Category Archives: Curriculum – Fine Arts

Waunakee teacher creates musicals that star all the fifth-graders

Pamela Cotant:

Music teacher Kathy Bartling is on a mission.
“I want every child to have one chance to be on the stage before they leave this school district,” Bartling said.
To that end, she has written and produced 30 different musicals where every fifth-grader has a role, despite the growing student population. The first year she had 70 students to work in. This year, she found a way to include 261 students at Waunakee Intermediate School.
She has found ways for students who don’t speak English to take part.
This year some students performed as a green inch worm. The required costume was one of 17 new ones she made this year.

West High School presents Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”

An ambivalent Cinderella? A blood-thirsty Little Red Riding Hood? Prince Charming with a roving eye? A Witch… who raps? They’re all among the cockeyed characters in James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s fractured fairy tale “Into the Woods.” When the Baker and his Wife learn they’re cursed with childlessness, they embark on a quest for the special objects required to break the spell ­ swindling, lying and stealing from Cinderella, Little Red, Rapunzel, and Jack (of beanstalk fame). One of Sondheim’s most popular works, this timeless yet relevant piece is a rare modern classic.
Performance and ticket information:
March 6, 7, 13 and 14 • 7:30 pm • West High Auditorium
Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults
Buy your tickets online now at
Please join the West HS community in a celebration of the arts in our schools. This year’s cast is exceptionally talented and a Sondheim musical is always a treat. “Into the Woods” is a production not to be missed!
Note: “Into the Woods” is not appropriate theater fare for elementary school and younger, less mature middle school children; however, do not worry if you’re child’s class is going to the school performance on March 10. They are only doing the first act for that performance and the first act is delightfully appropriate for young audiences.

What’s Memorial Done Lately?

Madison Memorial has had a pretty good couple of weeks. Last night the boys basketball team won its sixth straight Big Eight conference championship in a rollicking and highly-entertaining showdown with conference runner-up Madison East. Last week, Memorial’s boys swimming team won the state championship. Today’s State Journal reports that Memorial senior Suvai Gunasekaran will be heading off to Washington as one of the 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. And last week Memorial senior violinist Ben Seeger was the winner of the Steenbock Youth Music Award in the Bolz Young Artist Competition.
It’s also worth pointing out that Suvai will be joined by Gabriela Farfan of West at the Intel Science Talent Search (and so MMSD is supplying 5% of the nation’s finalists), and that Ben was joined in the Bolz Young Artists Competition finals by Alice Huang of West (the overall winner) and Ansel Norris of East (and so MMSD supplied 75% of the finalists in this statewide competition).
Madison schools – a diversity of excellence.

Get Lit Players bring poetry’s emotions to other L.A. teenagers

Scott Gold:

For as long as he can remember, Dario Serrano’s life was all screeching tires and echoing gunshots, babies’ cries and barking dogs, a symphony, as he puts it, of “hood rats and gangsters,” of “vatos and payasos” — dudes and numskulls, loosely translated.
By high school, he’d pretty much given up on himself. He bounced around between three schools. He started selling pot, though he always seemed to smoke more than he sold. His GPA fell to 0.67, which is about as bad as you can get and still be showing up.
Literature, it is fair to say, was not resonating. “I mean, ‘The Great Gatsby’?” he says incredulously, and when he puts it like that, Lincoln Heights does feel pretty far from Long Island.
When a friend suggested that poetry might be his thing, Serrano scoffed. Grudgingly, he started tagging along to a poetry club, and one day last year he took his lunch break in a classroom where a teen troupe called Get Lit was holding auditions.
Get Lit’s artistic director, an African American artist named Azure Antoinette, performed an original composition called “Box,” a denunciation of anyone who would define her by the color of her skin, who would lump together, thoughtlessly, faces of color:

A More Joyous Approach: “The War of the Roses”

The Economist:

Queenly Cate Blanchet turns her attention to Richard II
Cate Blanchett is known for the pale beauty of her face and her vivid film performances. Her latest work marks a significant change of pace. As the curtain rises at the Sydney Theatre, she sits centre-stage, a still figure in a white blouse and trousers, blond hair, high cheekbones. A storm of golden petals drifts down from the ceiling, and she wears a crown.
It has become fairly commonplace for film actors to star in London’s West End and on Broadway, but this transposition is different. Miss Blanchett is playing the king in Shakespeare’s Richard II, the first part of a rigorously condensed version of the eight history plays. Miss Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, have become artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, an organisation which already has a fine opinion of itself. “In so far as there is a National Theatre in Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company is it,” says Bob Brookman, the general manager.
Sydney’s “The War of the Roses” ruthlessly cuts the histories down to two evening performances, each lasting a little under four hours, focusing on the death of kings and the hollowness of their crown. If this production, performed as part of the Sydney Festival and now on tour, is a clue to the nature of Miss Blanchetts’ regime, it will be energetic, controversial, ambitious, and, to use one of Miss Blanchett’s favorite adjectives, “noisy.” Casting her as Richard II was the bold idea of the director, the fearless 36-year-old Benedict Andrews. Having an actress play Richard II is not original: Fiona Shaw did it in London in 1995. But casting a woman as Richard III most certainly is. He is played by Pamela Rabe, one of Australia’s most accomplished actors, without a hump and with a heavy sense of irony, which provokes tense laughter in unlikely places.
Miss Rabe is not as self-consciously feminine as Miss Blanchett, who deploys laughter–her own–to dramatise the alienation of the king from his court, and fondly adopts girlish poses during the deposition scene in which Richard passes the crown to Bolingbroke. Shakespearean actors need to drill their vocal cords and Miss Blanchett seemed a little short of training, but she made a likeable, vulnerable, androgynous monarch. Given the extent of the cuts and transpositions, there could be no lingering over the development of character. The playful relationship between Prince Hal (Ewen Leslie) and Falstaff (John Gaden), for example, was speedily established by Hal fellating Falstaff. Sydney was not fazed.
Many of Australia’s best actors have emigrated in search of larger audiences and new writers. Miss Blanchett want to bring in a younger audience to the Sydney Theatre Company’s performances. “We’re hoping to take a more joyous approach,” Mr. Upton said recently. Miss Blanchett and Mr. Upton also want to develop the company’s reputation abroad as well as at home. Later this year their production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Liv Ullman with Miss Blanchett as Blanche Dubois, travels to the Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this case of celebrity culture, the emphasis will be on the culture.

Informational Community Sessions on the Madison Fine Arts Task Force

Tuesday March 10, 2009 6 to 8p.m.
Memorial High School – Wisconsin Neighborhood Center [Map]
Thursday March 12, 2009 6 to 8p.m.
LaFollette High School in the LMC [Map]
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) will be sharing the recommendations of the Fine Arts Task Force. We are cordially inviting you to attend one or both of these sessions.
The focus of each session will be a presentation of the findings and recommendations of the Fine Arts Task Force followed by an opportunity for discussion. The Executive Summary and complete Fine Arts Task Force Report can be found at
We are looking forward to sharing this information with you and hearing your thoughts about the research and recommendations provided by the Fine Arts Task Force.
Feedback from sessions and the recommendations from the Fine Arts Task Force will assist in improving the MMSD K-12 Fine Arts program and opportunities for our students,
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Julie Palkowski at
Lisa Wachtel
Executive Director of Teaching and Learning
Julie Palkowski
Coordinator of Fine Arts
Please share this information with others that may be interested in attending these sessions and/or sharing their comments.

Arts & the Economy Report

Mariel Wozniak, via email: The National Governor’s Association 4.5MB PDF Report:

Today, the National Governors Association (NGA) has released Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development. This comprehensive report is a product of the long-standing partnership between the NEA and NGA, with extensive research support from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). At this moment, the report is enjoying front page status on the NGA website at . It’s not often that governors receive information from the NGA that gives such high priority to the arts as a policy solution to the issues they are facing. Arts & the Economy arrives on the desks of governors at what is obviously a critical decision-making period for all states. We’re confident you will find it is a valuable resource to share with your governor, legislators, constituents and advocates as you move through the budget process for FY 10.

This page discusses the importance of the arts and culture to states, and lists all the arts reports and issue briefs the NGA has produced with the NEA, with NASAA’s assistance.
Here is a quotation I placed in one of the meeting rooms in the Ruth Bachhuber-Doyle Adm. Building during my tenure at MMSD. It ought to be in every school:

“Our greatest scientists are generally skilled in non-verbal thinking yet we usually discourage science students from studying artistic subjects. Unless we reverse this trend, they will continue to be cut off from thought processes that lead to creative breakthroughs.”
Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein, Professor of Physiology at Michigan State University, formerly scientist with the Salk Institute.

Wisconsin Task Force on Arts & Creativity

In March of 2008, Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton and State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster formed the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education and they began their work to assert the central role of the arts and creativity in education in this 21st century global economy. (You can watch a short video on the Task Force’s launch here.) The Co-Chairs and Task Force members alike understand creativity to be the bedrock of the arts, the renewable resource that will be the sustainable energy of this economy. As international expert Charles Landry says, “Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.
Through this web site you will learn about the Task Force and its workgroups. You can listen to the testimony from the Public Forums and experience the resources that influenced the Task Force’s work.

Baltimore Symphony Trains Disadvantaged Kids

Weekend Edition:

On a block with boarded-up row houses and broken windows sits Baltimore’s Harriet Tubman Elementary School. Practically all of the students at the school get free or reduced-price lunches. Some of the kids live in homeless shelters.
But a remarkable new music program lives inside the school’s unremarkable walls. OrchKids is a collaboration between the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the school. The idea is to introduce disadvantaged students to classical music, and maybe change their lives in the process.
The Baltimore Symphony’s Dan Trahey runs the OrchKids program. This is the first year of the project, which has started with the younger students — mostly first-graders. Each year, it’ll grow to eventually encompass the whole school.
Trahey has an advanced music degree and is a trained orchestra musician. Before taking over OrchKids, he says he felt like he was performing for the wrong audience — symphony subscribers who really didn’t need the music.

L.A.’s new arts school an expensive social experiment

Mitchell Landsberg:

The campus has long been intended as a local school, mostly serving students from surrounding neighborhoods. Critics say the district’s best resources shouldn’t be restricted geographically.
With just nine months left before it opens, a new arts high school in downtown Los Angeles still lacks a principal, a staff, a curriculum, a permanent name and a clearly articulated plan for how students will be selected — critical details for a school that aims to be one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States.
Central High School No. 9 does have a completed campus, believed to be the second most expensive public high school ever built in the United States. But the very fact that it offers what may be the finest such facilities in the region has fueled a debate over the district’s plan to operate it primarily as a neighborhood school, with fewer than one-quarter of its slots allotted to students citywide.

