“I employ a number of first generation Americans, immigrants who have come to this country seeking a better future for their children,” offered Henry Dickenson, a parent and local business owner. “By empowering them to capture and share their life experiences, we could make them feel more welcome as parents and new citizens, thereby enriching the school curriculum and the whole community. We need to connect schools, parents, and communities around their shared goals of student success and community progress. I’d like to hire individuals—as well as have customers and neighbors—who are more tolerant of the many different perspectives in our community. Also I’d like to meet creative problem-solvers who are able to figure out how to apply their skills to everyday challenges. And I’d like my children to grow up in a community that gives them lots of opportunities in school and elsewhere to learn about the culture and the creativity of others, and to become more creative themselves.”
Taylor Atlee then turned to the educators in the group. “What would our schools need to do differently for these kinds of changes to occur?” she asked.
“That’s probably the easiest question we’ve addressed today,” responded Allen Galloway, an elementary school teacher. “Teaching, as currently practiced, is such an isolated profession. My colleagues and I want the chance to work together—across different disciplines and with resources outside of school that compliment what we teach in our classes. Just like our students, we need ongoing opportunities to become lifelong learners, too—particularly in ways that enable us to contribute to their success.”
“The way that we assess students would also change,” added high school Principal Meredith St. Clair. “In order to make effective policy and funding decisions, policymakers certainly need ways to ensure that all children are learning the basics of reading and math. But by limiting assessments to these standardized tests, we’ve actually limited the curriculum we make available to our students. The arts provide a crucial window that focuses and frames the aspirations and achievements of every child.”
“The burden is on us, as educators,” added local school superintendent Franklin Biddle, “to provide parents and policymakers with evidence of a broad range of student learning in all subjects, including the arts. That will be a lot harder to measure, but it will better reflect the many demands of the 21st century placed on our new generations. I’m eager as well to explore how arts experiences can help me convey that effective learning is occurring across the curriculum, in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts.”