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February 05, 2013 5 min read
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| NEWS | Curriculum Matters

What Is Artistic Literacy?

We talk a lot about literacy. The ability to read and write. Math literacy. Science literacy. But what does it mean to be artistically literate? A document issued last month by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards takes a stab at this question.

The coalition has drafted a framework for forthcoming arts education standards to guide K-12 instruction nationwide. One of the central issues it tackles is defining artistic literacy. At the heart of it is a belief in the need to “do” art, or to create it.

“Artistic literacy is the knowledge and understanding required to participate authentically in the arts,” the document says. “While individuals can learn about dance, media, music, theater, and visual arts through reading print texts, artistic literacy requires that they engage in artistic creation processes directly through the use of materials (such as charcoal or paint or clay, musical instruments or scores ...) and in specific spaces (concert halls, stages, dance rehearsal spaces, arts studios, and computer labs).”

The framework identifies four fundamental “creative practices” for the arts: imagination, investigation, construction, and reflection. And it makes the case that these activities come in handy not just in artistic enterprises, but in plenty of other realms, such as math and science.

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards is composed of nine arts and education organizations working to develop a “next generation of voluntary, research-based arts education standards” that build upon an earlier set created in 1994.

Unlike the earlier standards, the new ones are “designed to provide teachers and school leaders with concrete guidance on how to authentically assess arts learning,” said Scott Jones, a senior associate at the Arts Education Partnership, a member of the standards coalition.

Also, Jones emphasized that the standards are not being developed “in a vacuum.” Rather, NCCAS is working with the College Board and other partners to ensure the guidelines reflect work in other disciplines, especially related to the Common Core State Standards.

You can learn more about the arts-standards project here.

— Erik W. Robelen

| NEWS | Rural Education

Districts Share Services, Pool Resources

Seven mostly rural school districts in the same New York county have committed to working together to ease the pressure on their cash-strapped budgets.

The districts—Argyle, Cambridge, Fort Ann, Granville, Hartford, Hudson Falls, and Salem—all operate in Washington County, a roughly 837-square-mile area on the state’s eastern border that’s largely agricultural. It doesn’t have any cities within its borders.

The districts already had been informally sharing services and pooling resources, and they commissioned a study last year to focus on ways those efforts could be targeted, expanded, and refined.

That 62-page study was published late last year and completed by Capital Area School Development Association, the field arm of the University at Albany’s school of education.

The districts have made significant budget cuts during the past three years, which is true for many New York schools. A 2011 property-tax cap has reduced their ability to raise money, and rural areas also have declining enrollment and demographic changes, according to the study.

The report recommends creating a county collaborative to facilitate sharing and regional clusters to increase academic opportunities for students. The report suggests creating shared positions that would serve all districts or certain clusters, such as special education director, human resources director, registrar, and professional-development and curriculum directors.

The districts’ superintendents met recently to consider the recommendations, according to a recent article in the Glenn Falls Post-Star.

— Diette Courrégé Casey

| NEWS | Digital Education

Technology Insiders Tout Digital ‘Bill of Rights’

A group of academic scholars and assorted education technology researchers and insiders are touting a digital “Bill of Rights,” outlining what they see as the protections and privileges that should be afforded students in the online world.

The signatories of the document include some well-known names in education technology, including Sebastian Thrun, the chief executive officer of Udacity, who has a major role in the development of “massively open online courses,” or MOOCs.

“We believe that our culture is increasingly one in which learning, unlearning, and relearning are as fundamental to our survival and prosperity as breathing,” the document states. “To that end, we believe that all students have inalienable rights which transfer to new and emerging digital environments.”

One of the central principles identified by the authors is the right to access online learning in affordable and convenient ways, in a variety of formats. The document also identifies a right to privacy among those who participate in online systems, a major concern among parents and teachers. Students should have the right to know “how data collected about their participation in online systems will be used by the organization and made available to others,” the document says.

Another principle would seem to have intriguing implications for the world of K-12. Students have “the right to be teachers,” with the ability to shape learning, create and refine learning materials, and form virtual and real-world networks, the authors say.

Perhaps appropriately, given their message, the authors have posted a “hackable” document, so that suggestions from tech experts, teachers, and students can be incorporated, said Cathy N. Davidson, the co-director of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

“Our main goal was to begin a conversation that we were not hearing,” Davidson wrote in an email. “We are excited that many others are taking this up, some in violent disagreement, [with] some editing, some adding.”

— Sean Cavanagh

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2013 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week


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