Keeping Notes Afloat in Class

Michael Alison Chandler:

Third-graders at Hunters Woods Elementary School are required to learn the fundamentals of the violin. They know how to stand up straight, how to hold their instruments and how to use the tippy tips of their fingers when they press on the strings so they don’t make what their teacher calls “an icky sound.”
After learning a grand total of eight notes, they also know how to make music. Their repertoire one fall morning included pieces from a range of cultures and styles: “Caribbean Island,” “Seminole Chant,” “Good King Wenceslas.”
In Fairfax County and elsewhere, students often begin studying violin in fourth grade. Hunters Woods, an arts and science magnet school in Reston, gives them a one-year head start. Experts say the earlier children begin, the more likely they are to succeed in music.
Hunters Woods, with 950 students, is one of more than a dozen local schools in which teachers are trained through the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to infuse arts education into other subjects. For instance, students might build instruments from recycled materials, learn science through lessons on sound and vibration or study math through measurement and patterning. Some also compose songs with lyrics inspired by Virginia history.
But music programs and the rest of the education budget are under scrutiny as the county School Board seeks to close a $220 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July. One proposal to save about $850,000 would trim band and strings teaching positions, making it tough to keep such programs in third and fourth grades, said Roger Tomhave, fine arts coordinator for Fairfax schools.

This tune sounds familiar. Madison formerly offered a 4th grade strings program (now only in 5th).

Arts Integration Aids Students’ Grasp of Academics

Julie Rasicot:

Teacher Karen McKiernan’s science class at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School seemed more like a lesson in art appreciation than the laws of physics as students focused on a poster of an abstract painting propped against the blackboard.
The room buzzed with questions as the fifth-graders at the Silver Spring school queried each other about the piece, “People and Dog in the Sun,” by Joan Miró.
“What would this painting look like if it was not abstract?” 10-year-old Annesha Goswami asked her classmates.
“Why do you think there are so many dark colors and only one bright color?” asked Elizabeth Iduma, 10.
The students, participants in the school’s talented and gifted magnet program, were practicing a thinking routine called “creative questions” which was designed to help them “think outside the box,” McKiernan said. For the class’s next meeting, McKiernan said, she planned to have students relate their thoughts about the artwork to the concepts of force, motion and energy that the fifth-graders had been studying.

Students Show a Growing Appreciation for Classical Music

Lindsay Christians:

Zou Zou Robidoux loves classical music and is not ashamed to talk about it.
“I’m a geek about it,” said the 16-year-old Robidoux, who began playing in fourth grade. “It’s 90 percent of the music I listen to.”
As for the cello, she added, “I can’t even describe how much I love it and how much it fits me.”
Robidoux may seem like an anomaly among teens, most of whom are more interested in listening to Lil Wayne or Panic! at the Disco. But in Madison, that’s not exactly true.
Robidoux is one of hundreds of local young people with a growing interest in classical music. And while the majority of the Overture Center’s audiences for symphony, chamber orchestra and opera may be over 50, that’s not an indication that classical music is dying. Interest in the classics is part of a national trend that runs counter to conventional wisdom.

Doggie Biscuit for Kohn: Author rips testing, other sacred classroom concepts

By Lisa Schencker:

Rising test scores are no reason to celebrate, author Alfie Kohn told teachers at the Utah Education Association (UEA) convention on Friday.
Schools that improve test scores do so at the expense of other subjects and ideas, he said.
When the scores go up, it’s not just meaningless. It’s worrisome,” Kohn told hundreds of educators on the last day of the convention. “What did you sacrifice from my child’s education to raise scores on the test?”
Kohn, who’s written 11 books on human behavior, parenting and schools, spent nearly two hours Friday morning ripping into both established and relatively new education concepts. He slammed merit pay for teachers, competition in schools, Advanced Placement classes, curriculum standards and testing–including Utah’s standards and testing system — drawing mixed reactions from his audience.
“Considering what we hear a lot, it was pure blasphemy,” said Richard Heath, a teacher at Central Davis Junior High School in Layton.
Kohn called merit pay–forms of which many Utah school districts are implementing this year–an “odious” type of control imposed on teachers.
If you jump through hoops, we’ll give you a doggie biscuit in the form of money,” Kohn said.

Continue reading Doggie Biscuit for Kohn: Author rips testing, other sacred classroom concepts

Input Sought for Arts and Creativity Meeting

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

Educators and community members are invited to provide examples of promising programs focusing on the arts and creativity in schools, communities, or the workplace. The information will be used to help Wisconsin infuse creativity, the arts, innovation, and entrepreneurship into education at the state and local levels in Wisconsin.
The request comes from the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education, which has worked over the past six months toward a statewide plan to strengthen arts and creativity education in the state.

Fine Arts Task Force Report Available On-line

Last night, Fine Arts Task Force co-chairs Barb Schrank and Anne Katz presented the committee’s report at the regular school board meeting. It is a fine document and a reminder of how fortunate we are to have a community that is rich in arts resources and people with a clear understanding of the importance of the arts in educational programs. We all owe this group a significant debt for their diligence in putting together a comprehensive document and set of recommendations.
The report and committee minutes and meeting materials are available on-line at:
Last night the board voted to receive the report and turn it over to administration and staff for analysis and comment. Later this school year, the superintendent and board will hold input sessions to give the community a chance to weigh in on the report and on priorities. I am not sure if this will be done as part of the strategic planning process that the new superintendent has in mind or as a separate process, but I am confident that there will be opportunities to weigh in.
For now, this group deserves a big THANK YOU for their work.

Adolescent Anxiety: The Musical

Bruce Weber:

He was never much of a student, but Jason Robert Brown was a precocious kid. Growing up in Monsey, N.Y., about an hour north of Manhattan, he became enthralled by music at age 4, was taking lessons at 5. At his first recital — age 6 — he not only outplayed his teacher’s other students, he also supplied the verbal patter of a natural entertainer.
“He just started chatting with the audience,” his mother, Deborah Brown, recalled. “I was floored. Nobody knew where it came from.”
Once, before he could write in script, he filched a checkbook from one of his parents, wrote out a check and sent it to a mail-order record club. Fortunately he didn’t get all the particulars right, and the check was returned because it was unsigned. Teachers plucked him from third grade and plopped him into the fourth, not because of straight A’s but because he wasn’t paying attention.
“He was good in everything, but if it wasn’t music, he didn’t do the work,” said Mrs. Brown, a former English teacher.

McCain & Obama’s Art Policy Statements

Salt Lake City Tribune:

Here are the arts policy statements of John McCain and Barack Obama:
John McCain
“John McCain believes that arts education can play a vital role fostering creativity and expression. He is a strong believer in empowering local school districts to establish priorities based on the needs of local schools and school districts. Schools receiving federal funds for education must be held accountable for providing a quality education in basic subjects critical to ensuring students are prepared to compete and succeed in the global economy. Where these local priorities allow, he believes investing in arts education can play a role in nurturing the creativity of expression so vital to the health of our cultural life and providing a means of creative expression for young people.”
Barack Obama Reinvest in Arts Education: To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education. Unfortunately, many school districts are cutting instructional time for art and music education. Barack Obama believes that the arts should be a central part of effective teaching and learning

Hartland Arrowhead Honored for Best High School Musical


A Wisconsin high school will receive an award Thursday for producing the best high school musical in the nation.
Arrowhead High School about 30 miles west of Milwaukee is being honored for last year’s production of “Cats.”
The school has spent the past decade developing a musical theater program so strong students joke the Broadway Company is a varsity sport. Its graduates have gone on to major in music at Harvard University, Lawrence University and the Chicago College of the Performing Arts.

Arts Task Force to present findings and recommendations to Madison School Board: Presentation at 6 pm, Monday, October 6, 2008

Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street, Madison [Map]

“The arts are not a luxury; they are essential”. State Supt. of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster
Being concerned about the effect of cuts to funding, staffing and instruction time on arts education and the effect of these cuts on low-income students and students of color, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Board of Education formed the district’s Fine Arts Task Force in January 2007 to respond to three charges:

  1. Identify community goals for Madison Metropolitan School District K-12 Fine Arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular.
  2. Recommend up to five ways to increase minority student participation and participation of low-income students in Fine Arts at elementary, middle and high school levels.
  3. Make recommendations regarding priorities for district funding of Fine Arts.

Members of the Task Force will present the findings and recommendations to the MMSD School Board on Monday, October, 6, 2008, at 6:15 pm, in the McDaniels Auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street, Madison.
Students, parents and the general public are encouraged to attend to show support for the role of the arts in ensuring a quality education for every MMSD student. Attendees can register in support of the report at the meeting.
Nineteen community members, including 5 MMSD students, were appointed by the School Board to the Task Force, which met numerous times from February 2007 through June 2008. The Task Force received a great deal of supportive assistance from the Madison community and many individuals throughout the 16 month information gathering and , deliberation process. More than 1,000 on-line surveys were completed by community members, parents, artists, arts organizations, students, administrators and teachers, providing a wealth of information to inform the task force?s discussions and recommendations.
The full Task Force report and appendices, and a list of Task Force members, can be found at
Fine Arts Task Force Report [1.62MB PDF] and appendices:

For more information, contact Anne Katz, Task Force co-chair, 608 335 7909 |

DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

A video tape of the entire presentation and discussion with Dr. Nerad may be viewed by visiting this internet link: madison_superin_10.php

Dan Nerad opened his remarks by stating his commitment to efforts for always continuing change and improvement with the engagement of the community. He outlined four areas of focus on where we are going from here.

  1. Funding: must balance district needs and taxpayer needs. He mentioned the referendum to help keep current programs in place and it will not include “new” things.
  2. Strategic Plan: this initiative will formally begin in January 2009 and will involve a large community group process to develop as an ongoing activity.
  3. Meet people: going throughout the community to meet people on their own terms. He will carefully listen. He also has ideas.
  4. Teaching and learning mission: there are notable achievement gaps we need to face head-on. The “achievement gap” is serious. The broader mission not only includes workforce development but also helping students learn to be better people. We have a “tale of two school districts” – numbers of high achievers (including National Merit Scholars), but not doing well with a lot of other students. Low income and minority students are furtherest away from standards that must be met. Need to be more transparent with the journey to fix this problem and where we are not good. Must have the help of the community. The focus must be to improve learning for ALL kids, it is a “both/and” proposition with a need to reframe the issue to help all kids move forward from where they are. Must use best practices in contemporary assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instructional methods.

Dr. Nerad discussed five areas about which he sees a need for community-wide conversations for how to meet needs in the district.

  1. Early learning opportunities: for pre-kindergarten children. A total community commitment is needed to prevent the ‘achievement gap’ from widening.
  2. High schools: How do we want high schools to be? Need to be more responsive. The curriculum needs to be more career oriented. Need to break down the ‘silos’ between high school, tech schools and colleges. Need to help students move through the opportunities differently. The Small Learning Communities Grant recently awarded to the district for high schools and with the help of the community will aid the processes for changes in the high schools.
  3. School safety: there must be an on-going commitment for changes. Nerad cited three areas for change:

    a. A stronger curriculum helping people relate with other people, their differences and conflicts.

    b. A response system to safety. Schools must be the safest of sanctuaries for living, learning and development.

    c.Must make better use of research-based technology that makes sense.

