If you think that the arts are good for you, for our children in schools, and for our humanity, then no need to read further. If you are unsure about the centrality of the arts in human learning, read on. Below is pasted a newsfeed update on a new amendment that was just passed that advances the status of the arts by integrating the arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and Math) turning that acronym into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and Math).

Rhode Island School of Design

Lots of people don’t know that one of the original proponents of STEM TO STEAM was the Rhode Island School of Design:

The STEM to STEAM initiative, championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is supported by teachers, researchers, policy makers, students, and businesspeople from RISD and beyond. At the heart of the activity, a team of student research assistants works in the Office of Government Relations to apply their firsthand knowledge of Art + Design education to exploring new avenues for STEM to STEAM.

Congressional STEAM Caucus

As you may know, congressional education leaders began a series of face-to-face meetings this week to hammer out remaining differences between House and Senate bills to reform K-12 education. The committee completed their work this afternoon. In today’s conference committee meeting, arts education had a breakthrough moment. U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) offered an amendment to integrate the arts into the nation’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. Rep. Bonamici, a co-chair of the Congressional STEAM Caucus, has tried to offer similar amendments in previous legislative efforts.

Today, Rep. Bonamici’s amendment to integrate the arts into STEM and promote a well-rounded education was approved unanimously. This amendment advances the status of the arts in the nation’s K-12 education system impacting 100,000 schools, 3 million teachers and 50 million students.

Rep. Bonamici at today’s meeting


Edutopia has a STEM to STEAM: Resource Roundup section that I recommend to you:

Whether you are looking for resources on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math or on infusing the arts to transform STEM into STEAM, this curated compilation will help you strategize around different approaches to integrated studies. Edutopia

Accountability for Raising Test Scores

What is interesting here is that the arts are gaining political leverage by how much they help other subjects. So why do we need to see the power of the arts through other types of academic work? One problem is that advocates of the arts have a hard time providing evidence of the centrality of the arts, so using other subjects helps us to “see” the power of the arts. On the policy side of educational programming, the problem of including the arts bumps up against a central tenant of school reform—accountability in schools is narrowly defined as “accountability for raising test scores.”

Re-Thinking Accountability

Make no mistake, the bottom-line thinking in business has overwhelmed schools with the same language for how we measure business success. But relying on the easiest thing to measure, student scores on ELA and MATH tests misses the real bottom-line of schools: How well are we educating every child, to the best of their ability? How about we agree on a new way to think about accountability? What if we re-define accountability as responsibility for learning, and share that between teachers and students, and among parents and teachers and students and schools? Let’s be brave and kick that old definition to the curb and redefine what is good work in schools as having something to do with everyone learning to the best of their ability? Let’s hold ourselves accountable for providing the resources for every child to learn well and measure that.

Centrality of Creativity and the Arts

Where does this leave the definition of art, arts integration and arts learning? Right in the middle of it all because creativity that is launched by art is also readily available for all subjects and all modes of learning. The fun of the arts and the myriad ways in which they can be integrated with all subjects (STEAM) remind us about the great position that creativity and the arts already hold in our society. So let’s show students how fun that is. Let’s be accountable for, and measure how much, we support every student in learning well with creativity in all subjects!

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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