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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Follow this link to a "solution" submitted by Bob Dunkerley to the public education system in West Virginia published in the West Virginia Executive Magazine: http://www.wvexecutive.com/moving-the-mountain-state-forward-21st-century-education/

Monday, August 6, 2012

Transforming Public Education: Finding the Passion through Arts-Based Learning

(Having attended forums on Justice Davis’s truancy issues and the governor’s Education Audit, reading the latest issue Kid’s Count data and the conflicting review of West Virginia’s Pre-K (3 and 4 year-olds) and observing the lack luster achievement data from the NAEP, ACT, SAT as well as results from AP testing, it is clear to this writer that West Virginia’s schools and educators are at a significant juxtaposition. School leaders are ready to make the changes but they need to the support of our communities.)



For West Virginia public schools in the 21st century to meet the educational needs of future productive citizens in a democratic society, education reform is no longer an effective strategy. There must be a schooling transformation. A transformation in the way schools are funded, how they exist, and the manner in which they operate, how they empower the stake holders, how they engage and support learners and teachers in the education processes and how they develop and sustain “life-long-learning”.



The fact that schools fail on a regular basis has never been acceptable and now, more than ever, we are seeing the short and long term effects of these lapses. There are so many “red flags” appearing daily within our society about schooling ineffectiveness that it is no longer (nor has it ever been) just a “school problem.” Politicians in the past liked to “beat up on” the schooling community with reform rhetoric to garner votes but the realities of schooling failures are now apparent to everyone.

Schools are in need of transformative leadership within the local, state and federal education communities throughout regular and higher education venues. Effective schooling is no longer “their” problem; it is “our” problem. Society can continue to “re-correct” the same “problems” over and over with the same basic strategies and the same failing results or new ideas can be implemented to harvest new learning with more effective outcomes. West Virginians have always been blessed with dedicated and hard working teachers, principals and central office administrators and currently in West Virginia, Innovation Zones have been piloted throughout the state. It is now time to support these new learning models systemically and in our communities. It’s been said that everyone knows about schools because they attended one but the transformation our schools need to provide the high quality schooling opportunities for our children will make our schools look and operate much differently than those in the past. 

The current whipping boy of school reform, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the name given the latest complete reauthorization (2002) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, 1965) has in fact never been completely funded by congress even though NCLB was endorsed (with much pomp) by both “sides of the isle”. The noted shift to new levels of accountability was only part of the law which also provided more local control for stakeholders and parent involvement, schooling choices, credentialed transparency and parent’s right to know about their school’s achievement, a desegregated focus of student groups that had been traditionally disenfranchised from the accountability/learning formulas as well as extended learning models and researched-based instructional interventions. In the end, the accountability piece seemed to be more about teacher effectiveness than student learning, opening up the realm of “quick fix – teach-to-the-test” mentalities that drive current policy and practice in schools while all along our schools continue to fail at a faster rate than ever before. We can continue to blame a failing policy or we can take steps to re-energize the why children attend schools by offering authentic and engaging learning practices that motive children, parents, teachers, community members and administrators to collaborate in producing effective learning environments for all.

The solution to public schools lies in the transformation of the way we view the learning processes. Students and teachers need to be “re-connected” to relevant, engaging and emotionally responsive learning practices: practices that value “how” students and teachers are smart, celebrating the “element” of individual “passion” rather than forcing a disconnected curricular agenda void of stakeholder ownership and developmental idiosyncrasies: a learning process that encourages the teachers and learners to embrace their individual as well as collective emotional connections in the schooling arena. People searching for such schooling strategies have found them within the Arts… for over 5000 years.

The Arts, ah yes…often the first thing on the budget and instructional time/access to curriculum chopping blocks. Why…because that is the way we’ve always done it. “You can’t get a job that pays a livable salary doing that”, so goes the traditional argument. Interestingly enough, the skill sets of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration needed to power the innovation required in the 21st century economic models (good jobs) are the very same outcomes the Arts have produced since their inception.  So why do the Arts have a reduced presence in the classroom (?) – Well, they are not measured on the BIG TEST – “…so why teach them???” The Arts, which lead to excellence by engaging the emotional attachment (passion) to the learning processes are being eliminate (often as an “unintended outcome”) within our schooling models. The attachment the Arts bring to the learning processes motivates students and parents to participate (attend school, support teachers, etc.) in schooling initiatives. The same emotional attachment also enables teachers to connect with the energy that first inspired them to become teachers. (Very few teachers entered the profession to teach a scripted curriculum.)  The schooling model that creates these connections is known as Arts-Based Learning.

The Arts celebrate the individual through collaborative efforts (plays, concerts, shows, etc.) at every developmental level. Arts-Based Learning brings one’s personal likes into the schooling process at every level and every subject. Students and teachers interact as collaborators of learning, bringing engaging and relevant experiences into every instructional arena. Students can not only show (assessment) how smart they are, but how they are smart. Pencil and paper assessments become the exception rather than the norm because they are not relevant to developmental outcomes. Learning becomes personalized and engaging for students and teachers.

The school “system” needs to support personalized schooling through Arts-Based Learning in every manner at every level. A teacher cannot hope to sustain an Arts-Based classroom without the support of colleagues, administrators, parents, community resources and philanthropy. A shared ownership of the processes and outcomes of an effective schooling system by all the stakeholders in a community must be integrated throughout the publically funded educational journey. Arts-Based Learning doesn’t require a major “re-tooling” of schools with millions of dollars of new technology but begins by encouraging, supporting and sustaining new ways of thinking about how schools approach the learning that is important for students to master. We already know how to implement schooling initiatives, the only question remaining is why we haven’t yet initiated policies and practices that are effective in teaching all the children in our 21st century American society.



