Testify for Arts Education – My Testimony

- Friday, March 11th, 2011

Testimony to the Carroll County, MD Board of Education

March 9, 2011

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this evening.

My name is Joan Weber. I am a product of Carroll County Schools. In fact, I served as the Student Representative to this Board during the 1981-82 school year, which is a shockingly long time ago. I came home to Carroll County recently after having lived in Baltimore City for more than 20 years.

I have made my living in the arts and arts education. Beginning with the Peabody Preparatory, as Education Director for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, as a teacher and teaching artist, and as Executive Director of Arts Every Day, one of 10 organizations funded nationally by the Ford Foundation as part of its Arts Education and School Reform Initiative. We worked with Baltimore City Schools CEO Andrés Alonso to increase the breadth and depth of arts education and arts experiences available to City Schools’ children.

March is Arts Education month. During these times of budget restrictions, we are finding that the arts are once again on the chopping block for local school system budgets. Carroll County can be very proud of its arts education record. It’s one of the reasons I returned to the County. I hope that the budget continues to reflect a strong support for arts education.

I am here tonight to ask you to consider an expanded definition of arts education. I don’t believe there is disagreement over the need for or benefits of arts education, but there is disagreement over what it looks like. The term “arts education” conjures up different ideas for different people. The model I’d like to present to you is one of comprehensive arts education.

I believe it contains four elements.

1.           Arts instruction in the classroom by highly-qualified arts specialists, and includes opportunities for student exhibits and performances;

2.           Arts integration in the non-arts classroom by well-trained non-arts teachers to engage students and deepen learning;

3.           Visiting artists in the school, the classroom, and after school so that students can spend time with professional artists; and

4.           Visits to arts and cultural institutions in the region so that students can development aesthetic judgment and learn what “good” art looks like in all artistic disciplines.

I ask that you consider this curricular model for Carroll County Public Schools and encourage (or require) schools to follow it. It requires a lot of professional development and the creation of new programs. While funding is tight, there are foundations and organizations that can help the County implement this model.

I am blessed to work in arts education. At Towson University, I train teachers in arts integration through the Arts Integration Institute and training teaching artists through the Theatre Department and I introducing at-risk students to theatre through University of Baltimore’s Truancy Court Program. The arts are one of the best ways to engage students in their learning, especially in elementary and middle schools. I hope that this Board will take a strong leadership role in creating a comprehensive arts education program right here. Thank you.

"I know very few theater artists who deeply grasp the potential of arts integration as a way to catalyze learning, transform classroom and workshop settings, and turn scho...

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