Arts On Line Education Update 12.16.2013

Ohio News

130th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House concluded business on December 11, 2013 and recessed for the holidays. The Senate recessed last week. Just one committee is meeting this week, the House Health and Aging Committee.

Before recessing the Ohio House approved HB181 (Brenner) The Student Data Accountability Act and HB111 (Duffey/Stinziano) Voting Power for Students on Boards.

HB181 prohibits the Ohio Department of Education from submitting personal identifiable student information to the federal government without direct authorization of the local school board. The bill was amended to also prohibit forwarding certain student data to any multi-state consortia without the written permission of the parents of students.

HB111 (Duffey-Stinziano) allows student members of boards of trustees of state universities and the Northeast Ohio Medical University to vote.

House Education Committee Reports Bills: The House Education Committee, Representative Stebelton chair, reported the following bills last week:

  • HB171 (McClain/Patmon) School Credit: To permit public school students to attend and receive credit for released time courses in religious instruction conducted off school property during regular school hours.
  • HB193 (Brenner) High School Diplomas: To revise current high school diploma requirements, including state-administered assessments.
  • HB178 (Phillips) School Safety: With respect to school safety drills.

SBE Member Bryan Williams Resigns: Bryan Williams resigned from the State Board of Education on December 9, 2013 citing possible violations of state ethics laws, because he is also a registered lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio. Information about a possible violation of ethics laws was made public in a series of articles about the State Board written by Doug Livingston at The Beacon Journal and students at the NewsOutlet at Youngstown State University and published in November 2013. Mr. Williams was elected as a representative of the 5th State Board District in 2012, but was first appointed to the board by Governor Kasich in 2011. Appointed members are not required to follow the same ethics laws as elected members. The nineteen member State Board includes 11 members elected from state board districts and eight members appointed by the governor. There are now three vacant seats on the State Board, but another elected position will become vacant when State Board member Jeff Mims of District 3, resigns to assume a newly elected position on the Dayton City Commission. Governor Kasich has the authority to fill vacant seats on the board, but has only filled one seat recently, when he appointed Ron Rudduck to fill the District 10 seat in September 2013, vacant since the death of Jeff Hardin in March 2013.

Many Third Graders Failing Reading: Catherine Candisky reported on December 11, 2013 in the Columbus Dispatch that “More than a third of Ohio third-graders failed the state reading test this fall, putting them at risk of being held back if they don’t improve their scores.” Starting this year, third grade students who fail to pass a state reading exam, which is administered three times a year, could be retained as a requirement in law known as the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. There are some exceptions from the law for students with special needs, students who are learning English, and students who pass an alternative exam. Students who fail the exam can also take fourth grade level work while taking additional reading instruction.

See “Many Fail Third-Grade Reading Test” by Catherine Candisky, Columbus Dispatch, December 11, 2013.

National News

House Approves a Federal Budget Agreement: The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Bipartisan Budget Act (H.R. 59) on December 12, 2013. The bill reduces some of the cuts in education programs imposed last March through sequestration, and reduces the sequestration cuts that would go into effect in January 2014. The compromise budget bill was negotiated by Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), and, if approved by the U.S. Senate this week, would fund the federal government through September 30, 2015.

The bill caps federal spending at $1.021 trillion for FY14 and $1.014 in FY15, and restores $22.5 billion of the $26 billion that was cut from non-defense domestic discretionary programs, which includes K-12 education programs. The bill also includes $23 billion in net deficit reduction, but doesn’t extend expanded unemployment benefits that expire at the end of December 2013, or address the need to increase the debt ceiling, which could cause another congressional crisis in March 2014.

See U.S. House Votes to Roll Back Sequestration by Alyson Klein, Education Week, December 12, 2013.

Taking a Stand Against Testing: Catherine Gewertz reports in Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog that the New York City Council approved Resolution 1394 on December 10, 2013 asking state officials in New York to replace high-stakes standardized tests with multiple measures to assess student achievement. The resolution states, “The Council of the City of New York calls upon the New York State Education Department, the New York State Legislature, and the Governor to reexamine public school accountability systems and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which do not require extensive standardized testing.”

