefits of an education in the arts to every student in every school across the state. To amplify NJAEP’s work a statewide Arts Ed Summit was convened and a new campaign, Arts Ed Now, is under development to promote participation in arts education.
While the legal structure may be new the work of the organization is not.
The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership was created to be the unified voice for arts education, established in 2007 following years of planning and input by arts and education leaders statewide. The core beliefs that shaped the Partnership’s beginning remain the same today: a) Arts Education is essential to basic knowledge and a fundamental right of every citizen in our schools and across our communities, and b) The collective voice of diverse stakeholders is the most effective means for advancing the arts in education.
Launched in conjunction with the release of the first-ever Arts Education Census Report, the Partnership’s first task was to focus on carrying out the recommendations of the Report. To date, the efforts of NJAEP have led to increased access to arts education for more than 75,000 students.
Building on Accomplishments
Since 2007, NJAEP has had a significant impact on arts education across the state:
- In 2007 and again in 2012, NJAEP released the first state wide census report on the status and condition of arts education providing accountability for state policies and highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement;
- NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education (NJDOE) to include arts education in local school district accountability reviews;
- In 2009, NJAEP coordinated the revision of Core Curriculum Content Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts – the document used to guide the development of local arts curriculum;
- In 2012, NJAEP worked with other subject area associations to protect the role of non-tested subjects as part of the state’s Core Curriculum Content Standards;
- In 2014, NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education to include arts education measures as part of the School Performance Reports released for every school becoming the first state in the nation to have such measures; and,
- In 2014 and 2015 NJAEP released a series of interactive dashboards to allow citizens to review and compare arts education information for every school in the state.
“The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats eloquently acknowledged that ‘education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire,’” stated Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. “High quality arts education practices designed and led by nonprofits such as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership have sparked teacher innovation and student creativity across New Jersey. NJAEP is central to all of Dodge’s arts education strategies and continues to be an important partner in ensuring that every New Jersey child has access to a quality arts education.”
New Jersey adopted its first set of core curriculum content standards in the arts in 1996. In short, all districts are expected to provide opportunities for learning in four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and visual arts through sequential arts instruction from grades k-12. Ensuring that these standards are thoroughly understood and implemented throughout the state is among the NJAEP’s highest priorities.
Additional NJAEP’s activities include: identifying Model Schools in the Arts; becoming a central clearinghouse of information for all arts education resources and services in New Jersey; working closely with a diverse group of stakeholders; becoming the presenting organization for the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education; and, providing professional development for teachers and school administrators.
But there is more work to be done to assure that arts education becomes part of the core curriculum for every child.
The good news is, 97% of New Jersey students have access to arts education in their schools, and access to arts education is on the rise. However, the majority of schools fail to offer instruction in all four mandated disciplines, per pupil arts spending has decreased and educators across the state are grappling with the rising tide of common core standards and state-mandated tests leading to the unintended consequences of displacing the value of creative work and decreased time and access for arts education. NJAEP is committed to changing this dynamic from a focus on testing to a focus on a well-rounded education.
2015 Arts Ed Summit Addresses Issues Head On
These issues and more were addressed at the recent 2015 Arts Ed Summit by leaders of the state’s top education organizations including: Mark Biedron – President, New Jersey State Board of Education; Dr. Richard Bozza - Executive Director, New Jersey Association of School Administrators; Dr. Larry Feinsod – Executive Director, New Jersey School Boards Association; Dr. Mary Reece – Director, Foundation for Educational Administration and Wendell Steinhauer - President, New Jersey Education Association.
One of the major revelations from the Arts Ed Summit was the total agreement that arts education is, and must remain, a key component of a complete education. Each panelist spoke of the importance of the arts in educating the “whole child, “and that both local schools and state leaders need to make sure arts education requirements are being met.
NJASA’s Dr. Richard Bozza noted, “We need to remember that these important parts of our curriculum -- including the arts -- are on par, have the same standing, as those subjects that are tested.”
Mark Biedron, president of the New Jersey State Board of Education, said a serious review currently underway will reinforce such priorities.
“This is really a tipping point right now in the area of education, and where we are with our curriculum and where we might be going in the next 10 or 15 years,” Biedron said. "Children need to be more than just college and career ready... arts education speaks to the necessary new habits of mind."
During the afternoon, attendees heard from NJDOE Assistant Commissioners Dr. Bari Erlichson and Kimberley Harrington. Both acknowledged the need for better communication with district and school leaders regarding the role of the arts in meeting both the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, Common Core State Standards and incorporating the arts into STEM.
Former Governor Kean Issues Call to Action
The Summit attendees were inspired by the impassioned words of former Governor Tom Kean who urged the group to fight for arts education’s rightful place in the lives of New Jersey students.
“I guess what I’m telling you is don’t accept that something will get done in a good cause like the arts,” he said to the Arts Ed Summit attendees. “Work for it. Do what you have to do to get it. Be a little militant if you have to be militant.”
To address the issues raised during the Summit, NJAEP is developing the Arts Ed Now campaign to raise awareness about the issues impacting arts education in New Jersey and to increase local engagement with these issues. To learn more visit ArtsEdNow.org
NJAEP is proud of our developing partnership with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and its members and look forward to our work together on our shared belief that:
Active creative learning is good for all students . . . and good for New Jersey! LET'S DO MORE! Arts Ed Now
Bob Morrison is the Chairman of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. NJAEP was originally founded in 2007 as a cosponsored program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and Music for All Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Prudential Foundation, and ArtPride New Jersey. The mission of the NJAEP is to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.