New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Launches as Independent Group

Arts Education for All-New Statewide Advocacy Organization
New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Launches as Independent Group

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2015

Contact: Kristin Wenger

Phone: 973-­327-­2090

After eight years operating as a program within other groups, the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) has incorporated to become an independent non-profit focused on bringing the benefits of an education in the arts to every student in every school across the state.

While the legal structure may be new the work of the organization is not.

NJAEP was created to be the unified voice for arts education, established in 2007 following years of planning and input by arts and education leaders statewide. The core beliefs that shaped the Partnership’s beginning remain the same today: a) arts education is essential to basic knowledge and a fundamental right of every citizen in our schools and across our communities, and b) the collective voice of diverse stakeholders is the most effective means for advancing the arts in education.

Launched in conjunction with the release of the first-ever Arts Education Census Report, the Partnership’s first task was to focus on carrying out the recommendations of the Report. To date, the efforts of NJAEP have led to increased access to arts education for more than 75,000 students.

“One of the Council’s proudest moments was founding the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership back in 2007 alongside our partners: Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and the Music for All Foundation,” stated Nick Paleologos, Executive Director of New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “The idea for NJAEP sprung from the Council’s first Arts Education Summit back in 2004, and has been putting up a string of other “firsts” ever since: the first statewide arts education census; the first interactive arts education web tool; and the first state to include the arts in the annual school report card. This important moment is a tribute to the most talented collection of arts education practitioners in the country and yet another reason that New Jersey continues to lead the way.”

Since 2007, NJAEP has had a significant impact on arts education across the state:

· In 2007, NJAEP released the first state wide census report on the status and condition of arts education providing accountability for state policies and highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement;
· NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education to include arts education in local school district accountability reviews;
· In 2009, NJAEP coordinated the revision of Core Curriculum Content Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts – the document used to guide the development of local arts curriculum;
· In 2012, NJAEP worked with other subject area associations to protect the role of non-tested subjects as part of the states Core Curricular Content Standards;
· In 2014, NJAEP worked with the New Jersey State Department of Education to include arts education measures as part of the School Performance Reports released for every school becoming the first state in the nation to have such measures; and,
· In 2014 and 2015 NJAEP released a series of interactive dashboards to allow citizens to review and compare arts education information for every school in the state.

“The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats eloquently acknowledged that ‘education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire,’” stated Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. “High quality arts education practices designed and led by nonprofits such as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership have sparked teacher innovation and student creativity across New Jersey. NJAEP is central to all of Dodge’s arts education strategies and continues to be an important partner in ensuring that every New Jersey child has access to a quality arts education.”

New Jersey adopted its first set of core curriculum content standards in the arts in 1996. In short, all districts are expected to provide opportunities for learning in four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and visual arts through sequential arts instruction from grades k-12. Ensuring that these standards are thoroughly understood and implemented throughout the state is among the NJAEP’s highest priorities.
“Working to uphold these content standards has been incredibly gratifying,” says Kristin Wenger, Director of NJAEP, “And we’ve seen access to the arts rise dramatically. Since our inception, we’ve worked to restore arts education for 75,000 New Jersey students.”

Conducting and disseminating research has been a focus for NJAEP. By documenting arts education in every school, NJAEP has been able to issue two statewide school-by-school census reports, added the arts to the NJ School Performance Reports, and has created interactive Arts Education Report Cards. In addition, NJAEP’s accomplishments include: identifying Model Schools in the Arts; becoming a central clearinghouse of information for all arts education resources and services in New Jersey; working closely with a diverse group of stakeholders; becoming the presenting organization for the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education; and, providing professional development for teachers and school administrators.

But there is more work to be done to assure that arts education becomes part of the core curriculum for every child.

“The good news is, 97% of New Jersey students have access to arts education in their schools, and access to arts education is on the rise,” says Bob Morrison, Chairman of the NJAEP board of directors, “However, the majority of schools fail to offer instruction in all four mandated disciplines, per pupil arts spending has decreased and educators across the state are grappling with the rising tide of Common Core standards and state-mandated tests leading to the unintended consequences of displacing the value of creative work and decreased time and access for arts education. We need to change this dynamic from the focus on testing to a focus on a well-rounded education.”

NJAEP continues to strive for its original vision: arts education for every child, every day, every school, every year. As an independent organization, it will continue to raise the bar, and champion arts education for every child at every stage of learning.

The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) was originally founded in 2007 as a cosponsored program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and Music for All Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Prudential Foundation, and ArtPride New Jersey. The mission of the NJAEP is to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.

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