The resolution was developed by Time Out From Testing and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which are supporting a national campaign to end high-stakes standardized testing and “….develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.”

The resolution has been endorsed by over 10,000 individuals and 570 organizations, including the National Education Association and many local boards of education.

See “New York City Council Takes Stand Against High-Stakes Testing” by Catherine Gewertz on December 11, 2013.

The full resolution is available.

National Day of Action Held: Rallies and public events marked the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education held on Monday, December 9, 2013 in several cities across the country, including Columbus and Cleveland. The National Day of Action was organized by a coalition of education organizations, led by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and labor organizations and civic and civil rights organizations, to support the commitment to “…give every child the opportunity to pursue a rich and productive life, both individually and as a member of society” through a system of “publicly funded, equitable and democratically controlled public schools”.

Participants in the National Day of Action agreed to the following The Principles That Unite Us:

  • Public schools are public institutions
  • Our voices matter
  • Strong public schools create strong communities
  • Assessments should be used to improve instruction
  • Quality teaching must be delivered by committed, respected, and supported educators
  • Schools must be welcoming and respectful places for all
  • Our schools must be fully funded for success and equity

See Principles that Unite Us.

According to a press release issued by AFT President Randi Weingarten, “On this Day of Action, we call upon our leaders to listen to those closest to the classroom about what’s best for our children. While we agree on the overall goal to prepare students for life, career and college, we also must be clear that the market-based approach has failed. We need a new path paved with early childhood education, project-based learning, wraparound services, teacher autonomy, professional development, parent and student voices, fair funding formulas and more. We must reclaim the promise of public education.”

See Press Release by AFT President Weingarten.

According to the Reclaim Public Education Now website, the goal of the Day of Action is to “reclaim the promise of public education as our nation’s gateway to democracy and racial and economic justice.” Participants oppose current education reform efforts such as closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with charter schools, and the excessive use of standardized testing.

Organizations participating in the Day of Action are listed on the Reclaim Public Education Now website.

Information about the Day of Action in Columbus is available.

Constitutional Amendments Proposed: The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC), co-chaired by Representatives William Batchelder and Vern Sykes, has been meeting since December 2011. The commission was created by HB188-129th General Assembly to take an in-depth look at the state’s constitution, and make recommendations to the Ohio General Assembly on or before July 1, 2021, to improve it. The commission is comprised of both lawmakers and public members including educators, business leaders, local government officials, and others.

On December 12, 2013 Nick Pittner from the law firm Bricker and Eckler LLP and Bill Phillis, Executive Director of the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, testified before the Ohio Constitution Modernization Commission, Education, Public Institutions & Miscellaneous, and Local Government Committee, chaired by Chad Readler. The testimony included a review of the history of public education; Relevant Methodologies for Determining the Cost of Public Education; a summary of the DeRolph school funding decisions; the impact of charter schools on school district funds and other charter school fiscal data; and the proposed amendments.

According to the testimony, the state has not fully met its constitutional responsibility to Ohio students to provide a thorough and efficient system of common schools in Ohio, and therefore, “…additional constitutional direction is warranted.”

The presenters recommend that Article VI, sections 2 and 3 not be changed, but offered the following three amendments to Article VI of the Ohio Constitution regarding preK-12 public education:

Amendment 1:

  • Definitions: The first proposed amendment (new Section 2a) includes the definitions of actual cost, educational components, high quality public education, local revenue contribution, public school pupil, and public school district. “Public school pupil”, for example, means “…any individual who is required by law to attend, or who does attend a public school operated by a Public School District as defined herein.” “Public School District” means “those public school districts that are taxing subdivisions as defined by Ohio law, but does not include joint vocational school districts.”
  • Fundamental Right (B): The proposed amendment also includes a provision (B) that states the following: “Each Public School Pupil has a fundamental right to the opportunity for a High Quality Public Education. Such right shall be guaranteed by the state, as provided in this amendment, for all Public School Pupils, regardless of school district property values, income levels or other demographic or geographic factors.”
  • Education Accountability Commission (C): The proposal establishes the Education Accountability Commission to monitor and annually report to the Governor, the General Assembly, the State Board of Education, and the public, regarding the extent to which the resources necessary to provide the components of a high quality education are being delivered.
  • Components of High Quality Public Education (D): The proposal requires an Education Advisory Commission to work with the State Board of Education to determine the educational components and costs of a thorough and efficient system of common schools. (D3)
  • State Funding of a High Quality Education (E): Part (E) of the proposal requires the General Assembly to deposit to the School Trust Fund sufficient funds to support a high quality education for all students, as determined by the State Board of Education. The amount deposited, together with School District Local Revenue Contribution, “….shall equal or exceed the statewide Actual Cost as certified by the State Board of Education.”
  • Local Revenue Contribution: The proposal sets the maximum local contribution at 20 mills and exempts property taxes below 20 mills for schools from the tax adjustment factor (known as HB920) authorized by Article XII, Section 2a of the Constitution.
  • Legislative Override: The proposal states that, “The General Assembly may, by three-fifths majority vote of each house, determine alternate costs from those identified by the State Board of Education, provided that any such alternative costs shall include and provide funds for essentially the same components, programs and services as determined by the State Board of Education under this section.”
  • Judicial Review and Enforcement: The proposal states that the provisions in this section can be enforced by a writ of mandamus in the Ohio Supreme Court in addition to other remedies available under the law.
  • Local Funding for Additional Opportunities: The proposal also states that the General Assembly shall provide by law additional voted tax levies to provide educational opportunities.

Amendment 2: Early Childhood Education

  • The proposal states that, “Provision shall be made by law for early childhood education programs and services available to all children beginning at three years of age. Standards for such programs and services shall be promulgated by the State Board of Education and school district boards of education shall be responsible for implementing the programs and services with full funding provided by the State.”

Amendment 3: State Board of Education

  • The proposal also includes a provision (Article VI, section 4a) for the election of all members of the State Board of Education: one member from each congressional district.

The testimony is available.

State Board of Education: The State Board of Education, Debe Terhar president, met on December 9 & 10, 2013 at the Ohio Department of Education, 25 S. Front Street, Columbus, OH. State Board President Debe Terhar announced the resignation of Bryan Williams (District 5), and thanked Jeff Mims (District 3) for his service to the children of Ohio. Mr. Mims was recently elected to the Dayton City Commission, and will resign from the board at the end of December 2013. President Terhar also announced the appointment of Kathleen McGervey as chair of the Legislative Committee, replacing Bryan Williams.

Representative John Adams and Senator Larry Obhof presented to the State Board some information regarding the implementation of 129-SB165, the Founding American Documents Law, which was approved by the General Assembly on December 13, 2011. The law requires that the study of America’s historical documents be included in the state curricula for history and social studies, and requires students to be tested on the founding documents in the American history and government exams. The documents that are included in the Founding American Documents are The Declaration of Independence, The Northwest Ordinance, The Constitution of the United States with emphasis on the Bill of Rights, The Ohio Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. Schools are required to implement the law by July 1, 2014.

Committee Reports:

The Achievement Committee, chaired by C. Todd Jones, discussed the English Language Proficiency Assessment Standards for English Language Learners, discussed proposed amendments for Rule 3301-51-01 to 11 and 3301-51-21, Operating Standards for Children with Disabilities, and discussed competencies for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

The Capacity Committee, chaired by Tom Gunlock, received an update on SB337, which passed in 2012, and allows individuals who were formerly in prison to teach in an adult correctional facility, after qualifying for a certificate through a prescribed process. The committee also discussed Rule 3301-69-03, Medicaid Cost Reimbursement.

The Urban and Rural Renewal Committee, chaired by Dr. Mark Smith, received an update from Dr. John Richard about the 966 schools that qualify for intervention as persistently low performing schools. The committee is going to identify best practices that are working in high performing schools to improve student achievement, and share that information with these schools. The committee will also meet with the Urban 8 and Coalition for Rural and Appalachian Schools in the future.