  4. Math curriculum and instruction: Cited the recent Math Task Force Report

    a. Good news: several recommendations for curriculum, instruction and policies for change.

    b. Bad news: our students take less math than other urban schools in the state; there are notable differences in the achievement gap.

  5. Fine Arts: Cited recent Fine Arts Task Force Report. Fine arts curriculum and activities in the schools, once a strength, has been whittled away due to budget constraints. We must deal with the ‘hands of the clock’ going forward and develop a closer integration of the schools and community in this area.

Continue reading DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

Youth express ideas and dreams through art

A. David Dahmer:

Art and working with young minds are two of Sheba McCants’ passions in life. Through mural making, she has been able to combine those two passions to make a difference in the lives of some Madison-area girls.
McCants has teamed up with Madison SOS (Speak Out Sister) to create a community mural that reflects and celebrates local teen girls’ vision for the future of their city. The Mural Unveiling Celebration — the culmination of six weeks of hard work on a 32-foot wall — will take place on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Wisconsin Youth and Family Center, 1201 McKenna Blvd.
The idea for the mural hatched about a year ago, when McCants, who works for the Urban League of Greater Madison by day, and Natalia Thompson, who is the project coordinator for Madison SOS, were talking about working on a project together. “We sent out e-mails to a lot of different people and the Wisconsin Youth and Family Center responded and said that they would love to have a mural in their gymnasium,” McCants says. “Natalia was the grant writer and has helped me facilitate and coordinate the project. She has been huge, in terms of getting this all together
This summer, McCants and other high school artists have created a design for the mural that expresses the young ladies’ ideas and dreams — and then spent six weeks learning about the art of mural making, painting, and having fun with other girls who love art.

“Middle School Madness Blog”

by Unnamed MMSD Educators [RSS]. The blog touches on the “Standards Based Report Card” initiative among a number of other topics.

From the district Curricular Standards:
“These Grade Level Performance Standards describe behaviors typical at the specified grade level. They represent behaviors students generally exhibit as they move from novice to expert in their ability to take control of language processes. It is important to remember, however, that literacy learning may not be sequential and each child has a unique developmental pattern.”
The 6th grade student reading at a 2nd grade level earns a ONE (remember, no zeroes) for the Power Standard of Reading Comprehension. Why? For not meeting the “behaviors typical at the specified grade level ” (6th).
Now, if said student raises her/his reading level to that of a 4th-grade student, guess what. That student still does not meet the 6th grade standard and will still earn a ONE for the Power Standard of Reading Comprehension. Effort and improvement are not taken into consideration in this constricted construct for grading.

via a kind reader email.
Much more on standards based report cards here.

School starts early for musically inclined

Pameal Cotant:

When some area students start band and strings classes for the first time this fall, they will have a head start.
That’s because some school districts, including Madison, offer lessons in the summer for beginning as well as continuing students. They are part of the summer school program.
“If we would just start in school then we wouldn’t know many of the notes and the basic songs,” said Karly Keller, who will play the clarinet as a Waunakee sixth-grader this fall. “We can just jump back in when school starts.”
In the Waunakee School District, lessons are first offered for strings students in the summer before fifth grade. Band students can start taking the lessons just before sixth grade.
“We’ve always started our beginners in the summer because typically they have more time in the summer than the regular school year,” said Ross Cowing, sixth-grade band director and the summer music coordinator for Waunakee Intermediate School.

OSU to sponsor proposed Tulsa charter school

April Marciszewski:

Oklahoma State University has agreed to sponsor a proposed charter high school in Tulsa that would recruit juniors and seniors from across the state to study arts and other subjects “through the lens of art,” as leaders described it.
The Oklahoma School for the Visual and Performing Arts is still seeking the Legislature’s approval to create the school and to fund about $5 million annually for operations, said David Downing, the school’s co-chairman with his father-in-law, John Brock, a retired Tulsa oilman and philanthropist.
Leaders plan to raise $20 million in private donations to pay for land, buildings and equipment, Downing said.
The school would be the artistic equivalent of the Ok-lahoma School for Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City.

Camp Leads a Drumbeat for a Marching Band’s Style

Samuel Freedman:

As his extended family gathered around the table for dinner last Christmas, Ben Brock received one final present. It was a scrapbook, each page adorned with photos of him as a child and handwritten notes from his relatives. Then, on the last sheet, the names of his mother, sister, uncles and aunts appeared, with a dollar figure next to each.
Those numbers reflected the money they had pledged to send Ben, 16, almost as far from his home in Seattle as it was possible to go within the continental United States. At the end of that journey lay the dream he had nurtured since watching the movie “Drum Line” in sixth grade: to become part of the Marching 100, the renowned band at Florida A&M University.
So on a gauzy gray morning seven months later Ben and his snare drum strode onto the dewy grass of the band’s practice field on the Tallahassee campus. He had been awakened at 5 a.m. and the day’s last rehearsal would not end until 10 p.m. His feet screamed. His shoulders ached. Gnats swarmed around his face, daring him to break rhythm and lose composure.

Meeting special needs through art

Pamela McLoughlin
Early in her career teaching special education, Beverly Levett Gerber once had an unusual mix of students; some had behavior problems, others developmental disabilities and some were gifted.
It was quite the challenge, but she knew how to achieve harmony.
“There were few things we could do together, but we could do the art work together at their rate and level,” Gerber said. “When you reach them at their level, they succeed.”
Gerber, a professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University who still teaches a course each semester, is a nationally recognized star in the fields of both art education and special education, most noted for combining the two seemingly divergent fields. Gerber taught at her alma mater, Southern, for 33 years before retiring from full-time work in 2003.
“Because of the uniqueness of the two fields coming together, I call myself a matchmaker,” Gerber, of Milford said with a twinkle in her eye.
Gerber’s commitment to the notion that art is a vehicle for special needs students to learn other subjects, to express themselves emotionally and show their level, has led to such groundbreaking progress in the field that colleagues from the National Art Education Association established The Beverly Levett Gerber Lifetime Achievement award to go each year to an outstanding art educator who works with special needs children.

And the Band Honked On: A Professional Musician Teaches 6th Graders

Daniel Wakin:

It was early in the school year. A young professional French horn player named Alana Vegter, a thoroughbred musician trained by elite teachers, took a handful of trumpet and trombone players into an equipment supply room. Speaking in the flat tones of the Chicago suburb where she grew up, Ms. Vegter tried to coax notes out of each player. A tall sixth-grade trumpeter named Kenny Ocean, his pants sagging around his hips, played too high, then too low. A smile spread across his face when he hit it right.
“You see, every time you do it, it gets easier,” Ms. Vegter said. On her cue they all bleated together. “I’m starting to hear everybody making nice, healthy sounds,” she said, half in praise, half in hope.
So began Ms. Vegter’s year in Ditmas Junior High School, Intermediate School 62, in the Kensington section of Brooklyn. It was a year that would teach her the satisfaction of tiny victories in a place where homelessness means that some kids cannot take their instruments home to practice, where chronic asthma forces some to switch from wind instruments to percussion, where the roar of a lunchroom leaves a newcomer stunned.
Ms. Vegter, 25, was there as part of a well-financed experiment by some of the nation’s most powerful musical institutions. The experiment is called, clumsily, the Academy — a Program of Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute (the institute being an arm of Carnegie).
In its second season, which ended this month, the academy extended fellowships to 34 graduates of leading music schools to receive high-level coaching and lessons in a two-year program. They play concerts on Carnegie’s stages and participate in master classes. Part of the deal is a commitment to teach one and a half days a week at a New York public school, which pays the academy $13,200 for the service.

Clusty Search: Lemont High School Band.

Art, music give students skills to succeed in tomorrow’s world

Ray Binghamand Lisa Gonzales Schoennauer:

Budget cuts. Teacher layoffs. In this time of budget crisis, can our public schools really afford to continue funding arts and music education?
The appropriate question is: Can California schools afford not to?
The Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium recently identified a direct correlation between arts experiences and both academic achievement and personal development. The research shows that students who are exposed to the arts demonstrate increased overall academic success beyond just test scores, are connected to the world outside of school, and have more self-confidence.
What’s more, the report found that training in the arts leads to higher levels of reading acquisition, motivation, extended attention spans, information recall in long-term memory, and understanding of geometric representation. For example, specific pathways in the brain can be identified and improved during performing and visual arts instruction.
Not convinced by the academic research? Then look at the economics.

Zeum: An Arts & Technology Museum for Kids & Families

Zeum is a non-profit multimedia arts and technology museum with a mission to foster creativity and innovation in young people of all backgrounds, communities and learning styles. By providing hands-on experiences in four core creative processes (animation, sound and video production, live performance and visual arts), we encourage youth to share their stories, build their voices, and use multimedia tools for creative self-expression.

Sounds of hope from Paraguay dump

Alfonso Daniels via a kind reader’s email:

Suddenly the sound of violins playing Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks breaks the sound of stray dogs’ barking and rubbish trucks, taking the visitor to the streets of any European city like Prague or Vienna.
This is Cateura, the main rubbish dump of Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, where the conductor of the country’s symphony orchestra, Luis Szaran, has established a music school.
“I came here once and saw a woman holding a newborn child with one hand and picking up rubbish with the other, and told myself this could not go on, this is how everything started,” recalls Mr Szaran, who is of Hungarian and Polish origin.
He launched the Sonidos de la Tierra (Sounds of the Land) initiative six years ago to bring classical and folkloric music to the poorest children with the help of the Swiss non-governmental organisation,

The art of improving education

Jack Khoury:

“It is forbidden to dance”; “it is forbidden to paint”; “it is forbidden to sing”; “it is forbidden to play an instrument.” These statements were printed on signs displayed in mainly Arab neighborhoods in Haifa. The signs were hung as armor in the battle mounted by the Non-profit Organization for the Advancement of Arab Public Education in Haifa, to open a school for the arts to serve the city’s Arab sector. The organization also collected parents’ signatures in a petition that urges the Haifa Municipality and Education Ministry to reverse their positions and support the school, which would be the first of its type in the Israeli-Arab sector.
In August last year, the organization filed an appeal to the High Court against the ministry and the municipality, demanding that the school be opened. Months later, while still waiting for the court’s ruling, the organization decided to launch the campaign. According to the organization, the school could staunch the flow of students to Haifa’s private schools and even boost the public education system in the city’s Arab sector. Organization members stress that a swift ruling by the court is vital, because the placement committee for the city’s special schools will soon complete its activities for the coming school year and the future of the school would rest in the hands of that committee.

