Laurie Lieberman's Survey Response
1. Your district has embarked on an initiative to restore meaningful sequential arts education into its core curriculum. What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the plan? (Approximately 75-100 words)
I am not qualified to speak to the strengths and weaknesses of this plan. However, this questionnaire has piqued my interest and I now plan to ask some of my friends who are more familiar with it. I have looked at the Board Policy that governs this plan; it looks intriguing and far-reaching but I do not know enough to speak to its actual implementation.
2. If you are not familiar with the plan, what do you think your district can and should do to make this work more visible? (Approximately 75-200 words)
Multiple actions can and should be taken. Awareness of our arts initiative – particularly as it is translated into the classroom at various grade levels – should be raised among families at their school sites. An understanding of the value of – and commitment to -- our District’s sequential arts programming should be communicated to parents in the elementary grades especially, when they are most accessible and interested. Displays and presentations of actual work done by children that forward this initiative should be shared and present meaningful opportunities to communicate their significance. Printed information that explains our program in a reader-friendly and compelling format should be distributed at appropriate times during the school year. I hesitate to use the word, but our program should be “marketed” to District families by raising awareness about its existence, its significance and the role it plays in exposing and preparing children for the world. A school community or School Board workshop devoted to this subject could be held and widely publicized. Again, if children can present the work that they do as a result of our program, there is nothing that can communicates better. The more that our students’ artwork and musical knowledge and achievement is shared in an effective manner, the more support we will generate.
3. What role do you think the arts can play in supporting key priorities of the district such as reducing the dropout rate, closing the achievement gap, and preparing more students for college eligibility and/or meaningful careers? (Approximately 75-100 words)
Evidence suggests that music education improves students’ performance in math, syntax and problem-solving -- critical skills for success in our technology-based society. Music is arguably the most popular of the arts among students; music programs can draw and retain students in whose interest/abilities in math are minimal. Similarly, art instruction provides students an opportunity to create and control visual content instead of merely consuming it. The visual arts drive technology in film, architecture and design, important industries in the LA region. Most important, the arts provide grounding in culture and history, an advantage in life and in every trade and profession.
4. In light of the current budget crisis, the state is now allowing local school districts flexibility to redirect their allocation from the “art and music block grant” to fund other local priorities. How would you balance the need to invest in arts education with the other financial challenges facing your district? (Approximately 100-150 words)
I share Arts for LA's commitment to ensuring that every child should have access to standards-based, quality, sequential arts education. I agree that arts curriculum that is taught by a qualified teacher, is ongoing and meaningful, and tied to learning in other critical “academic” subjects. While I believe that the survival of arts and music curricula in our District is non-negotiable, I do believe the issue of flexible allocation can be addressed creatively. I see opportunities to absorb and integrate arts instruction into the curricula of other disciplines – math, language(s), history, social studies, and even physical education – to ensure that exposure to the arts is guaranteed to every student in every area of interest. There may also be ways to bring Santa Monica-Malibu’s extraordinary arts community into the District on a volunteer basis to provide high-level instruction and enrichment. The same concept might be employed to help meet non-instructional challenges.
5. What meaningful experiences with art (visual, dance, drama, music) did you have growing up? Please tell us about those experiences.
I recall a variety of music and arts education programs when I attended LA Unified School District schools during the fifties and sixties. I remember going on elementary school field trips to see “The Glass Menagerie” and “The Magic Flute” and later trips to LACMA. We also had music classes in elementary school where all students learned songs together; the parks offered dance classes. My sisters and I were vaguely aware of the expansion of the classical and popular music scene, and a burgeoning theater scene as we grew up, but that was largely because our parents exposed us to it (even when we weren’t terribly interested). I can’t speak to this subject without mentioning that my father was a professional singer and songwriter. All types of music were present in our home. We were also encouraged to appreciate and participate in the visual arts. All children should have these advantages.