The Legislative and Budget Committee, chaired by C. Todd Jones, met on December 10, 2013 and discussed the status of legislation before the 130th Ohio General Assembly. Kelly Weir, ODE Executive Director of Legislative Services and Budgetary Planning, introduced Averel Meden as the new ODE legislative liaison to work with Jennifer Hogue. Kelly Weir and Jennifer Hogue explained to the board that the ODE has been communicating with the House and Senate Education committees about several bills, including HB342 (Brenner) Straight A Program, HB193 (Brenner) High School Diplomas, HB113 (Antonio/Henne) Physical Education, HB181 (Brenner) Student Data Accountability Act; HB215 (Devitis) School Safety, and SB239 (Gardner) Teacher Evaluations.

The Accountability Committee, chaired by Tom Gunlock, approved the state report card grading recommendations for Career Technical Education. The committee also approved the criteria for industrial credentials and the tiers for the credentials. The committee also discussed the dropout recovery report card and approved the timeline for the development of the report card.

Operating Standards Committee: The Operating Standards Committee, chaired by Ron Rudduck, met on December 9, 2013. The ODE staff includes Kevin Duff, Sandra Hay, and Sharon Jennings. The committee invited several individuals to participate on a panel to discuss the purpose and framework of operating standards. The panel included Jerry Klenke, Buckeye Association of School Administrators; Theresa Bowser, Ohio Catholic Conference; Dan Dodd, Ohio Association of Independent Schools; Cindy Hartman, Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools; Deb Tully, Ohio Federation of Teachers; Scott DiMauro, Vice President, Ohio Education Association; Mike McCarty, Clinton-Massey board of education, and Rob Delane, Ohio School Boards Association.

ODE staff presented to the committee two options for formatting the operating standards online in the future. In one option, the standards would become a clearing house for rules and laws. If this option is selected, the standards would need to be updated every two years, to make sure that they are aligned with current law.

The second option would limit operating standards to rules developed by the State Board, and exclude laws. This is the option that the ODE staff prefers, because the standards would not need to be revised every year.

Chairman Rudduck explained that as a former principal and superintendent he found the current operating standards to be confusing. He suggested that some of the provisions in the current standards should not be included in the rules, such as the requirement for school districts to engage in strategic planning. He said that schools know how to do strategic planning, and don’t need to be told to do so in operating standards.

In response to the question about the purpose of operating standards Jerry Klenke said that school administrators need to understand the law, decisions by the courts, and agency rules. He also said that he concurred with the statement by Mr. Rudduck, that school districts know how to do a strategic plan, but he also said that school districts do need some recommendations about how to operate based on what makes good sense and best practices. Ease of use must be a priority, but the standards must also be flexible so that they can be changed quickly.

Scott DiMauro from the OEA cautioned the committee about making flexibility a priority, and, as a result, water-down the expectations for quality. He said that we have a constitutional obligation at the state level to ensure that every child in Ohio has access to a thorough and efficient school system.

Deb Tully from the OFT said that she uses operating standards as a resource, because there is often disagreement in schools about the best teaching and learning conditions. Operating standards provide support for best practices and serve as a standard for quality. She prefers to have laws, court decisions, and rules all in one place. She also disagrees that there should be an emphasis on outputs, rather than inputs, in operating standards. Inputs are needed to ensure a level of quality education programs, because school districts leaders often make decisions based on cost, rather than what is best for the child.

Dan Dodd and Theresa Bowser, representing private schools, both agreed that there is a tendency in operating standards to paint all schools with the same brush and not recognize the different needs of schools. Theresa Bowser also suggested that some standards for student safety should be added to operating standards.

Chairman Rudduck then offered to select framework option #2, which would exclude references to laws in the revised code.

Stephanie Dodd asked if selecting option 2 would reverse what the committee agreed to last month, which was including the graduation requirements that are in law in operating standards. Mr. Rudduck agreed that some exceptions would be necessary.

