Mark Slavkin

Mark Slavkin

A well-rounded education that includes the arts is essential to prepare California students for college and careers. A year of fine arts is required for admission to the CSU or UC campuses. Further, the skills students gain in the arts – imagination, creativity and innovation – are essential for success in the California economy, no matter the industry or sector.

While the California Education Code has long established the place of the arts in the required course of study, actual implementation in California classrooms varies widely. Recognizing these disparities and understanding the need for additional resources, the Legislature in 2006 established the Art and Music Block Grant, a $105 million line item in the California Department of Education budget that provides every school district an allocation based on their total enrollment.

Just as districts began to gain traction in expanding arts programs, the state economic crisis threatened all school funding. In light of state budget cuts, the Legislature granted districts special flexibility, allowing many categorical funding sources to be used to sustain basic operations.

As the state emerges from the economic crisis and school funding begins to improve, it is time to turn back to the question the Legislature addressed in 2006: How can we best ensure all California students have equitable access to quality arts education?

The governor’s proposed 2013-14 budget would eliminate almost all categorical programs in the name of local control and flexibility. We have strong concerns about whether all kids will have equitable access to the arts under this new funding model. Historically, students in high-performing schools in more affluent communities have had the greatest access to the arts. Sadly, those students in underserved communities who might benefit the most from a more engaging and well-rounded curriculum receive the least. We urge the Legislature to give careful thought to this issue and consider the options below to address it.

  1. Establish “innovation matching grants” to encourage districts to invest in the arts. Perhaps half of the existing Art and Music Block grant could be set aside for competitive matching grants for districts that increase student access.
  2.  Require districts to publish an annual “arts education report card” documenting the current status of arts education in their schools. This could empower parents and other concerned citizens to understand current gaps and advocate with their school board to make arts learning a greater priority.
  3. Require districts to include their plan for arts education in the overall “academic achievement plan” called for in the governor’s budget proposal.
  4. Require that student learning in the arts be included in the expanded Academic Performance Index now being developed by the State Board of Education.

We look forward to working with the governor and Legislature to ensure all students gain equitable access to arts education.

•••

Mark Slavkin chairs the board for the California Alliance for Arts Education, a statewide coalition working to strengthen arts education in K-12 schools. A former member of the Los Angeles City Board of Education, Slavkin directs education programs for The Music Center in Los Angeles.


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  1. Bonnie 3 years ago3 years ago

    Reply to State Senator Carol Liu, contact given at end of the bill, the download from this article:
    http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2755

    She wishes to establish District transparency that the same needs will be met, if the flexible spending is extended, as is intended from the Categoricals. Alas, in the suggestions and the bill, which is the download, she does not address how the arts will be documented for [targeted] students.

  2. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    I hope everyone involved in this discussion has read and remembered this article on arts, testing and teacher evaluation. It's apparently not a parody. The Test Generation American Prospect Dana Goldstein April 4, 2011 What happens in the classroom when a state begins to evaluate all teachers, at every grade level, based on how well they "grow" their students' test scores? Colorado is about to find out. On exam day in Sabina Trombetta's Colorado Springs first-grade art class, the 6-year-olds were … Read More

    I hope everyone involved in this discussion has read and remembered this article on arts, testing and teacher evaluation. It’s apparently not a parody.

    The Test Generation
    American Prospect
    Dana Goldstein
    April 4, 2011

    What happens in the classroom when a state begins to evaluate all teachers, at every grade level, based on how well they “grow” their students’ test scores? Colorado is about to find out.

    On exam day in Sabina Trombetta’s Colorado Springs first-grade art class, the 6-year-olds were shown a slide of Picasso’s “Weeping Woman,” a 1937 cubist portrait of the artist’s lover, Dora Maar, with tears streaming down her face. It is painted in vibrant — almost neon — greens, bluish purples, and yellows. Explaining the painting, Picasso once said, “Women are suffering machines.”

    The test asked the first-graders to look at “Weeping Woman” and “write three colors Picasso used to show feeling or emotion.” (Acceptable answers: blue, green, purple, and yellow.) Another question asked, “In each box below, draw three different shapes that Picasso used to show feeling or emotion.” (Acceptable drawings: triangles, ovals, and rectangles.) A separate section of the exam asked students to write a full paragraph about a Matisse painting.

    Trombetta, 38, a 10-year teaching veteran and winner of distinguished teaching awards from both her school district, Harrison District 2, and Pikes Peak County, would have rather been handing out glue sticks and finger paints. The kids would have preferred that, too. But the test wasn’t really about them. It was about their teacher.