Sun Prairie band takes third in NYC competition


The Sun Prairie High School Jazz Band took home the third-place trophy from the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 13th Annual Essentially Ellington competition this weekend.
Two high school jazz bands from Seattle took home the top honors in the competition that culminated with a Saturday night concert, in which they performed with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis as guest soloist.
Marsalis, JALC’s artistic director, presented the first-place trophy to Scott Brown, director of the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, during the awards ceremony and concert at Avery Fisher Hall.
Seattle’s Garfield High School Jazz Band took second place, but it boasted the winner of the Outstanding Soloist Award in clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Carl Majeau.

Art Project at Winnequah

Peter Sobol:

Kristin is spearheading an effort to bring artists Jeanne and David Aurelius to the district next fall for an artist-in-residence program with the goal of rendering a large tile mural in the Winnequah cafeteria. The project is meant to enhance the environment at Winnequah and mark the transition to an elementary school.
The project involves the artists working with the elementary students to select a theme, create the artistic elements and merge them into the overall design, manufacture the individual tiles (one per student) and then install them as a mural. The result is a unique and permanent creation that is an expression of the students and the school community.
More details of the process can be found on the Clay Bay Pottery website.

5 Milwaukee Schools Envision Arts Campus

Alan Borsuk:

In a sign that the climate around arts offerings in Milwaukee Public Schools has taken a definite turn for the better, leaders of five arts specialty schools said Thursday that they are banding together to create a kindergarten through 12th grade “arts campus” aimed at strengthening their programs.
For now, the campus is a matter of the schools cooperating and coordinating actively, but the goal is to create a physical campus that could include moving the Milwaukee High School of the Arts from 2300 W. Highland Ave. to the area around N. 8th and W. Walnut streets, near where Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts and Elm Creative Arts School are located.
That would mean students could go to arts specialty programs from start to finish of their K-12 years in the same area, which is within walking distance of the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, a nonprofit organization offering programs and facilities to students from throughout the metropolitan area.

Art Without Craft

On the website, I learn that:

“When Michelangelo turned 13-years-old he shocked and enraged his father when told that he had agreed to apprentice in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about one year of learning the art of fresco, Michelangelo went on to study at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent…During the years he spent in the Garden of San Marco, Michelangelo began to study human anatomy. In exchange for permission to study corpses (which was strictly forbidden by The Church), the prior of the church of Santo Spirito, Niccolò Bichiellini, received a wooden Crucifix from Michelangelo (detail of Christ’s face). But his contact with the dead bodies caused problems with his health, obliging him to interrupt his activities periodically.
“Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs (both 1489-1492), which show that he had achieved a personal style at a precocious age…”…(and later) “Michelangelo also did the marble Pietà (1498-1500), still in its original place in Saint Peter’s Basilica. One of the most famous works of art, the Pietà was probably finished before Michelangelo was 25 years old.”

My apologies for quoting at such length from a biography, but I have seen his Pietà in Rome on several occasions, and it seems clear to me that it took a gifted young man, with great acquired skill in the craft of shaping marble with hammer and chisel, perhaps two years to achieve this masterwork.

Continue reading Art Without Craft

Elite Korean Schools, Forging Ivy League Skills

Sam Dillon:

It is 10:30 p.m. and students at the elite Daewon prep school here are cramming in a study hall that ends a 15-hour school day. A window is propped open so the evening chill can keep them awake. One teenager studies standing upright at his desk to keep from dozing.
Kim Hyun-kyung, who has accumulated nearly perfect scores on her SATs, is multitasking to prepare for physics, chemistry and history exams.
“I can’t let myself waste even a second,” said Ms. Kim, who dreams of attending Harvard, Yale or another brand-name American college. And she has a good shot. This spring, as in previous years, all but a few of the 133 graduates from Daewon Foreign Language High School who applied to selective American universities won admission.
It is a success rate that American parents may well envy, especially now, as many students are swallowing rejection from favorite universities at the close of an insanely selective college application season.
“Going to U.S. universities has become like a huge fad in Korean society, and the Ivy League names — Harvard, Yale, Princeton — have really struck a nerve,” said Victoria Kim, who attended Daewon and graduated from Harvard last June.
Daewon has one major Korean rival, the Minjok Leadership Academy, three hours’ drive east of Seoul, which also has a spectacular record of admission to Ivy League colleges.
How do they do it? Their formula is relatively simple. They take South Korea’s top-scoring middle school students, put those who aspire to an American university in English-language classes, taught by Korean and highly paid American and other foreign teachers, emphasize composition and other skills key to success on the SATs and college admissions essays, and — especially this — urge them on to unceasing study.

An Elementary Lesson in Classical Music

Nelson Hernandez:

If music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, as the English dramatist William Congreve wrote about three centuries ago, yesterday it did something even more remarkable: It quieted a concert hall packed with 2,500 fourth-graders.
The young students, vibrating with energy, were from Prince George’s County. For the first time, the county has sent all of its fourth-graders to a series of concerts at the Kennedy Center this week in a partnership with the National Symphony Orchestra.
All meaning 8,000.
Before the concert began, the students were making music of their own. After leaving scores of school buses waiting outside in the parking lot, the students marveled at the center’s flag-draped Hall of Nations. One group of seven singing girls from Port Towns Elementary School in Bladensburg, holding hands in a circle, played a clapping game in time with a ditty about “The Simpsons.”

Arts Education Gravely Ignored

Suchita Shah:

Imagine a program that produced a fourfold increase in the number of students recognized for academic achievement. What if that initiative also resulted in three times as many students elected to leadership positions at their schools? And imagine that these children would be four times as likely to be in math or science fairs, and also to perform community service. On top of all that, they would also be three times as likely to win an award for exceptional school attendance.
If public school administrators and government officials knew of such a program, I would demand that it be implemented in our schools and that we invest in it immediately. Guess what? We already know of such a program that does achieve all those benefits: It’s called the arts.
According to Americans for the Arts, children deeply involved in arts programs receive the aforementioned benefits, and then some. Yet, paradoxically, schools are cutting arts programs — ranging from band to theater to painting — because of funding limitations.

Character Counts, But Not by Race

Mona Charen:

The public schools, perhaps more than any other institution in American life, are afflicted with “sounds good” syndrome. Let’s teach kids about the dangers of smoking. Sounds good. Let’s improve math scores with a new curriculum called “whole math.” Sounds good. Let’s reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by teaching sex ed. Sounds good. Let’s have cooperative learning where kids help one another. And so on.
The Fairfax County, Va., schools (where my children attend) recently joined a nationwide “sounds good” trend by introducing a character education curriculum. Students were exhorted to demonstrate a number of ethical traits like (I quote from my son’s elementary school’s website) “compassion, respect, responsibility, honesty.” It would be easy to mock the program — each trait, for example, is linked to a shape (respect is a triangle, honesty is a star). The intention to help mold character is a laudable one. But this program, like so much else about the public schools in the “sounds good” era, has foundered.
The curriculum made news recently when a report ordered by the school board evaluated student conduct for “sound moral character and ethical judgment” and then grouped the results by race. Oh, dear. It seems that among third graders, 95 percent of white students received a grade of “good” or better, whereas only 86 percent of Hispanic kids did that well and only 80 percent of black and special education students were so rated.
Martina A. “Tina” Hone, an African-American member of the school board, told the Washington Post that the decision to aggregate the evaluations by race was “potentially damaging and hurtful.”

CTM: Esperanza Rising

Children’s Theatre of Madison:

Middle school students are a notoriously tough audience.
But at a recent theater arts workshop at Wright Middle School in Madison, students shed their inhibitions as they stomped their feet, practiced the breathing exercises of actors and helped make mariachi music.
In the process, they began to appreciate the effort, energy and excitement of producing a play like “Esperanza Rising,” a Children’s Theatre of Madison production that will begin on April 4 and continue weekend performances through April 20.
Members of the Esperanza cast, the director, musicians and others associated with the production ran theater arts workshops at Hawthorne Elementary and Cherokee Middle School in Madison last week as well as at Wright Middle School.
When Jane Schroeder, outreach educator for CTM, asked students in Erika Meyer’s music class whether they had read the book “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan, Jennifer Neblett, a sixth-grader at Wright, eagerly raised her hand.

2008 Bolz Young Artist Competition

Madison Symphony Orchestra:

Congratulations to the 2008 Winners! Pianist Hong-En Chen and violinist Leah Latorraca took top honors in the competition held Wed night in Overture Hall. Each received a $1,000 scholarship. Violinist Chauntee Ross and pianist Naomi Latorraca were awarded Honorable Mentions and each received a $500 scholarship. All four finalists performed with John DeMain and the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert.

John DeMain’s Remarks at the 2008 Memorial / West Strings Festival

Madison Symphony Orchestra Conductor John DeMain made a few remarks at Saturday’s Memorial / West area Strings Festival. Watch the video. Much more about John DeMain.
Incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s remarks. Event photos and video.

Creativity Step by Step: A Conversation with Choreographer Twyla Tharp

Diane Coutu:

The notion that some people are simply born artistic – and that there is a profile that can help organizations identify them – is quite firmly entrenched. All the talk of genetic determination nowadays undoubtedly has a lot to do with that. But the idea that creativity is a predetermined personality trait probably appeals at a psychological level because it gives people an excuse for not innovating or initiating change themselves, reducing the problem of creativity to a recruitment challenge.
Significantly, the people least likely to buy into the idea that creativity is preordained are the creative geniuses themselves. Choreographer Twyla Tharp, for one, doesn’t subscribe to any notion of effortless artistry. As someone who has changed the face of dance, she’s certainly qualified to have an opinion. The winner of a MacArthur fellowship (popularly called “the genius grant”), two Emmy awards, and a Tony award, she has written and directed television programs, created Broadway productions, and choreographed dances for the movies Hair, Ragtime, and Amadeus. Tharp, now 66, did all this while creating more than 130 dances—many of which have become classics—for her own company, the Joffrey Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, London’s Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. The author of two books, she is now in the process of simultaneously developing new ballets for the Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
At her Manhattan home, Tharp met with HBR senior editor Diane Coutu to discuss what it takes to be a choreographer. In these pages, she shares what she has learned about fostering creativity, initiating change, and firing even top-notch performers when push comes to shove. In her suffer-no-fools way, she talks about her “monomaniacal absorption” with her work and the need to be tough, even ruthless, when that work is at stake. What follows is an edited version of their conversation.

Madison West High Drama Benefit

via a Cyndie Spencer email:

Once again, excuse the duplicates… this is another great cause for West High School. Denny and i are planning to attend….
Please join Friends of West High Drama Friday March 7, 2008 at 7 PM at the Madison Club for a fundraiser to upgrade the sound system in the West High Auditorium. (see attached invite). We’ve planned a fun, welcoming and relaxing evening to celebrate the amazing student talent at West. We very much hope you can attend!
Meet the cast of West’s spring musical “A Chorus Line”. Hear them sing selections from the show as well as entertain you with some of the best “Singing Valentines” from West’s celebration of Valentine’s Day.
Enjoy delicious appetizers/dessert & bid on a few select auction items (condo in Myrtle Beach; theater tickets & dinner). Cash bar available.
Tickets are $35/person ($25 tax deductible). While tickets will be available at the door, your advance purchase helps us enormously in our planning. If you cannot attend but would like to contribute, please send your contribution made out to FMPS-Friends of West High Drama to Kay Plantes, 3432 Sunset Dr, Madison WI 53705.
We thank you in advance for your support. Your attendance and/or contribution are very much needed to improve the quality of life at West H.S. for all students.
Questions or to unsubscribe from this email, please reply to the address above or call Ruth Saecker (608-233-6943).