Mary Rose Oakar suggested that the law and rule should be published together. She added that isolating the rules from the law that they clarify doesn’t make any sense. Standards that the board itself makes could be stand-alone, if they are not related to the law.

The committee also received a presentation from Sharon Jennings about a draft rule for blended learning, which will be included in operating standards. According to law (SB316), blended learning is defined as the delivery of instruction to students in a supervised environment away from home that also includes the delivery of instruction online.

Chairman Rudduck ended the meeting by saying that the conversation about the structure of operating standards would continue.

Report of the Superintendent: Dr. Richard Ross, Superintendent of Public Instruction, reviewed with the board information about the number of districts that have not identified gifted students and recent reports about reading achievement.

Superintendent Ross corrected an earlier report that found 50 school districts had not identified any gifted students last year. After further review, the ODE found only two districts, Kelly’s Island and College Corner, that had not identified gifted students.

The superintendent also discussed the fall results of the Third Grade Reading Exam with the board. Two-thirds of third graders passed the fall exam for reading, but the scores are lower than last year. He said that Ohio’s results confirm results obtained on international assessments such as PISA and NAEP. These results show that the reading scores for U.S. students are not improving on either international assessment. The U.S. is ranked 24th on PISA, which is just average for developed nations. Ohio is ranked 19th in reading on NAEP, and has made no measurable growth since 2007. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee in Ohio requires that school districts provide additional instruction to help students who have not passed the reading exam improve. Students have three opportunities to pass the test, in the fall, spring, and summer. If students don’t pass the test, they could be retained.

Sasheen Phillips, Senior Executive Director, Center for Curriculum and Assessment, provided the board with an update about the readiness of schools and districts to administer new online assessments aligned to the new state standards. All school districts will be part of field tests of the new social studies and science exams this spring, and about 10 percent of school districts will be involved in field tests of the new English language arts and mathematics tests in the spring. She explained that schools and districts have been urged to complete a survey to assess their capacity to deliver the new assessments online and use technology to inform instruction. Currently over 836 of 1063 education entities, including schools, districts, career centers, joint vocational centers, community schools, have used the survey. Of those that have completed the survey, which is about fifty percent, 64 percent can deliver online assessments in grades 3-11, and all entities can deliver some of the assessments online.

Several board members raised questions about the cost of implementing the new assessments; the cost of preparing students to successfully take online assessments; and what the ODE was doing to assist schools, especially some rural schools. Several members expressed their support for the state to assume more of the cost of administering the online assessments, including the cost of connectivity. The biennial budget did include $10 million in funds to support connectivity, but Superintendent Ross also said that schools must take the survey to assess their current capacity to deliver the assessments online, so that the ODE knows the capacity of the districts. The ODE will provide the board with more information about the status of schools, relative to the technology, after additional data is collected after December 13, 2013.

The board also received an update about the Straight A Fund. Dr. Ross told the board that the Straight A Fund Governing Board selected 24 projects to receive funding last week. The projects will receive a total of $88 million and will affect 162,000 students statewide.

State Board Business Meeting: The State Board convened its business meeting on December 10, 2013. There was no public participation on agenda or non-agenda items. Resolution #4, to amend the rules for identifying and serving gifted students, was removed from the agenda, and will be brought back to the full board in January 2014. Board President Terhar said that the board will have the opportunity receive impartial additional information about the rule at the next board meeting. She urged members to send her their questions about the gifted standards prior to the next meeting, so that she could forward the questions on to the presenter. Mr. Collins noted that there was a possible conflict of interest among some members of the board regarding rules that include dual enrollment programs. Apparently media is reporting that some members of the board have connections with post secondary institutions that support dual enrollment programs. These institutions could benefit financially from policies that support dual enrollment programs approved by the State Board.

Under new business Tess Elshoff reported that she will present to the board a resolution that states that the State Board of Education supports instruction in cursive hand writing in Ohio schools.

State Board of Education attorney, P.R. Casey, also reported that the Berkshire and Newbury school districts in Geauga County will be requesting that the State Board engage in a process with them to consolidate their districts. The school districts plan to attend the January 2014 board meeting to start the consolidation process.