    Trombetta and her students, 87 percent of whom come from poor families, are part of one of the most aggressive education-reform experiments in the country: a soon-to-be state-mandated attempt to evaluate all teachers — even those in art, music, and physical education — according to how much they “grow” student achievement.

    http://prospect.org/article/test-generation

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Yes: the stupid, it burns. Kindergarteners are being tested too - again because someone responded to the very reasonable and appropriate criticism of value-add scores as only applying to grades 3-6, and not to untested subjects like art and PE. The obvious answer to some people, apparently, is to create more tests. These tests do not benefit the students in any way. They don't even inform the teacher or the administration. It's all so that people who … Read More

      Yes: the stupid, it burns.

      Kindergarteners are being tested too – again because someone responded to the very reasonable and appropriate criticism of value-add scores as only applying to grades 3-6, and not to untested subjects like art and PE. The obvious answer to some people, apparently, is to create more tests.

      These tests do not benefit the students in any way. They don’t even inform the teacher or the administration. It’s all so that people who have never visited your school and never met your teachers can decide who lives and who dies (metaphorically) and feel righteous about it.

      About those first graders: what if they wrote black, or red, or orange? And surely someone has verified that none of the kids are color blind before this monstrous exam, right?

      Have the kids make pretty patterns on a scantron sheet, and then since it would be terrible to pay people to do it, have the computers evaluate them for artistic merit. (Be warned, it turns out AI computers like images of kittens.)

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Its probably one reason Obama's kids go to private school. Maybe we should convince Duncan to move to Colorado. I guess endless testing and teacher evaluations are really the only option when you are unwilling to hire administrators that are able or wiling to do their jobs. A while back I was talking to a teacher from a large urban district about tests and asked about the ongoing assessments they provide in her district (called quarterlies there … Read More

      Its probably one reason Obama’s kids go to private school. Maybe we should convince Duncan to move to Colorado.

      I guess endless testing and teacher evaluations are really the only option when you are unwilling to hire administrators that are able or wiling to do their jobs.

      A while back I was talking to a teacher from a large urban district about tests and asked about the ongoing assessments they provide in her district (called quarterlies there because there are usually 4 of them per year). She bristled when I asked and said she had tried to refuse to give them to her students. She even went to her union rep to find out whether she could do it.
      She’d be written up, was the response.
      ‘I don’t care’, was hers.
      ‘Your principal too.’
      At that point, things got more sticky, so she reluctantly went ahead.
      I’ll never forget the way she described how some of her kids looked at her as they went through the 13 pages of text to test reading comprehension: “Why are you doing this to me?”
      She’s a 2nd grade teacher… in an urban district…

  3. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Incidentally, an unnamed source told me that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is readying the test for teachers who want to obtain Art Learner Authorizations (ALAs). Patterned on the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, this new test will be called the California Art Competence Assessment. The draft test specification will be discussed at the April 1st meeting.

  4. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    R Stanley, it seems rather sinister to dismiss artists, teachers of art, and arts education advocates as just another "special interest group". Though you claim that your school district (perhaps an "excess revenue" district like Carmel?) has maintained its arts education programs, this is the exception, not the norm. I know of a case where art and music were pared back in spite of local parcel taxes enacted specifically for such purposes! Of all of the academic … Read More

    R Stanley, it seems rather sinister to dismiss artists, teachers of art, and arts education advocates as just another “special interest group”.

    Though you claim that your school district (perhaps an “excess revenue” district like Carmel?) has maintained its arts education programs, this is the exception, not the norm. I know of a case where art and music were pared back in spite of local parcel taxes enacted specifically for such purposes!

    Of all of the academic subjects required by the California Department of Education, visual and performing arts is one of the easiest for school districts to abandon. The capital equipment and the consumable materials are expensive; specialist teachers are needed for best results (even though rudimentary knowledge of art and music is required for a Multiple Subjects credential); and the subject is not tested (my earlier, tongue-in-cheek post notwithstanding).

    Even without full local funding control, districts have jettisoned arts education. Some mechanism, whether a renewed categorical funding program, a stronger legal mandate to teach the state standards (K-8 arts standards are published), or a different solution, is necessary IF we want universal arts education.

    Districts do what they think is best for their API scores — more math and English remediation, more direct (didactic) instruction, less spending on “non-essential” subjects, etc. — not necessarily what is best for the development of the whole child.

