Last month I had the pleasure of attending Destination: Creative Schools – From Blueprint to Action, hosted by CREATE CA at the Oakland School for the Arts. CREATE [Core Reforms Engaging the Arts to Education] CA is led by five leadership organizations, including: The California Alliance for Arts Education, CCSESA, California Department of Education, the California Arts Council, and the California State PTA. Five appointed individuals from the field also work to further the CREATE CA agenda to create “an educational environment for all California students that features arts education as a central part of the solution to the crisis in our schools,” a goal we obviously share at P.S. ARTS.
This gathering celebrated the debut of the CREATE CA publication, “A Blueprint for Creative Schools: A Report to State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson” (2015). I was honored to contribute to this document alongside 100 other professionals in the field, and I have to say that it was pretty exciting to see two years of intense discussion and hard work finally in print. Even better, though, was the call to action made by CREATE CA’s five organizational leaders… From Blueprint to Action! Admittedly, patience is not a virtue most people associate with me, and so I was pleased and relieved when it became clear that this convening was not going to be yet another strategy conversation or “visioning” session (not knocking visioning at all, just making a point that, in arts education, visioning is sometimes as far as we get).
Since its founding by Arts Education activist and recipient of the Americans for the Arts 2014 Arts Education Award, Malissa Shriver, the CREATE CA coalition has been about action. Even the term “blueprint” versus the much more commonly heard in arts education “plan,” indicate that this work is about building a foundation and moving toward a destination. This convening of leaders in the field reflected a restless tone – people who are on the ground and seeing the state of some of California’s failing schools and who know that the arts are key to overall school improvement. It isn’t good enough to meet Federal benchmarks stipulating a level of proficiency students cannot fall below. We can do better.
The underlying value of the CREATE CA coalition is that California should “ensure each student reaches his or her full potential by broadening California’s educational vision, policy, and practices to promote innovation, economic development, and creativity.” Full potential! This is one of the core values and curriculum directives at P.S. ARTS. Every child – regardless of socioeconomic, language, cognitive-developmental, or any other barrier to learning – deserves a targeted education that supports his or her ability to succeed in school and beyond. I teach an entire course in the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture based on this specific standard for excellence in education. That is, the arts are a flexible and effective tool for differentiating teaching practice, measuring progress accurately, and engaging students in school so that every child’s needs are met, even in highly diverse, crowded classrooms. The Oakland convening featured workshops and conversations focused on achieving a public education system with the arts and creativity at the center. Inspirational and strategic coaching keynote speakers included Bryonn Bain (Lyrics from Lockdown), Randy Nelson (Apple University), Sarah Crowell (Destiny Arts), and Michelle Lee (Youth Speaks).
So, Bravo! CREATE CA. I am looking forward to the work ahead. To learn more about where we are going in the arts education field and how we plan to get there, check out “A Blueprint for Creative Schools” at http://blueprint.createca.net. To learn more about the CREATE CA coalition, visit http://createca.net.