The board took action on the following resolutions:

#4 Removed: This rule will be on the January 2014 agenda. A resolution of intent to amend Rule 3301-51-15 of the Ohio Administrative Code entitled Operating Standards for Identifying and Serving Gifted Students.

#5 Approved a resolution of intent to amend Rule 3301-69-03 of the Ohio Administrative Code entitled Medicaid School Component Administrative Costs. (Volume 2, page 35)

#13 Approved a resolution to adopt Rule 3301-28-07 of the Administrative Code regarding Kindergarten through Third Grade Literacy Improvement and to amend Rule 3301-26-06 of the Administrative Code Regarding the Value-Added Progress Dimension. (Volume 3, page 165)

#14 Approved a resolution to appoint Stephen Osborne, Treasurer, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, to the Educator Standards Board.

Next Generation of Assessments: Barbara Michelman has written a policy brief for ASCD describing the “next-generation of assessments”, which will be implemented beginning in school year 14-15 to assess student content mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

According to the brief, “In three short years, the 45 states and the District of Columbia that joined the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative have not only implemented new college-and career-readiness standards for public school students, but also required teachers to make dramatic instructional shifts as they align their curriculum to these more rigorous standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2012). Now the third wave of CCSS implementation—a move to computer-based summative and formative assessments that measure students’ college and career readiness in grades 3–8 and 11—is kicking into high gear.”

The new assessments, being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), will include summative and optional midyear and diagnostic tests, and will be administered online. The assessments are being designed to measure higher order skills, and for the first time, the results will be comparable across states, and provide information about student achievement for low typical, middle, and high performing students.

The brief notes, however, the challenges schools are facing implementing the new assessments, which might take between 7-8.5 hours to complete, and require technology that some schools just don’t have. There is also a push back about using the student results as part of the evaluation of teachers and principals, which is required by the federal Race to the Top grant. Some states are considering holding schools harmless for the first few years to give students time to receive instruction based on the standards, and time to adjust to the new assessments.

The cost to administer the new assessments is also a challenge. Some states are estimating the cost of assessments to double from $10 per student to as high as $30 per student, and states must also factor the added costs for implementing the necessary technology to administer the exams, including computers, bandwidth, and infrastructure.

Schools must also teach students the necessary computer skills to prepare them to take the new assessments, which will also cost schools additional time and money.

Facing these challenges, the author notes that some state leaders are reconsidering their commitment to the testing consortia, and might develop their own assessments, or contract with a more established assessment provider, such as the College Board or ACT, which has developed a new assessment called Aspire to assess college/career readiness.

See The Promise and Realities of Next-Generation Assessments by Barbara Michelman, ASCD Policy Priorities, Volume 19, Number 3.

FYI ARTS

New KC President Announced: David M. Rubenstein, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, announced last week the selection of Deborah F. Rutter as the next Kennedy Center president. Ms. Rutter is currently the president of the Chicago Symphony, but has also worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She will replace Michael M. Kaiser, who will step down as KC president on August 31, 2014. Ms. Rutter will become president on September 1, 2014.

The press release from the Kennedy Center is available.

No Room for Music? Christine Holajter writes as a guest blogger for Education Week’s Public Engagement and Ed Reform blog that she doesn’t understand why schools are cutting music when music “reinforces and supports the Common Core while fully implementing 21st Century Skills”, and covers all subject areas in the curriculum. She writes, “At any given time I may be teaching social studies by studying other cultures, such as Native American by learning some of their language, playing their instruments and discussing how they would hunt and use materials from their environment. We may be learning science while discussing how vibrations make sound, doing experiments and utilizing the scientific method. We practice our reading fluency by reading words in rhythm with inflection and counting syllables. We work with fractions and numbers while writing measures of music.”

Music and the arts also promote critical thinking, innovation, and problem solving skills that employers and colleges value. Opportunities in the arts also allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do in multiple ways rather than through a standardized test.