    CarolineSF, the answer to your dilemma lies in a heroic new program, TAFA or “Teach Art for America”. Pitting the paintbrush against the sword, the nation’s best young artists will be recruited to teach in decrepit, violent inner-city classrooms. They will obtain art supplies via DonorsChoose. The third year of the program will be dubbed paintbrush-to-principal, as the artists accede to administrative positions, primarily in arts-themed charter schools. Research will demonstrate that TAFA art teachers boost arts standardized test scores faster than non-TAFA novice art teachers.

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      To be fair to districts, the reason they're focused on that API score is to avoid Program Improvement and the further interventions that will certainly remove arts from the schools. I was reading this week about Mar Vista middle school in the San Diego area that used to have a highly regarded and award winning jazz program (defunded when the block grant was flexed) and scored 7 on the Similar Schools ranking, and yet it's … Read More

      To be fair to districts, the reason they’re focused on that API score is to avoid Program Improvement and the further interventions that will certainly remove arts from the schools. I was reading this week about Mar Vista middle school in the San Diego area that used to have a highly regarded and award winning jazz program (defunded when the block grant was flexed) and scored 7 on the Similar Schools ranking, and yet it’s being closed and reorganized as a charter school because it was in year 10 of Program Improvement due to subgroup failures.

      The arts really are important, even if we aren’t testing them, and we have to figure out how schools who are in trouble via NCLB can be given the tools and backbone to keep those programs against the tide of those who advocate for more data-driven test prep.

  5. Mark Slavkin 3 years ago3 years ago

    Thanks for the many great comments. Yes, the current categorical funds are a means, not the end. But if they go away, I want to be sure we have a framework in place that holds districts accountable and gives local advocates the good data they will need to identify needs and gaps in arts education.

  6. Jack 3 years ago3 years ago

    R. Stanley, if all districts were like your, maintaining rich arts education programs even in their poorest schools this conversation would not be necessary. But the sad truth is that many, if not most districts have flexed the Arts money Mr. Slavkin speaks of and are cutting access to arts education especially in so called "low performing schools" whose performance is only being measured by math and language arts bubble tests. If you consider the … Read More

    R. Stanley, if all districts were like your, maintaining rich arts education programs even in their poorest schools this conversation would not be necessary. But the sad truth is that many, if not most districts have flexed the Arts money Mr. Slavkin speaks of and are cutting access to arts education especially in so called “low performing schools” whose performance is only being measured by math and language arts bubble tests. If you consider the arts education, which is identified as “core content” in ESEA, a “special interest” maybe all content must be viewed as special interest. Otherwise lets hold locals leaders accountable for providing a full curriculum as called for in Ed Code.

  7. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    It’s funny, El, I was thinking the same thing! Would bubble sheet patterns qualify as an enhanced item type?

  8. R Stanley 3 years ago3 years ago

    The Governor's budget proposal for 13-14 is to simply education funding, give locals control of the education dollars and hold them accountable for results. This author and every other special interest group in order to preserve their prower and income urges the Legislature to re-establish the confusing myriad of categorical programs as they have done in the past (which according to the Governor created the complication in the first place), and remove the authority … Read More

    The Governor’s budget proposal for 13-14 is to simply education funding, give locals control of the education dollars and hold them accountable for results. This author and every other special interest group in order to preserve their prower and income urges the Legislature to re-establish the confusing myriad of categorical programs as they have done in the past (which according to the Governor created the complication in the first place), and remove the authority of local control. This presupposes that only the special interests now best and that the local control does not care about the UC A-G requirements or serving thier children. Control at the local level is best and there is sufficient controls inthe Governor’s Budget proposal to provide accountability. My District has not cut any of the arts programs inspite of the reduction in funding.

  9. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Hello, Navigio. I agree about funding arts education, and wonder how to achieve this in the new context of flexibility/local control. I would say that good Multiple Subjects teachers find ways to weave art into other parts of the curriculum, and that I wish more Single Subject people would acquire that sensibility. Art across the curriculum is of course only one piece of the puzzle. Visual art was such an important part of my own schooling, and … Read More

    Hello, Navigio.

    I agree about funding arts education, and wonder how to achieve this in the new context of flexibility/local control. I would say that good Multiple Subjects teachers find ways to weave art into other parts of the curriculum, and that I wish more Single Subject people would acquire that sensibility. Art across the curriculum is of course only one piece of the puzzle.

    Visual art was such an important part of my own schooling, and visual and performing arts are genuine sources of pleasure for me as an adult. To think that many current students miss out on these opportunities is sad.

