Recently, I conducted a presentation to our county music teachers on how they can play a critical part in the implementation of the Common Core Standards in their schools. Common Core is here and in my humble opinion, contains a lot of promise. There are so many ways that the subject areas can link together and for grade levels to be more involved laterally, rather than just separate entities. What I appreciate the most, though, is that the Common Core Standards are based in processes, rather than products.
As arts teachers, we know all about processes. It is how we approach the arts themselves and the education of the arts. When a child first learns to play an instrument, the focus is all on the technique – embouchure, posture, breath control, fingerings. The same is true of visual art, dance or drama – you must first understand and perfect the technique while assessing the sound that is being produced as you progress in your skill level. Only after intense study of the process of the art itself does the product truly being to take shape. The education field is finally starting to take notice: rather than focusing all of this energy on the summative assessments of high stakes testing, the Common Core Standards truly focus on the process which will produce high-level achievement.
Let’s not forget about the creativity piece, either. While assessments are still a key component to this new system, there are a variety of assessments which can be put into place. One of these is the portfolio assessment, giving students an opportunity to show their growth and individual depth of learning. The arts use these portfolios of learning as a key component to aesthetic and critical judgments. With this assessment being added to the way our students’ academic achievements are being measured, we can now begin to let our students’ true creativity shine through in their work.
The arts are an essential component to the alignment of the Common Core Standards. We have been implementing these strategies for centuries, so we suddenly can be the critical resource that our schools need in implementing this program. Does the program have flaws? Absolutely – I have yet to run across a system that didn’t. It does dishearten me that the arts are left out of the standards themselves. But the exciting part is – the arts now have the opportunity to present ourselves as a focal point in the total education of our students. We have the key knowledge of how “teaching the process”, rather than “teaching to the product” works. My hope is that arts teachers across this country will seize this opportunity to be a part of the Common Core Conversations that are happening in school buildings nationwide and contribute their depth of knowledge. This is the best advocacy you’ll ever do and the best focus point we could hope to have for a systemic change in education.
To view the presentation of how the arts can connect to the Common Core Standards, click here to view the Prezi.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.