The Knowledge Connection

ED Hirsch, Jr:

Consider the eighth-grade NAEP results from Massachusetts, which are a stunning exception to the nationwide pattern of stagnation and decline. Since 1998, the state has improved significantly in the number of eighth-graders reading at the “proficient” or “advanced” levels: Massachusetts now has the largest percentage of students reading at that higher level, and it is No. 1 in average scores for the eighth grade. That is because Massachusetts decided in 1997 that students (and teachers) should learn certain explicit, substantive things about history, science and literature, and that students should be tested on such knowledge.

E.D. Hirsch Jr. is an author, most recently of “The Knowledge Deficit,” and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

KIPP: McDonogh 15 School For the Creative Arts

Bob Lefsetz pays a visit (via email):

After breakfast at Mother’s, Marty, Felice and myself took a cab deep into the French Quarter to the McDonogh School, where the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was presenting the music program with a slew of instruments. That’s what the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation does, grant instruments to school music programs. It was started by Michael Kamen, who composed the music for the movie. He wanted students to have the same opportunity he had, to learn an instrument in school, to be fulfilled, to be enriched. Felice runs the Foundation.
I’d been hearing about all the great work the Foundation had been doing in New Orleans for two years. And on a site visit a couple of months back, Tricia had encountered Kelvin Harrison and his program. She believed they were worthy, they deserved the instruments. The program had started after Katrina with no instruments. Mr. Harrison had taught his students on recorders when the ordered instruments hadn’t arrived. But now he was up and running, he needed more. And that’s why we were there.
The environment in the building was completely different from my educational experience. Instead of sterility, I found vibrancy. Silhouettes graced the cafeteria, with explanations of each. One student said his creation was as big as the 24″ rims on his older brother’s car. That cracked me up. But I loved the banner on the far side of the room: “Climb the mountain to college.” There were aphorisms all over the place. Informing the students to pay attention now, to apply themselves now, to prepare, for otherwise, in the future, they’d be left out.
And after reading the display about Black History Month, learning exactly who Booker T. Washington was, we ascended the stairs to the third floor, where Mr. Harrison was warming up the band. Brass members were playing notes. I prepared myself. This was going to be awful. An endurance test. You know what it’s like being in the vicinity of someone learning an instrument. You want to support them, but the sound is grating, you can’t read, you can’t watch television, you just want the noise to stop.
After quieting everybody down, Mr. Harrison looked at the assembled multitude and said the band was going to play a couple of numbers. They were going to start with “Oye Como Va”.
Oh, I know it wasn’t a Santana original. But that’s where I heard it. Coming out of John “Muddy” Waters’ room in the dorm all of freshman year. I’ve come to love “Abraxas”. I bought it on vinyl. And have a gold CD. I’ve got all the MP3s. I love “Oye Como Va”. I was trepidatiously excited. Then the two players on keys rolled out the intro, the drummers started hitting the accents, the horn players lifted their instruments to their lips and the band started to swing!
I couldn’t believe it! Fifth graders? My high school’s band wasn’t this good. This was good enough for college! The flutes are wailing. I notice the drummer is a girl. And yes, that tiny figure behind the keyboard, she’s hitting every note. Trombone players got up and soloed. Tears started coming to my eyes. This was education! If I could play in a band like this, I’d want to come to school!
And when they finished, there was raucous applause. And then they lit into Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”. These little kids, they had soul!

Continue reading KIPP: McDonogh 15 School For the Creative Arts

Why Arts Education Matters

Stephanie Perrin:

or years, we have watched arts classes give way to the seemingly more “practical” courses that politicians and policymakers assume have a direct link to professional and economic success. But in an increasingly globalized economy, one in which an ability to innovate and to imagine new possibilities is critical to America’s ability to compete, we still train our young people very narrowly to work in an industrialized society.
As the country contemplates reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, political and policy leaders must recognize that an education in and through the arts, as a central part of a total school program, allows schools to better address these challenges than a curriculum that defines success as aptitude in literacy and math only.
A recent study from the Center on Education Policy [3.1MB PDF] indicates that the No Child Left Behind law, with its limited focus on standardized-test scores, has led, over the last six years, to a 16 percent decline in the time devoted to art and music instruction in public schools. Some may view this as unfortunate but necessary. But the loss of the arts, and all that is learned through participation in the arts, severely limits the kinds of skills and capacities children develop in school. In a word, students are learning less, and what they are learning is only part of what is needed to build a strong workforce and a vibrant citizenry.

Why Arts Education Matters

Stephanie Perrin:

For years, we have watched arts classes give way to the seemingly more “practical” courses that politicians and policymakers assume have a direct link to professional and economic success. But in an increasingly globalized economy, one in which an ability to innovate and to imagine new possibilities is critical to America’s ability to compete, we still train our young people very narrowly to work in an industrialized society.
As the country contemplates reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, political and policy leaders must recognize that an education in and through the arts, as a central part of a total school program, allows schools to better address these challenges than a curriculum that defines success as aptitude in literacy and math only.

2008 Wisconsin New Play Development Project

Wisconsin Wrights:

Wisconsin Wrights was created in fall 2006 through a partnership between the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies in Theatre, the UW-Madison University Theatre, and the Madison Repertory Theatre. Support for our inaugural year was also provided by Edenfred/Terry Family Foundation and the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund. Three finalists received a one week workshop and residency through Edenfred and University Theatre and received public readings in June 2007. The Madison Repertory Theatre selected one of the three works, “Recovering the Real Me” by Kurt McGinnis Brown, for further development through the 2007 Madison New Play Festival which will take place October 20-21 and October 27-28, 2007. For more details on the Madison New Play Festival click here. (Please note that the name of “Recovering the Real Me” has been changed to “Accent Adios.”) .
The deadline for submissions for Wisconsin Wrights 2008 has been extended to January 14, 2008 with the selection process taking place from January through early April 2008. Finalists will be announced in mid-April 2008 with finalists eligible for several play development opportunities. Three finalists will receive a one week workshop coordinated by University Theatre with a director, dramaturg and full cast and will be featured with public readings June 5, 6 & 7, 2008. These workshops provide an extraordinary opportunity for the expansion and exercise of the playwriting craft, exploration of characters, and constructive critique by caring, invested artists. One finalist will be selected by the Madison Repertory Theatre to take part in their Fall 2008 Madison New Play Festival and one finalist will be selected by the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre for a staged reading in March 2009.

Complete the Madison School District’s Fine Arts Survey

There’s still time to complete the MMSD Board of Education Community Fine Arts Task Force’s Arts Education Survey.
Access to the on-line surveys will remain open through December 31, 2007. Input from the community is very important and will help inform and strengthen the Task Force?s recommendations on arts education (dance, music, theater, visual arts). The results of this work will be compiled and presented to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education next spring and shared with the public. All individual answers will be kept confidential. In appreciation of your time in completing the on-line survey, your name, if provided at the end of the survey, will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a pair of complimentary tickets to a Madison performance or admission to local arts venues.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact task force members at
here are three distinct surveys. Please select the one on-line survey that best represents you. Click here for the survey, available in English, Spanish, and Hmong:

To Provide Quality Music Education Now, Schools Could Learn From the Past

Allan Kozinn:

School’s out for the holidays, and it’s probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. But in the marginalized world of music education, a good deal of serious thinking needs to be done. Now that Charles Dickens’s Christmas ghosts have made their rounds for the year, perhaps they might be enlisted to provide perspective and encourage some soul-searching.
The crisis of the moment has partly to do with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s announcement last summer that New York City schools would be required to teach the arts, and that principals would be rated annually on their success, much as they are in other subjects. In theory this could put some muscle behind the adventurous curriculum (or blueprint, as it is called) that the city’s Department of Education and a panel of arts consultants drew up in 2004: a kindergarten-through-12th-grade program that envisions choral and instrumental performance, the fostering of musical literacy and the consideration of the role music plays in communities and the world at large. The music proposed for this course was admirably boundary-free, cutting a swath from Beethoven and Puccini through folk songs, spirituals, jazz and pop.
The problem is that the 2004 blueprint is recommended rather than required. Given the paucity of music teachers in the system — there was one music teacher for every 1,200 students in 2006, Education Department officials have said — schools that could execute it in all its glory were few. Exactly how (and how quickly) that can change is unclear.

Barenboim’s Warning on Music Lessons

Ciar Byrne:

When Daniel Barenboim returns to the Royal Festival Hall in the new year, where he made his London debut at the age of 13, he is planning to launch an impassioned plea to educate young people about music.
It will be the first time in more than 40 years that Barenboim has performed all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in London; the last time he played them in their entirety was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967.
But as well as performing eight concerts, the legendary pianist and conductor is using his return to the Southbank next month to warn that in many countries, music has disappeared from the education curriculum, making it appear elitist and depriving people of a life-enriching experience.
Barenboim will deliver a series of lectures, as the first speaker in the Southbank Centre’s “Artist as Leader” programme, looking at the role of the artist in society.
He said: “Music has disappeared from the education curriculum and this has far-reaching consequences. It means there are billions of people who have no contact with music, and I believe their lives are all the poorer for that.”
In the Southbank Centre members’ magazine, he said: “The problem is that music now appears only to a small quantity of the population and therefore it is too expensive, which in turn makes music look elitist, which of course it isn’t.”

Even as Attention to ‘No Child’ Law Squeezes Class Time, Teachers in Manassas Champion the Value of Music

Valerie Strauss:

Seventh-grader Jessica Dodson walked into class and yanked Eric Clapton from the wall — the guitar, not the guitarist. Classmate Corey Cook already had Carlos Santana cradled in his lap, plucking out E-minor, C and G chords.
“On the C chord, I’m hearing some funky sounds,” teacher Darlene Dawson said after her 17 students at Metz Middle School in Manassas played “Eleanor Rigby” in unison. She played along with the students, having taken up the guitar just a few months ago.
This isn’t the kind of music class Dawson, a teacher for 25 years, is used to teaching. Or the kind students are accustomed to attending. Or what most students in U.S. schools are offered.
The elective class at Metz — with guitars named after guitarists — is being given as music education programs across the country are facing difficult times. Despite research showing that students who study music have better attendance, achievement and lifetime earnings, music classes are struggling to survive.

Kevin Carey has more.

