Educational Improvement
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Nonpublic School Leaders Attend Annual Forum

On September 27th, the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) hosted the 8th Annual Private School Leadership Conference at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year, the invitation-only event brings together 100 of the nation’s top private and home school educational leaders from across the country. We also welcomed representatives from state education agencies who are responsible for administering federal education programs on behalf of private school students. The conference provides a forum to address Department of Education programs and initiatives, listen to the concerns of the nonpublic school community, highlight innovative practices, and facilitate discourse between the Department and nonpublic school leaders.

i3 Program is a Public Sector Bright Idea

OII’s Investing in Innovation program—better known as i3—is among 111 Bright Ideas recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Now in its third year, Bright Ideas recognizes efforts from all government levels, including school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies as well as public-private partnerships, that demonstrate “a creative range of solutions to issues such as urban and rural degradation, environmental problems, and the academic achievement of students.”

Department Awards $6.6 Million Grant to Support Arts Education

(September 19, 2012) The U.S. Department of Education today awarded a grant of $6,640,000 to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to implement and expand its efforts in arts education and arts integration at the national level. Beginning with the first year of a three-year program, this grant will allow all children access to the life-changing benefits of an arts education.

“The study of the arts can significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a knowledge-based, global economy.”

i3 Project Directors Gather to Learn, Share, and Begin a New Project Year

Solving pressing education problems at scale, managing challenges posed by geography, engaging the community in school improvement, and sustaining reform efforts beyond federal project funding —these topics and more were tackled by i3 (Investing in Innovation) project directors and other key leaders who gathered in Washington, D.C., this past July. The i3 team held this second annual Project Directors Meeting on July 19-20, bringing together Department staff, i3 project directors and project personnel from the 2010 and 2011 grantee cohorts. Project evaluators and education leaders were also important contributors to this event. The event provided the grantees a range of experiences designed to assist them in their work as OII grantees and to help them build relationships with other i3 projects and personnel.

For those who received i3 support in FY 2011, the opportunity to get advice and guidance from their FY 2010 peers was invaluable. “It was especially great to hear that others were facing some of the same challenges I face,” said first-year project director Toria Williams of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.

Drama and Theatre Educators Are Ready for the Next Act

picture of aate past presidents AATE past presidents reflected on 25 years of efforts to strengthen the role of drama and theatre in schools and the lives of children and youth in a special conference session. Pictured (front row, left to right) are Judith Kase-Cooper, Orlin Corey, Janet Rubin, Joe Juliano and (back row, left to right) Harold Oaks, Coleman Jennings, Joan Lazarus, Betsy Quinn, Kim Alan Wheetley. AATE Past President Rives Collins, not pictured, moderated the discussion. (photo courtesy of the Child Drama Collection, Arizona State University, Tempe, Az.) The theme of this year’s American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) conference was “Looking Back and Charging Ahead.” On the one hand, the nearly 400 conference attendees recently gathered in Lexington, Ky., to celebrate the 25 years AATE has served its membership of teachers and teaching artists, postsecondary educators and researchers, youth theatre companies, playwrights, and advocates. The “looking back” portion included a special session at which a number of the association’s past presidents and other leaders shared stories of the quarter-century-long effort to keep the light shining on the importance of drama and theatre for children and youth. 

By the time I arrived on the second day of the conference, the emphasis had shifted to the present and future. My task was to share the recent findings of a nationwide survey of the conditions of arts education, one that also offered comparisons of those conditions of arts teaching and learning with data from 1999-2000—prior to the No Child Left Behind Act. My presentation would unfortunately remind attendees that between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of elementary schools offering instruction in drama and theatre had plummeted from 20 percent to four percent. At the secondary level, the drop was less dramatic but sobering just the same—less than half of secondary schools nationwide offered students the opportunity to study theatre. It’s hard to shine a light on what’s not on the stage.

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