Arts ed in Iowa discussed

The arts have a place in the Iowa Core, according to Rosanne Malek, Iowa Department of Education consultant.

Malek spoke Tuesday at Iowa Central Community College to more than a dozen area and regional arts educators on the history of arts curriculum in the Iowa Core. It was the fifth presentation of 10 being held in state in June.

The Iowa Core was first legislated in 2007 with two purposes: to ensure that all Iowa students are actively engaged in personal learning, to prepare them for post-education success; and to provide a tool to Iowa educators.

“For educators, it’s a tool. It is not a curriculum that tells you what have to teach,” Malek said. “It’s a tool that tells you how the curriculum is taught.”

According to Malek, school is viewed as “content knowledge that is parceled out and compartmentalized.” With greater access to information online, basic knowledge can be found easily by students. Teachers, though, provide “skills development.” The Iowa Core aids teachers in this effort.

The challenge is to make this knowledge more applicable, Malek said.

“The process of how we educated needed to change,” she said.

The Iowa Core structure is content, instruction and assessment. Content includes math, science and literacy. In 2008, added were 21st century skills and fine arts.

Language in an education bill during the 2008 legislative session would have expanded content areas to include fine arts, applied arts, humanities and world languages. The bill, though, was defeated.

Malek emphasized that the idea of including arts in the Iowa Core did have support.

“I have never fully believed that people don’t want the arts in schools,” she said. “They’re just choosing other priorities for various reasons.”

In 2011, Jason Glass became director of the Iowa Department of Education and actively involved leaders in arts instruction and advocated with them including the arts in the Iowa Core, according to Malek.

Fine Arts was included in Gov. Terry Branstad’s educational blueprint, as well as Iowa House and Senate education bills.

“We thought it was a slam dunk,” Malek said. “We’re in. Everything’s good.”

The language did not make it into the final blue print, though, or the educational bills. The approach, then, became a grassroots one, actively working with professional teaching organizations.

“I can advise in this process, but I can’t lead in this process,” Malek said.

Arts instruction is not a niche, Malek said. The cognitive and affective should be taught together.

“We certainly have our place, but I don’t believe it’s a niche,” she said. “There is a direct relationship between academic outcome and emotional outcome. Even if we think we’re teaching that separately, we’re not. I believe in the arts we help students explore that.”

The difference, Malek said, could be between producing a scientist and producing a Nobel Prize winner.