Why Florida Educators Want To Change Arts Accountability In Schools

Reblogged from State Impact Florida / December 15, 2013 by Sammy Mack

When Allison Rojas looks at a painting by Alice Neel, the high school junior sees more than a seated woman in a purple sari.

Allison-Rojas“She uses very bold lines as you can see,” says Rojas. “Very fleshy paintings.”

Rojas has an eye that’s been trained in fine arts classes at Miami’s Design and Architecture Senior High. DASH is an arts magnet—consistently ranked among the country’s top public schools—and every year, Rojas and her classmates have taken a fieldtrip with the school to Art Basel, where she gets to see works like Neel’s Woman.

It’s a unique opportunity for these students—especially as so many of their peers don’t get this kind of exposure.

Research published by the Center for Fine Arts Education shows that the more arts courses Florida students enroll in, the more likely they are to take the SAT and score well on standardized tests. And conversely, students who appear to be struggling academically generally take fewer arts courses than their peers.

“We really want to have a report—like a school report card,” says Dr. Kathleen Sanz, president and CEO of the Center for Fine Arts Education.

Sanz is supporting state legislation that would require schools to report arts access the same way they report information like graduation rates and demographics.

“I think it will help heighten the importance of the fine arts in the schools,” says Sanz.

Arts educators aren’t the only ones who are troubled by the downward trend in arts enrollment.

“Not everybody is academically inclined—because, you know, there are people who can lead a full life without having to touch a paintbrush,” says DASH senior Aaron Alonso, but he worries that other students may not get the chance to discover a passion in the arts.

“It’s all about keeping that so that sort of thing doesn’t happen,” says Alonso.

DASH Students Design Homes for the Homeless

DesignerEd-02SEE ALSO: Students Design Solutions for Miami’s Homeless (more info/gallery)
LISTEN FROM WLRN: Students Create Blueprints for The Homeless’ Future

Re-post from The Miami Herald, Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eric Hankin, teacher at Design Architecture Senior High, a magnet school in Miami’s Design District, created a project for his students that would give them hands-on experience, as well as benefit the homeless.

“I like the idea of exposing students to real-life projects,” said Hankin, who has been teaching at DASH for 11 years. “This project will help teach them about the community and value of work.”

Hankin and 20 of his architecture/design students teamed up with Carrfour Supportive Housing, a non-profit organization that develops, operates and manages innovative housing communities for individuals and families in need, and they are designing a living unit for a formerly homeless person.

On Thursday, students at DASH presented their drawings and models of homeless housing units to a panel of professional architects who critiqued the students’ projects and will later determine how to use ideas from the work to incorporate into future affordable housing projects.

Sandra Newson, vice president of Carrfour Supportive Housing, talked about the display by the students.

“I was impressed mostly by the focus on making the space functional,” Newson said. “You can see it in their design. It was all about the use of space and making sure there was a place for everything.”

A panel of architects gave the students feedback after their displays.

Javier Font, who graduated from the University of Miami in 1986 and opened his own firm in 1991, was one of the architects on the panel and gave his input.

“It was really refreshing to see how realistic the designs are and how they applied it with what we need to do,” Font said. “A lot of times, designs are so theoretical and don’t relate to what’s going on in the real world, but these were very realistic.”

For two hours, students took turns explaining their work, taking questions and receiving feedback from the panel.

One of the students, Kayla Montes de Oca, 16, said her main focus was to design a space that would be comfortable.

“I looked at my room and wondered how I can design something that would be as spacious,” said Kayla, who is a junior at DASH and hopes to be an environmental architect. “You see how they live and you want to find a solution for them.”

Another junior, De’Naric Mikle, 16, focused on keeping his design simple.

“I tried to create something that was cool for a formerly homeless person,” said De’Naric, who plans on working in landscape architecture. “As a homeless person, you’re living on the streets and don’t need a mansion to feel at home. I tried creating something simple and fun.”

At the end of the presentation, the teacher gave the last bit of feedback and thanked members of the panel and Carrfour Supportive Housing for making this project possible.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of the work that they’re doing,” Hankin said. “You can see how supportive they are of one another, and they are learning from each other.”

Designer Ed: Classroom Contemplations

Today we continue our series of posts focused on innovative educational practices at DASH. We call it Designer Ed with a nod to the school’s motto: “Education by Design.” Whether examining classroom case studies up close, taking a wideframe look at cross-curricular choices, or expanding outward to consider our place within the local and national public education panoramas, the goal of this series is to highlight what DASH does differently that makes our school successful.

One of the most crucial aspects of enhancing an excellent school is continually seeking out the best educators to bring onboard – talented professionals who align with the school’s vision and match the level of passion and creative resourcefulness that distinguish it. A prime example at DASH was when Jeremy Glazer joined our English department in 2012. Although we had the good fortune to work with Mr. Glazer just one school year (he has since embarked on doctoral studies at Stanford University), he quickly made a big impact on everyone around him. Sophomores need only think back to his Freshmen Pinning Ceremony keynote, when he shared the parable of the tortoise and the scorpion and taught the whole class of 2017 the importance of knowing your essence.

Happily, we can all continue to benefit from Glazer’s thoughtful approach of examining how state policy impacts local classrooms by following his writing for NPR’s StateImpact Florida project, Classroom Contemplations: Education Policies from a Teacher’s Perspective. A substantial list of thought-provoking weekly entries from throughout this past summer are posted. Several of the entries investigate potential design flaws in the state assessment system – ways inadvertent priorities are being communicated to teachers and students by the heavy emphasis on accountability. WLRN featured a radio interview between Glazer and StateImpact’s Sammy Mack available here.

Designer Ed: Exam Schools

Today we kick off a series of posts focused on innovative educational practices at DASH. We’re calling it Designer Ed with a nod to the school’s motto: “Education by Design.” Whether examining classroom case studies up close, taking a wide-frame look at cross curricular choices, or expanding outward to consider our place within the local and national public education panoramas, the goal of this series is to highlight what DASH does differently that makes our school successful.

IExamSchools[2]n their recent book Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective High Schools, authors Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett turn their attention away from the mainstream priority on low performing students and schools to study the many ways specialized public high schools across the nation are working as well as and often better than expensive private prep schools to support and accelerate student achievement. Using strict criteria, Finn and Hockett identify 165 examples of such schools (among over 20,000 public high schools nationwide). DASH makes the list as one of six in Florida and one of two, along with School for Advanced Studies, in Miami.

The authors summarize their findings and explain the criteria they used in the Fall 2012 edition of Education Next magazine. Here they point out ambiguity as to whether the impressive academic outcomes at these so-called exam schools are the result of what happens in the schools or a byproduct of what students admitted through competitive admissions processes bring with them. Also underscored is the ambivalence with which exam schools handle the ever increasing demands of the Advanced Placement program and other standardized tests.

Because DASH measures potential talent through visual arts auditions as its admission process, academic outcomes are less linked to selectivity as in schools like SAS which use grade point average and previous coursework as primary criteria. But in common with many of the other identified schools, DASH courses are generally more rigorous than typical high school coursework and the school culture plays a major role in holding all students to exceptionally high expectations. Another similarity is a student demographic profile with more minority representation and socio-economic diversity than that of counterpart schools.

Yesterday WLRN featured an interview with Finn about his book on the radio show Topical Currents. DASH came up often in the conversation. Callers included the principal of SAS, several local community members, and a DASH alum. The discussion got particularly interesting when one caller challenged Finn’s assertion that the nation should allocate more resources for talented, high performing students and schools. Click here to take a listen.