What’s up With Implementation of the Arts Task Force Recommendations – Who Knows

I have similar concerns about “meaningful” implementation of the fine arts task force recommendations. The task force presented its recommendations to the School Board in October 2008, which were based in large part on input from more than 1,000 respondents to a survey. It was another 7 months before administration recommendations were ready for the School Board, and its been another 6 months since then without any communication to the community or staff about: a) brief summary of what the School Board approved (which could have been as simple as posting the cover letter), b) what’s underway, etc. Anything at a Board meeting can be tracked down on the website, but that’s not what I’m talking about. There are plenty of electronic media that allow for efficient, appropriate communication to many people in the district and in the community, allowing for on-going communication and engagement. Some of the current issues might be mitigated, so further delays do not occur. Also, there already is a blog in the arts area that is rarely used.
Afterall, one of our School Board members, Lucy Mathiak, has a full-time job (in addition to being a school board member) as well as having a lot of other life stuff on her plate and she’s developed a blog. It wouldn’t be appropriate for administrators to comment as she does if they are wearing their administrator hats, but concise, factual information would be helpful. I mentioned this to the Superintendent when I met with him in November. He said he thought this was a good idea and ought to take place – haven’t seen it yet; hope to soon, though.
In the meantime, I’m concerned about the implementation of one of the most important aspects of the task force’s recommendations – multi-year educational and financial strategic plan for the arts, which members felt needed to be undertaken after the School Board’s approval and in parallel with implementation of other efforts. Why was this so important to the task force? Members felt to sustain arts education in this economic environment, such an effort was critical.
From the task force’s perspective, a successful effort in this area would involve the community and would not be a solo district effort. As a former member and co-chair of the task force, I’ve heard nothing about this. I am well aware of the tight staffing and resources, but there are multiple ways to approach this. Also, in my meetings with administrative staff over the summer that included my co-chair, Anne Katz, we all agreed this was not appropriate for Teaching and Learning whose work and professional experience is in the area of curriculum. Certainly, curriculum is an important piece, but is not the entire, long-term big picture for arts education. Also, there is no need to wait on specific curriculum plans before moving forward with the longer-term effort. They are very, very different and all the curriculum work won’t mean much if the bigger picture effort is not undertaken in a timely manner. When the task force began it’s work, this was a critical issue. It’s even more critical now.
Does anyone have information about what’s underway, meaningful opportunities for community and teacher engagement (vs. the typical opportunities for drive by input – if you don’t comment as we drive by, you must not care or tacitly approve of what’s being done is how I’ve heard the Teaching and Learning approach described to me and I partially experienced personally). I so hope not, because there are many knowledgable teaching professionals.
I know the topic of this thread was talented and gifted, but there are many similar “non-content” issues between the two topics. I’m hoping to address my experiences and my perspectives on arts education issues in the district in separate posts in the near future.

4 thoughts on “What’s up With Implementation of the Arts Task Force Recommendations – Who Knows”

  1. I want to add the School Board and Superintendent have understood and supported the Fine Arts Task Force efforts and recommendations. Last spring, School Board members directed the Superintended to restore one class/one teacher for elementary music and art classes. This was an important decision for the School Board to make on behalf of children and support for their learning in arts education.
    My “anxiety” about longer-term strategies and approaches for sustaining k-12 arts education stems from my understanding of the tight financial situation facing the school district and how this has negatively affected arts education in the past. I KNOW other areas are affected negatively as well, but my personal focus and energy is on working toward longer-terms solutions toward sustaining arts education. The longer-term issues and how these issues affect arts education was a primary concern of the task force and is reflected in its recommendations.
    In July, the School Board approved a set of recommendations that included measurable action steps, including the establishment of a community team that would work with members of the District administration to “Develop [a] multi-year sustainable Funding Plan for arts education which includes arts courses, operational and capital resource needs assessment…” I specifically asked to be kept in the loop on this, because I am co-leader of the Madison Creativity and Arts Team, which came about as part of implementation efforts of a Statewide task force on arts and creativity in education and this team was identified in the administration as resources for this. We have not received any information from the district on this topic.
    What I expected to see given the 09-10 timeframe for the approved measurable action step from above was the establishment of the committee and discussions about what this is, framework, etc., taking place in the fall/winter timeframe at the same time curriculum and other pieces are being developed. This does not need to be a linear process. When Anne Katz and I (co-chairs of the arts task force) met with administrators in the spring/summer 2009, we repeatedly emphasized this point trying to convey a sense of urgency. And, again, yes, I know staffing resources are an issue, but there are alternate ways to approach this effort. The arts task force members designed the survey used, formatted the survey on-line, analyzed the data and wrote the report.
    I see that Teaching and Learning plans to provide semi-annual updates to the School Board on TAG. I expect the same will be followed with the arts action plans. This may be necessary and sufficient for the School Board, but it falls short of what can be done efficiently and appropriately along the way via electronic media to keep staff informed and engaged in the process as well as potential partners and others interested in strengthening, supporting and sustaining arts education for Madison’s students. I feel it also shows respect for all professionals in the School District working on behalf of Madison’s students.

  2. I’m guessing that this is getting as much notice by the school board as the Math Task Force recommendations (they bought all those Singapore math books – but where is the INSTRUCTION because I have not talked to a parent yet that said their child is getting instruction on the topics in those math books). Plus, it seems that the school board has only one thing on its mind right now – 4-year-old kindergarten – which hopefully they vote NO on this evening – did you see the property tax implication of a yes vote?!? I’m all for supporting our children, but do something with the results of the Math and Arts task forces before starting up another project.

  3. The School Board should not have to micromanage the implementation of recommendations they’ve approved, and the School Board should and does do more than one thing at at time. It’s the responsibility of the Superintendent to implement what the School Board approves. The School Board will review the progress of implementing the recommendations of the fine arts task force in the near future, which makes perfect sense to me.
    My concern is with the administration’s implementation of the Fine Arts Task Force recommendations in terms of setting priorities, the development of a multi-year educational and financial plan, which was to be undertaken during the 09-10 school year, poor ongoing communication with the community, and a number of other arts education issues that i will comment on in the near future. The financial situation facing the district is challenging and has affected arts education, so long-term planning was of the utmost importance to the Fine Arts Task Force. In the past i’ve communicated my concerns to School Board members, which i plan to do again.
    At this point, I’m not overly concerned with the School Board’s work, which is so greatly improved over the work of the School Board five plus years ago. They have taken and are taking on a number of difficult, complicated issues. This thankless job is extremely difficult, and I appreciate the commitment of the current board members to these complicated issues.
    I’m blogging to share my thoughts and concerns with teachers, artists, arts organizations and arts advocates, and will do so with the School Board in advance of updates from the admin to the School Board on the arts. Because the internal sharing of information on this topic is negligent – absent really, i’m using the electronic media to reach a wider audience. As the co-chair of the Fine Arts Task Force, I know there are a number of people who are interested in this topic.
    Lastly, I’m one who believes not educating our students costs society far more in the long run. However, there are a number of similar issues running across TAG, math and fine arts, which I think and hope will be addressed over time by the School Board and the Superintendent.

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