Falling enrollment, higher poverty rates show up in suburban schools

Dani McClain:

The low test scores and high dropout rates typically associated with southeastern Wisconsin’s largest districts also plague some Milwaukee-area suburban schools and smaller urban districts in Waukesha and Walworth counties, the Public Policy Forum reports in its annual assessment of education in the seven-county area.
Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha continue to skew comparisons between the region and the rest of the state, but the report shows that the achievement gap is increasingly tied to changing student populations in places such as Cudahy, West Allis, Whitewater and Delavan.
“Some of these smaller districts are getting a critical mass of minority or low-income students, and they’re starting to feel some of the same stressors,” said Anneliese Dickman, research director at the Public Policy Forum, a nonpartisan think tank in Milwaukee.
Smaller cities and older suburbs have started seeing a set of trends that have long challenged Kenosha and Racine, the state’s third- and fourth-largest districts, and Milwaukee: declining enrollment, higher concentrations of poverty and less student engagement, according to the report, released this fall.

Comparing Sports, Arts is Dangerous Business

“I’m afraid the game is over. In our American academia, the arts must be satisfied with the leftovers.”
Frank Deford
Morning Edition, NPR
A few weeks ago, I offered up the thoughts of Gary Walters, the distinguished athletic director at Princeton, that sport should be held in the same high regard as art.
I thought it was a rather interesting and cogent opinion for someone to posit, but in the fabled words of the longtime football announcer, Keith Jackson: “Whoa, Nellie!” Never have I suffered such a battering. I think the nicest thing I was called in the responses that poured in, dripping with blood, was “apologist dingbat.”
But then, after I withdrew the slings and arrows from my person and assessed the reaction, I realized how almost all the responses didn’t really bother to address the question posed: Whether, in fact, sport might be an art. No, they were just mad, full of rage and fury. But it did serve to inform me all the more how much antipathy there does exist toward the American system of school sports.
Here are just a few of the more restrained comments:

Continue reading Comparing Sports, Arts is Dangerous Business

Van Zandt rolls out plan for rock in schools

Mary Beth Marklein:

WASHINGTON — Steven Van Zandt says rock ‘n’ roll saved his life. Now he wants to return the favor.
The E Street Band guitarist and Sopranos star began sowing the seeds five years ago with the launch of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, an internationally broadcast weekly radio show that celebrates his favorite genre — garage rock, a sound that evokes images of teens practicing in somebody’s parents’ suburban garage.
Last year, he created the non-profit Rock and Roll Forever Foundation as a vehicle to preserve the music that so shaped his life.
Monday, he will unveil the foundation’s first project: a middle- and high-school curriculum designed to introduce a new generation of teens to the music. He planned to make the announcement in the nation’s capital, where he is playing two concerts with Bruce Springsteen and the other E Streeters.
Anyone attending the sold-out Springsteen shows might question the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is endangered. And never mind that The Sopranos skillfully wove rock music into its story line, right down to the last moments of the final episode.

Dane County, WI AP High School Course Comparison

A quick summary of Dane County, WI High School 2007-2008 AP Course Offerings (source – AP Course Audit):

  • Abundant Life Christian School (3 Courses)
  • Cambridge (1)
  • DeForest (7)
  • Madison Country Day (International Baccalaureate – IB. However, Madison Country Day is not listed on the approved IB World website.)
  • Madison East (11)
  • Madison Edgewood (11)
  • Madison LaFollette (10)
  • Madison Memorial (17)
  • Madison West (5+1 2nd Year Calculus which “prepares students for the AP BC exam”)
  • Marshall (5)
  • McFarland (6)
  • Middleton – Cross Plains (7)
  • Monona Grove (7)
  • Mount Horeb (5)
  • Oregon (9)
  • Sauk Prairie (10)
  • Stoughton (6)
  • Sun Prairie (13)
  • Verona (10)
  • Waunakee (6)
  • Wisconsin Heights (6)

Links and course details are available here.
Related: Dual Enrollment, Small Learning Communities and Part and Full Time Wisconsin Open Enrollment.
Via a kind reader’s email.

Madison School Board Fine Arts Task Force Seeks Input From the Community

Dear Community Members,
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) values the arts as an integral component of a quality education for all students. Research has shown that involvement in the arts teaches children many important academic skills as well as enriches personal growth and development. Tight budgets, however, have increasingly affected the arts education we offer our children. Further, the District has monitored a downward trend in participation in arts offerings among low-income students and students of color for a number of years.
The Madison Board of Education formed the Community Fine Arts Task Force to gather information from the community and provide recommendations to the Board on MMSD’s arts education program. Specifically, the Board asked the Task Force to:

  1. Identify community goals for MMSD K-12 arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular;
  2. Recommend approaches for increasing participation in arts education for low-income students and
    students of color; and

  3. Recommend priorities for District funding of fine arts education.

October through December, the Task Force will be distributing surveys and conducting community conversations to gather information from the community on its goals for fine arts education. Your input is very important and will help inform and strengthen the Task Force’s work. The result of this work will be completed and presented to the School Board next spring.
We appreciate your participation in this important effort. To take the online survey and to learn more about the Community Fine Arts Task Force, go to .
Arlene M. Silveira, President

SilkRoad Project

Yo Yo Ma and Laura Freid:

The Silk Road Project is a not-for-profit arts, cultural and educational organization founded in 1998 by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who serves as its artistic director, and led by Laura Freid, executive director and CEO. The Project has a vision of connecting the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe. Inspired by the cultural traditions of the historic Silk Road, the Silk Road Project is a catalyst promoting innovation and learning through the arts.

Curriculum for teachers:

Road Project
Along the Silk Road explores the vast ancient network of cultural, economic, and technological exchange that connected East Asia to the Mediterranean. Students learn how goods, belief systems, art, music, and people traveled across such vast distances, resulting in interdependence among disparate cultures. Yo-Yo Ma has referred to the Silk Road as the “Internet of antiquity,” and by studying this network of trading routes, students not only learn about the historical interconnectedness of people and ideas throughout the world, but also gain a new perspective on contemporary issues of globalization.
Along the Silk Road is a multidisciplinary course of study including materials appropriate for social studies, geography, art and music classes.

2007 Design Achievement Awards

Adobe Education:

The Adobe® Design Achievement Awards celebrate student achievement that reflects the powerful convergence of technology and creative arts. Winners represent work by some of the most talented and promising student graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, digital filmmakers, and computer artists from the world’s top institutions of higher education.

The student finalists and winners were honored by Adobe and the community during an awards gala and gallery on August 2, 2007 in the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

Violin students traveling to Costa Rica

Jacob Stockinger:

Nineteen middle school and high school violin students from the Madison area will tour Costa Rica, where they will perform for a week, starting Monday.
The Sonora Strings, an advanced touring group of a private Suzuki string school in the city, will be led by Maria Rosa Germain, a classically trained violinist who earned a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Vartan Manoogian and Tyrone Greive, who is also the concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
The MSO is a major co-sponsor of the tour and, according to orchestra officials, will continue to collaborate with the National Orchestra in Costa Rica’s capital San Juan, perhaps with the goal of one day becoming a “sister” orchestra. Later this summer, MSO maestro John DeMain will conduct the National Orchestra in San Juan and will waive his fee to help the National Institute of Music.

Thomas back on his mission to bring music to kids

Zoe Mezin:

Elegantly ensconced in an elaborately embroidered armchair at the British ambassador’s residence, Michael Tilson Thomas reveals his recipe for drawing young people to classical music.
“Rosebud,” says the San Francisco Symphony music director, who was in Paris until Monday filming a future installment of the “Keeping Score” documentary series.
“When Charles Foster Kane dies (in the movie “Citizen Kane”), a paperweight falls and he says the word ‘Rosebud.’ ‘Keeping Score’ is like that. It tries to go behind the scenes, into the unconscious of the composers and their world. It builds up from small, seemingly inconsequential things to see what drives them.”
Storytelling is central to the “Keeping Score” series that aired on PBS to 3.5 million viewers in November 2006. In forthcoming episodes, Thomas follows the same formula.

Madison Students Participate in an International Origami Exhibit

Gayle Worland:

There are plenty of pages to turn in a library, though usually it’s between book covers. At the Pinney Branch Library, carefully arranged and locked behind glass, stand adventures in paper of a much different sort: “Origami By Children,” a traveling exhibit of tiny, ingeniously folded works selected in an international competition by the group OrigamiUSA.
Two Madison students have works in the exhibit, which was first assembled in 2005 but only now has arrived in Madison. Each creation is deceptively simple: many are made from a single sheet of paper, yet turned into a fanciful creature or sharp-edged geometric shape by the skilled, young hands of their creators.
“Origami is a very different art than arts that are based on expression, like painting,” says Natalya Thompson, a Madison West High School sophomore whose interlocking paper “Bow-Tie Motif,” made from 48 squares of three-inch-by-three-inch paper, is featured in the exhibit. Most pieces in the small show are based on designs created by published origami masters.

Origami USA website

Call for Study of Access to Arts Education

Dodd, Alexander Call for Study of Access to Arts Education
Introduce Resolution in Recognition of Music Education
May 8, 2007
Today Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sent a letter to David Walker, the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting that the GAO conduct a study on access to music and arts education in the American public school system since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. This week, Senators Dodd and Alexander also introduced a resolution recognizing the benefits and importance of school-based music education. Senators Dodd and Alexander are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and are Chairman and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Children and Families.
“No child should be deprived of the chance to explore his or her creativity in a nurturing educational environment,” said Dodd. “Picking up a musical instrument, a paint brush, or a script can allow a child to discover a hidden talent and can serve as a much-needed positive influence in the midst of the many difficult decisions that young people face today. I am hopeful that the GAO will act quickly to deliver findings about the current condition of arts education in American public schools so that we can seek to improve it during the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Added Alexander: “Music Education is important. I had some great teachers, but my piano teacher, Miss Lennis Tedford was the best. From age five until my high school senior recital, I spent thirty minutes with her each week. ‘Don’t play that monkey business,’ she would say, as she could always tell when I’d been playing too much Jerry Lee Lewis. From Miss Tedford I learned more than music. She taught me the discipline of Czerny and the metronome, the logic of Bach, the clean joy of Mozart. She encouraged me to let my emotions run with Chopin and Rachmaninoff. She made sure I was ready for the annual piano competition, and that I performed completely under control. I still thank her for the discipline and love of music she gave me each time I sit at the piano today.”
A companion resolution – introduced by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Jon Porter (R-NV) – passed the House of Representatives on April 26 by unanimous consent.
The full text of the letter is below:

Continue reading Call for Study of Access to Arts Education

Art Awards: Young artists can apply for grants up to $10,000

Tanya Schevitz:

The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts is accepting applicants for cash awards of up to $10,000 and an opportunity for arts enrichment programs.
The early deadline, which provides for a 30 percent discount on the $35 application fee, is June 1. The final deadline is Oct. 1. High school seniors or graduates who will be 17 or 18 years old on Dec. 1 can apply for the money.