    P.S.: Maybe a “degenerate art” exposition is in order!

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Scantron sheet sculpture for all! 🙂

      Scantron answer sheets, a few boxes of #2 pencils, some elmer’s glue and mod-podge, 3 hours, GO! 🙂

  10. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    The best solution would be to mandate standardized testing in the arts from kindergarten through Grade 12. These should be paper-and-pencil multiple-choice tests, like the CST. Art should be added to the High School Exit Exam, as well. Middle schools should receive an incentive if they require all students to take Grade 9 Art in Grade 8. Schools with low arts test scores should be reconstituted, or preferably, converted to arts-themed charters. Art materials are not necessary and … Read More

    The best solution would be to mandate standardized testing in the arts from kindergarten through Grade 12. These should be paper-and-pencil multiple-choice tests, like the CST. Art should be added to the High School Exit Exam, as well.

    Middle schools should receive an incentive if they require all students to take Grade 9 Art in Grade 8.

    Schools with low arts test scores should be reconstituted, or preferably, converted to arts-themed charters.

    Art materials are not necessary and should not be funded by the state, as students can master art from appropriate art textbooks and extensive written homework about art. As we have learned with math instruction, constructivism is an incorrect philosophy and students must be lectured on standard algorithms for making art. Programs in which students actually make art should not be adopted by the CDE.

    Students must learn to evaluate works of art as: advanced, proficient, basic, or far below basic, with the caveat that some works of art are “degenerate”. It is a best practice for school districts to create arts evaluation rubrics.

    Finally, persons not “highly qualified” in the arts should be removed from the classroom. This includes interns; professional artists who have not yet completed a 2-year teacher preparation program with the required course on the US Consitution; and teachers lacking an Art Learner Authorization (ALA) or a Professional Clear Bilingual, Cross-Cultural Authorization in Art (BCLAA).

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Either that, or provide enough funding such that districts didnt feel like they had to trade something else away in order to provide the arts. Your way sounds more likely..

      Degenerate art would be the ‘highest’ level, right?

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Finally, kids who complete standardized tests by making interesting patterns on the answer sheets with the bubbles have their day! 🙂

    • Richard Moore 3 years ago3 years ago

      Paul — you made my day! Thank you! (Just don’t let Arne see it…)

    • CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

      But shouldn’t you be talking about replacing the burned-out deadwood veteran working artists with bright-eyed new Ivy League grades who are corps members of Art Teachers for America, with a five-week crash course?

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        Any person who can face a classroom of 25 5 year olds who are armed with paints and glue has far more skill and fortitude than I. 🙂

  11. Fred Jones 3 years ago3 years ago

    One can substitute "art" with "Career Technical Education" and Mr. Slavkin's Op-Ed would directly apply ... except CTE is in even worse situation, given the lack of course mandate (it's an option that districts must affirmatively adopt) and non-college admissions conformity (for most CTE courses). While "streamlining" education finance and "local control" are great buzzwords, they don't take into consideration the backdrop of the REAL policy drivers of our K-12 system. Read More

    One can substitute “art” with “Career Technical Education” and Mr. Slavkin’s Op-Ed would directly apply … except CTE is in even worse situation, given the lack of course mandate (it’s an option that districts must affirmatively adopt) and non-college admissions conformity (for most CTE courses).

    While “streamlining” education finance and “local control” are great buzzwords, they don’t take into consideration the backdrop of the REAL policy drivers of our K-12 system.

  12. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    I think at the end of the day, I don't mind flexing this money, but we DO have to ensure that districts understand this is important and make arts an important part of the school experience at all grades - not just, oh, go buy yourself a couple of tubes of washable paint for each classroom. After all, we don't have a separate block grant for math instruction. So how do we create this clear directive … Read More

    I think at the end of the day, I don’t mind flexing this money, but we DO have to ensure that districts understand this is important and make arts an important part of the school experience at all grades – not just, oh, go buy yourself a couple of tubes of washable paint for each classroom. After all, we don’t have a separate block grant for math instruction.

    So how do we create this clear directive in a way it will be followed, so that everyone gets that all kids need access to a high quality arts curriculum and instructor – including kids who are behind in language arts and math instruction?

    Every time I hear about a kid being assigned to two periods of math because they’re not doing well (doubling down on a strategy that’s not working for that kid, typically), I wonder instead if it might not be better to assign that kid to two periods of art, serious art with serious problem solving. It’s not something that even occurs to us, and if it did, we’d be afraid to do it.