Christine Holajter is a Hope Street Group Kentucky Teacher Fellow and K-2 General Music Teacher at Straub Elementary in the Mason County School District, Kentucky, where she has taught for the past seven years.

See “No Room for the Extras – Cut Music?” by Christine Holajter, Education Week’s Public Engagement and Ed Reform blog, December 9, 2013.

Magnet School Opens for the Arts: An article in The Durham News by Jonathan Alexander describes the School for Creative Studies, an arts and design magnet school program in Durham, North Carolina. The year-round school opened in July 2013 and serves students in grades 6-9 with the intent to eventually expand to 12th grade. The mission of the school is to promote “creativity, communication, and collaboration”. Students are required to take math, science, social studies, and language arts, and the arts are infused throughout the curriculum.

See “School for Creative Studies Breaks the Box” by Jonathan M. Alexander, The Durham News (N.C.), December 11, 2013.

New Study Complicates Results for Music Education: Researchers at Harvard report in a research paper published in the journal PLoS ONE that their research provides “…no consistent evidence for cognitive transfer from music training: preschool music classes did not cause detectable skill increases in the cognitive domains of spatial, linguistic, or numerical reasoning.”

The researchers conducted two Random Control Trials (RCTs) with preschool children to investigate the cognitive effects of a brief series of music classes. The cognitive effects of the preschoolers were compared to the cognitive effects of preschoolers in two control groups: in one control group preschool students received training in visual arts, and in the other control group students received no music instruction. After six weeks of classes, the cognitive skills of the children were assessed in four areas: spatial-navigational reasoning, visual form analysis, numerical discrimination, and receptive vocabulary. The results showed that the children who received the music training performed no better than those with the visual arts training or those with no classes.

The researchers explain that their results complicate an “already unclear pattern of results” regarding assessing the cognitive effects of music training via Randomized Control Trials, because there are studies that have found associations between music training and cognitive development in children.

They write, “When taken together with existing literature, the current experiments are the sixth and seventh attempt to study the cognitive effects of music training via RCTs. We add a negative finding to the small body of randomized trials on the subject, complicating an already unclear pattern of results, but helping to resolve a potential publication bias in this literature [14]–[15]. Further RCTs are necessary to determine the existence and extent of extrinsic cognitive benefits of music education in childhood, as well as the musical benefits of musical experiences. Regardless of any potential transfer effects, we echo the view of Winner and Hetland [48] that the primary benefit of music education for parents and children is self-evident: to improve the musical skills and repertoire of parents and children along with their appreciation and enjoyment of musical activities. Whether or not future studies uncover reliable relations between music education and extra-musical aspects of cognitive development, instruction in the arts likely will thrive for its intrinsic value.”

According to the researchers, the cognitive benefits for preschool children could increase if the duration of instruction was longer, especially if the relationship between music training and a positive cognitive effect is based on a minimum amount of training needed. They also note that the cognitive benefits could have been more evident if the music curriculum included more intense music instruction, or the choice of tests to assess cognitive abilities was a general IQ measure.

See “Two Randomized Trials Provide No Consistent Evidence for Nonmusical Cognitive Benefits of Brief Preschool Music Enrichment” by Samuel A. Mehr, Adena Schachner, Rachel C. Katz, and Elizabeth S. Spelke in PLoS ONE published December 11, 2013.

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About OAAE

Since our founding in 1974, by Dr. Dick Shoup and Jerry Tollifson, our mission has always been to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Working at the local, state, and federal levels through the efforts of a highly qualified and elected Board of Directors, our members, and a professional staff we have four primary areas of focus: building collaborations, professional development, advocacy, and capacity building. The OAAE is funded in part for its day-to-day operation by the Ohio Arts Council. This support makes it possible for the OAAE to operate its office in Columbus and to work statewide to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Support for arts education projects comes from the Ohio Arts Council, The John F. Kennedy Center, Ohio Music Education Association, Ohio Art Education Association, Ohio Educational Theatre Association, VSA Ohio, and OhioDance. The Community Arts Education programs of Central Ohio are financially assisted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. We gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the financial support received from each of these outstanding agencies and organizations.
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