Looking at the Common Core through an Arts Lens

Create 2013 for Tennessee Arts Commission

By Ann Brown, Director of Arts Education, published in Nashville Arts Magazine, December 2013

The Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) has created the new Targeted Arts Development Initiative (TADI), a grant designed to reach underserved counties across Tennessee. Giles County is one of ten counties where the Commission has worked extensively to develop a program that best fits their needs. In late October, Giles County began the Common Core and the Arts pilot project.

The project’s purpose is to explore how the arts can be used to address Common Core and contribute to overall student achievement. Music and visual arts teachers in Giles County Schools attended training on the connections between the Common Core in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math, which are designed to prepare students for college and career.The Common Core standards are aligned with those of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which are slated to replace the current method of state assessment for Tennessee. This pilot project aims to study whether the arts may contribute to student success on PARCC by administering pre-, midway-formative, and summative assessments to 300 Giles County students in fourth and eighth grades.

Cindy Young, Chief Academic Officer for Giles County Schools, collaborated with Bruce Taylor, the former Director of Education for the Washington National Opera and current consultant with Arts for Anyone. “Bruce shared information that will be very beneficial to my teachers and ultimately the students. His research is extensive on the rigor of PARCC and the type of instruction students will need to be successful,” Young stated.

Taylor has a common-sense approach to addressing the needs of educators by highlighting the connections between subjects and recognizing the value of arts specialists in schools. “Cindy plopped a 1300-page textbook on her desk in front of me that tenth graders and their teachers have to plow through on ELA Common Core. It is no wonder they get discouraged. Cindy and I are going to put our heads together on how to lessen the burden while still achieving the expectations set by Common Core as we collectively develop this project,” Taylor said.

Young plans to bring Taylor back to Giles County halfway through the school year to provide additional training for the music and visual arts teachers. This project is one of the few specialized training and research studies in Tennessee and throughout the country for Common Core through an arts lens. Giles County Schools should be applauded for their efforts in bringing the arts to the forefront of education.

TAC will look to Giles County as a potential model for recognizing community assets, in this case arts educators, as we seek to customize this project for other Tennessee school districts.

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