  13. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    A couple years ago, one of my children went on a field trip to a local contemporary art museum. One room was dedicated to a painter who not only displayed technical mastery and humbling subjects, but a tragic history. He was diagnosed with ALS and became so disabled that near the end of his life he was not even able to hold a brush. To 'make do', he taped the brush in his fingers, and … Read More

    A couple years ago, one of my children went on a field trip to a local contemporary art museum. One room was dedicated to a painter who not only displayed technical mastery and humbling subjects, but a tragic history. He was diagnosed with ALS and became so disabled that near the end of his life he was not even able to hold a brush. To ‘make do’, he taped the brush in his fingers, and because he could no longer hold up his right hand, he used his left to prop it up. This is how he painted near the end; even sometimes upside down because some of his pieces were so large and he could not move, he had them turned upside down so he could reach the tops. Two weeks before he finally succumbed, he finished his last painting, a portrait of a baseball glove for his 3 sons. The children tried copying one of his paintings using the technique he used near the end of his life. I wish I were a good enough writer to convey the significance of the experience those children had that day.

    Thank you PTA for funding the bus trip to the museum.

    No thank you California for flexing and minimizing art funding.

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      What an amazing experience, navigio. I too am a strong proponent not only of arts but field trips in general. Our kids do Living History at Fort Ross State Park in 4th grade and I don't think I can convey what an amazing experience that was, and what an impressive opportunity it presents for cross-disciplinary learning. It ain't on the bubble test, but it built a connection to people and places and history and practical technology … Read More

      What an amazing experience, navigio.

      I too am a strong proponent not only of arts but field trips in general. Our kids do Living History at Fort Ross State Park in 4th grade and I don’t think I can convey what an amazing experience that was, and what an impressive opportunity it presents for cross-disciplinary learning. It ain’t on the bubble test, but it built a connection to people and places and history and practical technology and a reason for learning that can be hard to build inside the same classroom day in day out.

      Our district is fortunate to have a really outstanding art teacher who really builds and creates art, a far cry above what I experienced, which was a teacher who had the key to the art supply cabinet. The kids learn real technique from an early age and get a glimpse into art as a vocation as well – the marketing, applying to juried shows, etc.

  14. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    The template and requirements for the Single Plan for Student Achievement documents is very focused on language arts and math test score results. It would be a relatively simple change, and I think very valuable, to include science, art, history, PE, etc as part of that document. Although I know a lot of people see the document as a waste of time, IME, everything in that document is read and discussed by at least a … Read More

    The template and requirements for the Single Plan for Student Achievement documents is very focused on language arts and math test score results. It would be a relatively simple change, and I think very valuable, to include science, art, history, PE, etc as part of that document. Although I know a lot of people see the document as a waste of time, IME, everything in that document is read and discussed by at least a handful of people each year. Adding all the topics we hope to cover would be valuable.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      That SPSA has the potential to be the most important piece of school accountability, but IMHO, the biggest problem with it is that many districts do not take it seriously, rather as a checkbox item required for restricted funding. This means they put little to no effort into it and instead leave all the work up to the half volunteer school site council. Doing a proper job with that document takes a non-trivial amount of … Read More

      That SPSA has the potential to be the most important piece of school accountability, but IMHO, the biggest problem with it is that many districts do not take it seriously, rather as a checkbox item required for restricted funding. This means they put little to no effort into it and instead leave all the work up to the half volunteer school site council. Doing a proper job with that document takes a non-trivial amount of effort on the part of parents, not the least of which involves trying to squeeze data out of school staff. Districts could do a much better job of supporting this process, but there is no ‘incentive’ for them to do so (though admittedly many are also not appropriately staffed for that) even though real restricted funding is supposedly dependent on it. While I agree this would be a good place to have the requirement included, without some meaningful change in what is required for that process (and the funds to support that), I wonder how meaningful such a change would be.

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        Well, it would beat being slapped on the hand for sliding it in in violation of the template rules. ;-) I agree that it is what the players make it to be. It *is* the job of parents to step up and make it their document. We can do more to tell parents this and to encourage them to take it. I was cowed the first year by a control freak principal but I'm still here … Read More

        Well, it would beat being slapped on the hand for sliding it in in violation of the template rules. 😉

        I agree that it is what the players make it to be. It *is* the job of parents to step up and make it their document. We can do more to tell parents this and to encourage them to take it. I was cowed the first year by a control freak principal but I’m still here and he’s long gone. 🙂 🙂

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