                                                  




Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jazz band teachers and Arts-Based Learning

Here is a link to an excellent article from Psychology Today about the effective learning strategies employed by teachers who teach jazz band. Worth your time to read if you think school transformations should employ Arts-Based learning concepts in ALL subjects at every grade level.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201204/what-all-teachers-should-learn-jazz-band-teachers-1

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arst-Based Learning supports "The Creative Risk".

Transformative school models implementing the helianthus LLC six-strand Arts-Based Learning system lead students, teachers, administrators, parents and communities through the “Creative Risk” process necessary for schooling success in the 21st century.

Engaging all the stakeholders in the schooling processes by nurturing individual passions (interests in learning) allows greater focus on individualized learning, leading to higher levels of achievement through relevant engagement.

Corporate America is on the fast track for these concepts…America’s schools used to be better at this idea before compliance to the “big test” was the major outcome of the schooling processes. Interestingly, foreign educators still admire the American use of the arts and creativity (in its former and current settings) even though we seem to be going full speed in the opposite direction. Are we smart enough to reroute the train in the Arts-Based Learning direction? I think so….but let’s do it sooner than later…or even, NOW!

In November of 2010, helianthus LLC was the only West Virginia firm or institution represented at the World Creativity Forum in Oklahoma City, supported by Create Oklahoma. (Somewhat fortuitous with WVU’s admission into the Big 12…)

Check out the recent link to David Burkus from Create Oklahoma and the “Creative Risk”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLkm3vuPrKY&hd=1

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finding “Groove” in the Arts-Based Classroom

(After attending the form on truancy sponsored by Justice Davis, several thoughts about the current status of public education were directly and indirectly raised.)

For West Virginia public schools in the 21st century to meet the needs of future productive citizens in a democratic society, reform is no longer an effective strategy. There must be a schooling transformation. A transformation in the way schools are funded, how they exist, and the manner in which they operate, how they empower the stake holders, how they engage and support learners and teachers in the education processes and how they develop and sustain “life-long-learning”.

The fact that schools fail on a regular basis has never been acceptable and now, more than ever, we are seeing the short and long term effects of these lapses. There are so many “red flags” appearing daily within our society about schooling ineffectiveness that it is no longer just a “school problem.” Politicians in the past liked to “beat up on” the schooling community with reform rhetoric to garner votes but the realities of schooling failures are now apparent to everyone.
Schools are in need of transformative leadership within the local, state and federal education communities throughout regular and higher education venues. Effective schooling is no longer “their” problem; it is “our” problem. Society can continue to “re-correct” the same “problems” over and over with the same basic strategies and the same failing results or new ideas can be implemented to harvest new learning and more effective outcomes.
Students and teachers need to be “re-connected” to relevant, engaging and emotionally responsive learning practices: practices that value “how” students and teachers are smart, celebrating the “element” of individual “groove” rather than forcing a disconnected curricular agenda void of stakeholder ownership and developmental idiosyncrasies. People searching for such schooling strategies have found them within the Arts… for over 5000 years.
The Arts celebrate the individual through collaborative efforts (plays, concerts, shows, etc.) at every developmental level. Arts-Based Learning brings one’s “groove” into the schooling process at every level and every subject. Students and teachers interact as collaborators of learning, bringing engaging and relevant experiences into every instructional arena. Students can not only show (assessment) how smart they are, but how they are smart. Pencil and paper assessments become the exception rather than the norm because they are not relevant to developmental outcomes. Learning becomes personalized and engaging for students and teachers.
The school “system” needs to support personalized schooling through Arts-Based Learning in every manner at every level. A teacher cannot hope to sustain an Arts-Based classroom without the support of colleagues, administrators, parents and community resources and philanthropy. A shared ownership of the processes and outcomes of an effective schooling system by all the stakeholders in a community must be integrated throughout the publically funded educational journey. Arts-Based Learning doesn’t require a major “re-tooling” of schools with millions of dollars of new technology but begins by encouraging, supporting and sustaining new ways of thinking about how schools approach the learning that is important for students to master. We already know how to implement schooling initiatives, the only question remaining is why we haven’t yet initiated policies and practices that are effective in teaching all the children in our 21st century American society.
Bob Dunkerley is the President and CEO of Helianthus LLC, a West Virginia-based education consulting firm (www.helianthusonline.com) specializing in Strategic Research and External Reviews, Arts-Based Learning (school transformation models) and Arts-Based Initiatives (corporate HR professional development) as well as Arts Advocacy. Dunkerley retired from a 34 year career in West Virginia Public Schools and resides in Elkins with his wife, Karen. (Additional bio info available at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobdunkerley )

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roots of transformational change in schooling

As a central office administrator my experiences and encounters with ideas addressing change are that they are more likely sustained when the concept(s) are organic in nature and become part of the culture of the institution. Sustainable change is also more likely when a shared vocabulary exists among the stakeholders as well as a shared vision of excellence. Building the capacity of sustainable change is the responsibility of the entire organization. This is where initiatives of intervention often erode: The sense of urgency to embrace effective transformational change is not shared by all - teachers, administrators, students, parents, boards of education, community members, businesses. Oftentimes barrier policies and practices impeded the change process…not to mention apathy, incompetence and ignorance. To make change part of a schooling institution there must be a ownership, trust, a tolerance to error, an effective reward system and a process that empowers the passionate participant connection to the goals and outcomes. Unfortunately, not many learning venues are framed in this manner – yet!