Grade 5 Strings – How you can help

Grade 5 elementary string students need your help. There are ways you can support the hundreds of ten-year olds who are in Grade 5 strings and this year’s Grade 4 students who would like the chance to take the course next year:
A. Bring your child to play his/her instrument at Thursday’s Budget Hearing – April 19th at 6:00 p.m., Memorial High School Auditorium.
If your child would like to “play” in support of Grade 5 strings, there will be an opportunity to do this at Thursday’s budget hearing to be held in the auditorium at Memorial High School ( Students from grades 5-12 are welcome. There will be adults present to help coordinate the playing of a few songs from the strings festival. If you want to play, please come at 6 p.m., so we can organize the students.
B. Email the School Board – – let them know:
1. you support the program for all children,
2. what this course has meant to your child if your child is/has
taken elementary strings,
3. you would like the newly formed school board community task
force on fine arts to have a chance to do it’s work, which
a. identifying the community’s fine arts education values and
b. identifying ways to increase low-income/minority
participation in the arts (45% elementary string students
are minority, 35% are low income), and
c. identifying funding priorities for the School Board
C. Speak at the Budget Hearings – 6:30 p.m. – Tuesday, April 17th at La Follette High School Auditorium and Thursday, April 19th at Memorial High School Auditorium:
There are two public hearings next week on the budget – Tuesday, April 17th, 6:30 p.m. at La Follette High School and Thursday, April 19th, 6:30 p.m. at Memorial High School – both public hearings are in the school’s auditoriums. If you come, you need to sign if you want to speak. You can sign in and not speak but say you support the program. Each person who speaks is given 3 minutes.
For nearly 40 years, MMSD has had an elementary strings program. Two years ago, elementary string instruction was cut in half. Last year, Grade 4 strings was cut entirely. This year, Superintendent Rainwater is proposing to cut Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate all string instruction during the school day.
Thank you for your support of Grade 5 strings and a strong fine arts education for our children.

Grade 5 Strings – Letter to School Board

Please write the School Board about what is important to you and your state legislature about funding our public schools. Following is a copy of my letter to the school board on Grade 5 strings:
Dear School Board Members (,
I am happy to serve as a member of the newly created Fine Arts Task Force for the next year. The second charge to the committee is: ” Recommend up to five ways to increase minority student participation and participation of low income students in Fine Arts at elementary, middle and high school levels.”
I noticed in the Grade 5 strings report you received last week there was no information on low-income and minority student enrollment. Our task force received this specific demographic information at our March 26th meeting along with additional information, so I would like to share it with you, because I think it is important. As the program has been cut in the past two years, the low-income and minority student enrollment (numbers and percentage) has remained strong [but the cuts have affected hundreds of low-income students as the numbers show]. For this school year, 44% of the string students are minority students (47% of all Grade 5 students are minority students), and 35% of the string students are low income (44% of Grade 5 students are low income students). This information is captured in the attached Chart for the this year and the previous two years when the program was offered to students in Grades 4 and 5. I’ve also included information on special education student enrollment. I was not able to access ELL information for the previous years.

Decreasing academic opportunities to develop skills at a younger age is more likely to hurt participation at higher grades for low income and minority students who often lack support outside school to strengthen and reinforce what is learned in school either at home or through additional, private opportunities.
I hope you make the decision to give the Fine Arts Task Force an opportunity to complete its charge before making additional cuts to courses, because these cuts may prove to be more harmful to those students we want to reach than we realize. Also, if changes are made, I hope they are done equitably and with time for transitions. I’m asking this not only for arts education but also for other programs and activities Madison values in its public education. Eliminating elementary strings entirely would be the third year of major cuts in either funds or instruction time for students in this program. This seems to me to be overly harsh, especially when you consider that no extracurricular sports have been cut (nor would I support that).
Elementary strings is one arts course, but it has taught up to 2,000+ children in one year and is valued highly by parents and the community. I have 500+ signatures on a petition, which I will share with the board next week that says: “Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board: Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow Madison’s Elementary String Program. I have many emails with these signatures, and I’m planning to ask folks to write you about what this program means to them, so you hear their words and not only my words.
As I stated when I spoke before you earlier this year, there are those activities where a mix of public and private funding along with fees and grants might work for the arts and for extracurricular sports, for example. Please consider support of this and please consider helping with transitions toward different approaches.
Thank you for your hard work and support for public education.
Barbara Schrank
P.s. – note, I am speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the fine arts task force.
I would also like to add for SIS readers – I know due to the current financing scheme, the state is not funding public schools adequately nor fairly and is placing a huge burden on personal income and property taxes. I also know there have been cuts in previous years to the arts, increases in class sizes, fewer SAGE classes, etc. Just so you know, that is not the point of this letter. I see the need to work both locally and at the state. I also feel we need to be doing something more than referendums at the local level, and I don’t mean cut or referendum. I think in the areas of extracurricular sports, some of the arts, we may be able to put in place a financial package of public, private, fees, grants – but this takes time and planning and commitment by our school board following public discussions on the topic.
Not all minority children are low income, but by far, the majority of low income children are minority. By not working with the community on funding for this high demand, highly valued program, several hundred fewer low income students are receiving skill-based training on an instrument, which scientific research is showing more and more has a positive effect on other areas of academics.
No where else in this city do so many low-income children have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument and to do so as inexpensively per student. This is a program where “thinking outside the box” for the School Board could come in handy, so we can continue this academic program as part of the school day for so many children.

Maintain and Grow Madison’s Art Programs: Support Elementary Strings

Parents and Students distributed to attendees of the recent Spring 2007 Strings Festival the following information in a flier:
Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board:
Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow
Madison’s Elementary String Program

Superintendent Rainwater has proposed cutting Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate the nearly 40-year old elementary strings program. This does not have to happen and you can help:
1) Email the School Board (, letting the School Board know:
a. You support elementary strings and a vibrant, strong fine arts academic education for all Madison’s school children as important for and fundamental to a student’s personal and academic growth, and
b. You support and want the newly formed School Board Community Fine Arts Task Force to have a chance and time to explore ways to continue and to sustain elementary strings, and all arts education, in Madison’s schools, without further cuts to programs.

Milwaukee Public Schools / Milwaukee Symphony Arts Program

Alan Borsuk:

The Progressions program of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, which gives kids mostly from Milwaukee Public Schools a start on classical instruments, is one of many arts programs in the city that are benefiting from a new $1 million fund created by the Milwaukee School Board.
That amount is being matched by private donations or contributed services from each of the organizations receiving the MPS grants.
Many in the arts community are viewing the new support as a strong boost for efforts to give city kids some of the arts education that has been shrinking in recent years under budget pressures.

Music Lessons Affect Brain Development

As the district considers the total elimination of strings education in our elementary schools, a recently published study provides yet more evidence of the benefits of musical training.
Music Training ‘Tunes’ Human Auditory System
Science Daily — A newly published study by Northwestern University researchers suggests that Mom was right when she insisted that you continue music lessons — even after it was clear that a professional music career was not in your future.
The study, which will appear in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience, is the first to provide concrete evidence that playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds. This finding has broad implications because it applies to sound encoding skills involved not only in music but also in language.
The findings indicate that experience with music at a young age in effect can “fine-tune” the brain’s auditory system. “Increasing music experience appears to benefit all children — whether musically exceptional or not — in a wide range of learning activities,” says Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and senior author of the study.
“Our findings underscore the pervasive impact of musical training on neurological development. Yet music classes are often among the first to be cut when school budgets get tight. That’s a mistake,” says Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology and Physiology and professor of communication sciences and disorders.
For further information about how music instruction impacts intellectual development, readers are encouraged to explore the work of psychologist Glenn Schellenberg:
Schellenberg, E.G. (2005). Music and cognitive ability, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 322-325.
Schellenberg, E.G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological Science, 15, 511-514.

Statewide Study of Arts Education in California

An Unfinished Canvas, Arts Education in California: Taking Stock of Policies and Practices by Katrina Woodworth, Roneeta Guha, Alix Gallagher, Ashley Campbell, June Park, and Debbie Kim:

Policies recently enacted at both the state and federal levels demonstrate a commitment to arts education. In 2001, the California State Board of Education adopted content standards for the visual and performing arts. In 2002, the federal No Child Left Behind law, with provisions recognizing the arts as a core subject, was signed into law. Beginning in 2005-06, students seeking admission to the University of California and California State University systems are required to take one full year of arts education coursework during high school.
Despite expectations and enthusiasm for instruction in the arts, little information about California students’ access to and performance in the arts is available, and statewide information about the delivery of arts education is lacking. Several recent studies suggest that arts education is in jeopardy—and perhaps in decline—and that schools are struggling to incorporate arts in their curriculum. Recent studies also point to disparities in access by school demographic characteristics, as well as differences in offerings by discipline. None of these studies, however, systematically examine the status of arts education in all four arts disciplines across all of California’s schools.

Sharon Noguchi has more.

Once derided as non-essential fluff and an expensive luxury, the arts have languished in California schools for nearly three decades.
Now, a Menlo Park think tank has recommended that California students spend more time in school to learn music, drama, theater and visual arts.
In a statewide survey of 1,123 California schools, researchers at SRI International found that 89 percent of schools fail to meet state standards for arts education.
Nearly one-third of the schools surveyed offered no art courses that met the standards, and K-12 enrollment in music courses dropped by 37 percent over the five years ending last June.

Sports and Fine Arts – Planning for the Future

I pulled my blog from yesterday, because I think my main point got lost in too much unnecessary rhetoric. Basically, I would like to see the School Board support efforts to develop multi-year education funding plans for Fine Arts Education and extracurricular competitive sports. I would like to see the School Board be equitable in their cuts and help transition to a mix of public/private financing if that is needed in the future. I don’t see any reason to whack at or eliminate one program vs. another – it’s disruptive and unnecessary and plans cannot be made.

