California Arts Council

State of California

CREATE the STATE Convening a Successful Step in Increasing Arts Education in California
A summary of the gathering by Arts Council Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Published: 10-26-2011

On October 13 and 14, the CREATE the STATE gathering took place with approximately 130 attendees all focused on California's arts education -- its current condition, current environment for positive change, and what the next steps should be. A stellar lineup of speakers, breakout sessions and networking took place. From this convening - and the seminal Education Leaders Institute, spearheaded by the National Endowment for the Arts - come the new efforts for arts education that the California Arts Council is driving. Those efforts retain the name: CREATE the STATE. 

Here is Arts Council Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver's summary of the event:

Create the State, an inter-agency and broad-based coalition of partners statewide, is designing a larger education reform movement, which features arts education as part of the solution to the crisis in California schools.

It was inspired by the National Endowment for the Arts' Education Leaders Institute, which awarded California one of five grants nationwide in May 2011. The California Arts Council, State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, the Department of Education, California County Superintendents Education Services Association (CCSESA) and many other agencies, nonprofits, industry leaders, philanthropists, educators and scholars, along with the PTA and others, have committed to a "collective action" model to address issues of reform. Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell has said that "in 41 years of working in education, I have never seen an alignment like this."

The next two years are a key "political window" as the No Child Left Behind federal policy expires - and with it, the associated testing. The new Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balance test are coming. We have a politically supportive environment, from the Governor on down. We are proposing this initiative as part of the Governor's larger economic development plan, as a way to reduce the drop-out rate, increase graduation rates and educate kids for creative industry jobs for the 21st century. Dr. Yong Zhao, a leading expert on education issues, says we have been misguided as a nation, narrowing our curriculum and increasing standardized testing in an effort to score higher on international tests....tests that do not correlate to GDP, royalties, licensing fees, or patents.....all measures of creativity and innovation in which America has been the world leader. Ironically, China has put creativity on the national agenda, and is making efforts to reduce testing and school days and add in more arts education.

Here's what we hope to accomplish, some of which is already in process:

  • We will hire a planning firm to design the political strategy and implementation plan.
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson will appoint an inter-agency task force that will work on the new Blueprint for Arts Education, a policy document that will guide the initiative.
  • We will seek to restore the dance and theatre credentials for California, which numerous other states currently have.
  • We will support the organization of teaching artists statewide, to coordinate with credentialed arts teachers in providing quality curriculum, professional development and expertise in our schools.
  • We are discussing the consolidation of redundant tests, new distinctions for excellent schools providing quality arts education, assessing where the gaps are and celebrating successful models, both public and private, that can be built upon.
  • We will support the expansion of the Otis Report on the Creative Economy to go statewide, as a potent advocacy tool in discussing the economic impact of the creative industry.
  • We are looking at raising private equity funds to match the Arts and Music Block Grants, in an effort to leverage existing money currently not being spent on arts education in school districts.
  • To build on the statewide gathering to engage partners in October 2011 in Los Angeles, we will host another statewide conference in San Diego in March.
  • We are planning "listening tour events" all over the state, and we are presenting at related events similar to the Arts Education Partnership gathering in San Francisco in September.
  • We will work with higher education institutions to address pipeline issues, teacher credentials and K-12 curriculum.
  • We will build a statewide advocacy campaign, promoting the California Arts license Plate as an important means of raising funds for art in schools and communities, as well as promoting the critical need to restore arts education, to engage students, to foster creativity and to raise test scores in all subjects.
  • We are discussing what research needs to be done and funded to move our agenda forward, and also how equity and access will be considered in delivery of high quality education for every student in this state.

Every private school in California offers a rich curriculum inclusive of arts education, and those students are matriculating into college and successful careers. We must insist that what is good for those who can afford private education is all the more critical for children of lower socio-economic status. We want to be the voice for those children, so that they can succeed in school and in life. It is our sacred duty as Americans and as Californians.

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