Elementary String Education for Nine and Ten Year Olds: Private Funding Required

According to a meeting I had with the Superintendent, he says MMSD will require $300,000 to fund elementary string instruction and that private funding and/or grants will be needed to continue Elementary String Education in the Madison public schools. Without this funding, he is likely to again propose cutting this Madison public school tradition of nearly 40 years.
I’m exploring setting up a specific fund for string education at either the Foundation for Madison Public Schools or the Madison Community Foundation, so tax deductible contributions can be made in support of the curriculum. Madisonians United for String Education for Students (MUSEs) is a working title for a group of parents who want to keep elementary string instruction in our public schools for our young children. We welcome your ideas on next steps. Personally, we feel if this is the route we have to take, an endowment fund will be needed to ensure the course continues into the future.
I met last week with the Superintendent who said he a) supports elementary string curriculum instruction during the school day, b) would accept proposals for privately funding elementary string education. I also said the support and/or leadership of the Fine Arts Coordinator was important to such an effort, and he agreed, saying the Fine Arts Coordinator would be supportive.
Public schools surrounding Madison have strong, growing elementary string courses, because the community values the course and this is the foundation course for more advanced instrumental training/experiences in middle and high school. Plus, elementary string courses make their school districts attractive to parents deciding where to live and to send their children to school. Many parents want their children to have the experience of learning to play an instrument and to make music with other students. Private lessons can cost $2,000 or more per year – few families can afford this, especially low income families. That’s what’s special about Madison’s elementary strings program. In Madison, in previous years, Grade 4 and 5 strings taught about 500+ low-income students annually.
String instrument instruction offers a number of benefits for children – they can be sized to a small child, they are “easy” to take home to practice, all types of cultural and popular music can be played on the string instruments, and these instruments lend themselves to ensemble playing. Furthermore, learning how to play an instrument prepares you for playing a string or band instrument in middle school or for chorus, because you learn how to read music. Through the one- to two-year elementary course, children experience the joy of making music and performing through discipline and practice. Also, by offering this course Madison’s public schools stand shoulder to shoulder with what the surrounding school districts value and offer their children.
Lastly, I’m also be looking at various financial information to develop some proposals for the School Board’s consideration. I welcome your support and ideas.

Elementary Strings: Update and Community Appeal

Action and Help Needed: I am beginning to work with some parents and others in the community to raise awareness and possibly financial support for all fine arts education. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to help, let me know ( or 231-3954). I will be posting on the blog more of what we are doing, including surveys and petitions of support.
Due to the proposed budget gap for next year and the Superintendent’s preliminary discussion idea to cut up to $300,000 from elementary strings, our focus will be on this course in the short-term. Elementary strings is only one piece of Fine Arts Education, but there is no other organization that teaches so many low income children how to play an instrument for about $200 per child vs. $2,000 per child in private instruction. We would like to resolve this issue this spring, working collaboratively with the administration and the school board.
The School Board would like proposals from the community re supporting elementary strings. I have begun working with parents and others on this topic, and I welcome ideas and support from readers of this blog. In addition to various proposals for School Board consideration, which I’m being encouraged to submit, we feel there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of a strong, vibrant standards-based, academic fine arts education. For an instrumental curriculum that meets national and state standards, course instruction begins in Grade 4 and classes are held at least twice weekly during the day.
The demand for elementary strings from parents and students has been and continues to be strong; but sadly, I feel the administration (not the School Board) has been a barrier to moving forward in partnership with the community, preferring each year to cut and to whittle away the course each year rather than gather the community together to bring ideas and solutions to the table. Last November, I asked District Administration for the following basic information: number of elementary string students, number of FTEs, number of middle and high school band and string students, number of FTEs, and revenue collected. I have not received this information, which I need to work on proposals, even though I have asked for the information repeatedly. The administration may have a lot on their plate, but I was only asking for basic information needed to develop some proposals for board consideration. I thought, perhaps the administration is working on their own proposals to continue this course, but that is not the case.
Up until a few years ago, there were nearly 2,000 4th and 5th grade students taking elementary strings, 30-40% of these children were low income (600+ children). During the 1990s, as the district’s low income population increased, enrollment in elementary strings doubled from about 1,000 students in 1991 to more than 1,900 in after the year 2000.
Elementary strings has been part of the Madison schools for more than 40 years. Growing school districts around Madison offer this course, and the enrollment is growing. Grandparents and parents who live in Madison took this course when they were in elementary school. The large string festival is one of other opportunities that make our elementary schools unique. If we want to keep parents sending their children to Madison, and to keep the needed diversity in our schools, I think this course is important and unique to Madison.
I hope some of you will join me in supporting a vibrant fine arts education for our children and working on proposals for elementary strings. Thank you for reading this blog item,

Continue reading Elementary Strings: Update and Community Appeal

Local Politics: Zig and Zag with the Madison Studio School

Steven Elbow’s Tuesday article in The Capital Times on the proposed Madison Studio School included a rather tantalizing opening quote from organizer Nancy Donahue:

When Nancy Donahue began her effort for a charter school in Madison, she had no idea she would be wading into a world of politics.
“It’s a campaign,” said Donahue, who hopes to have her arts- and technology-oriented Studio School up and running next fall. “And before this I was very apolitical. But I’ve learned if you believe in something you do what you have to do.”

A couple of close observers of Madison’s political tea leaves emailed some additional context:

Former teacher and Progressive Dane education task force member Kristin Forde is a member of the Madison Studio School’s “core planning group”. In the past, Forde has participated in School Board candidate interviews and a Progressive Dane (PD) candidate Forum.
Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. has been and is supported by PD along with recently elected (in one of the closest local elections in memory – by 70 votes) board member Arlene Silveira.
PD reportedly requires any candidate they endorse to back all of their future candidates and initiatives. [ed: Shades of “with us or against us“. Evidently both Russ Feingold and Barack Obama have not read the memo.]

I find PD’s positions interesting. They recently strongly supported the Linden Park edge school [map] (opposed by a few locals who dislike the sprawl implications, though it handily passed in November, with 69% voting in favor). I do think Madison is behind the innovation curve with respect to online learning and possibly charters. Appleton has 12 charter schools, including an online school.
Background documents:

The timing and politics are a challenge, given the recently disclosed 7 year Madison School District structural deficit which will require larger than normal reductions in the 2007 / 2008 budget increases.
I have very fond memories of Madison’s Preschool of the Arts.
It will be interesting to see if the Studio School supporters endorse PD’s spring, 2007 candidates, which include Johnny Winston, Jr who is standing for re-election.

New Project to Send Musicians Into Schools

Daniel Wakin:

Two pillars of the classical musical establishment, Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School, have joined forces to give birth to a music academy whose fellows will go forth and propagate musicianship in New York public schools.
The city’s Education Department is opening its arms to the new program, seeing an inexpensive but valuable source of teaching for a system deprived of comprehensive music training. And the leaders of Carnegie and Juilliard see an opportunity to promote their conviction that a musician in 21st-century America should be more than just a person who plays the notes.
Under the new program elite musicians will receive high-level musical training, performance opportunities at Carnegie Hall and guidance from city school teachers in how to teach music. The fellows will each be assigned to a different school and work there one and a half days a week. They will teach their instruments, or music in general, and give their own pointers to school music teachers.

New Program in Schools Takes Students From Playwriting to Performance

Campbell Robertson:

There have been programs promoting theater involvement in New York City schools for years, but Fidelity Investments, together with the Viertel/Frankel/Baruch/Routh Group, the Broadway producing team behind “Hairspray” and “Company,” and Leap, a 30-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to arts education, have announced one of the broadest programs yet.
Other organizations, like Theater Development Fund, have programs to involve students in Broadway theater, but this one, which started last month at 10 high schools and junior high schools in the city, aspires to be the most comprehensive. It is a seven-month course involving big-name theater professionals, trips to Broadway shows, playwriting and play producing classes and, for 10 students, a Broadway stage on which their plays will be performed.
“We have never done a program as comprehensive as this,” said Alice Krieger, the associate executive director of Leap.

World Famous Artist Collaborates with Cherokee Middle School Students


tudents at a Madison middle school collaborated with a world-famous contemporary painter to create a mural.
The artist known simply as Wyland — who is famous for panting building-sized marine murals in cities around the country — visited Cherokee Middle School on Tuesday where he worked with 40 students to paint a mural.

Much more on Wyland. Wyland’s Milwaukee County Courthouse Annex “Whale Commuters” was recently destroyed as part of a new freeway project.

Artists Working in Education

Molly Snyder Edler:

Artists Working in Education (AWE) presents “A Celebration of Children’s Art,” a collection of work created this summer by kids who participated in AWE’s Truck Studio Program.
“A Celebration of Children’s Art” hangs in the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda, Sept. 19 through Oct. 6. There is an opening reception on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.
The exhibit features paintings, collages, plaster casts and fiber arts pieces made by four to 14-year-olds who were instructed by professional artists, art teachers and college-level art students through the Truck Studio Program.
“All of the work is created by children in Milwaukee’s most challenged neighborhoods,” says Sally Salkowski Witte, AWE executive director. “To me, it’s entirely appropriate that their artwork is positioned, at least for a short time, where those who have a great deal of power to make a difference will pass by every day.”

Artists Working in Education website.

Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen’s “Brave New World”

Neal Gleason in a letter to the Isthmus Editor:

I have long admired Marc Eisen’s thoughtful prose. But his recent struggle to come to grips with a mutli-ethnic world vvers from xenophobia to hysteria (“Brave New World”, 6/23/06). His “unsettling” contact with “stylish” Chinese and “turbaned Sikhs” at a summer program for gifted children precipitated first worry (are my kids prepared to compete?), And then a villain (incompetent public schools).
Although he proclaims himself “a fan” of Madison public schools, he launches a fusillade of complaints: doubting that academic excellence is high on the list of school district pirorities and lamentin tis “dubious maht and reading pedagogy.” The accuracy of these concerns is hard to assess, because he offers no evidence.
His main target is heterogeneous (mixed-ability) classes. He speculates that Madison schools, having failed to improve the skills of black and Hispanic kids, are now jeopardizing the education of academically promising kids (read: his kids) for the sake of politically correct equality. The edict from school district headquarters: “Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks.” Whew, that is one serious rant for a fan of public schools.

Continue reading Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen’s “Brave New World”

Guggenheim Study Suggests Arts Education Benefits Literacy Skills

Randy Kennedy:

In an era of widespread cuts in public-school art programs, the question has become increasingly relevant: does learning about paintings and sculpture help children become better students in other areas?
A study to be released today by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum suggests that it does, citing improvements in a range of literacy skills among students who took part in a program in which the Guggenheim sends artists into schools. The study, now in its second year, interviewed hundreds of New York City third graders, some of whom had participated in the Guggenheim program, called Learning Through Art, and others who did not.

Renewed Push for the Arts in New York’s Schools

Robin Pogrebin:

Each of the 10 Regional Arts Supervisors oversees more than 100 schools, making it difficult to monitor each one closely. And with the recent establishment of about 300 “empowerment” schools that are largely independent of the Education Department, superintendents have been asked to cut their budgets in proportion to the number of schools leaving their jurisdiction. Regional arts supervisors could be a casualty.
Still, arts education advocates say the administration is moving in the right direction. They point to the beefed-up staff dedicated to arts education at the Education Department. In addition to Ms. Dunn there is now a full-time director in each of the four disciplines.
The very existence of qualified regional arts supervisors represents progress. In the past a district superintendent could appoint anybody for the position; now it requires supervisory certification and experience teaching the arts. Schools formerly could get away with spending their arts education money — known as Project Arts funds — on nonarts expenses, but now, for the first time, there is a budget code, which is being hailed as an accomplishment in and of itself. (Principals in the new empowerment schools will have greater budgetary autonomy, however, so the Education Department will not monitor their arts spending.)