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When young people are involved with the arts, something changes in their lives. Weve often witnessed the rapt expressions on the faces of such young people. Advocates for the arts often use photographs of smiling faces to document the experience.
But in a society that values measurements and uses data-driven analysis to inform decisions about allocation of scarce resources, photographs of smiling faces are not enough to gain or even retain support. Such images alone will not convince skeptics or even neutral decision-makers that something exceptional is happening when and where the arts become part of the lives of young people.
Until now, weve known little about the nature of this change, or how to enable the change to occur. To understand these issues in more rigorous terms, we invited leading educational researchers to examine the impact of arts experiences on young people. We developed the Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning initiative in cooperation with The Arts Education Partnership and The Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to explore why and how young people were changed through their arts experiences.
We believed that evidence could be collected that would help answer the questions of why positive changes occur and what might be done to replicate them. We expected the work to build on previous research concerning the arts and learning so that similar programs could become even more effective; we also hoped to increase the overall understanding of how the arts can impact learning.
We invited the initial Champions of Change researchers to examine well-established models of arts education. We then added research efforts that looked beyond specific programs to larger issues of the arts in American education. Finally, we expanded our concept beyond classrooms and schools to include out-of-school settings. We wanted to better understand the impact of the arts on learning, not just on formal education.
The Champions of Change Researchers
First and foremost, we thank the late Ernie Boyer, former president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and former U.S. Commissioner of Education, for encouraging us to work together. This partnership has been a highlight of our professional lives, and we will always remember Ernie as an articulate advocate for the role of the arts in young lives.
Throughout the development and implementation of Champions of Change, several individuals provided critical support and counsel. They included Peter Gerber, Vartan Gregorian, Rich Gurin, Ellen Lovell, Margaret Mahoney, Harold Williams, and Jim Wolfensohn.
During the research process, we held several sessions to review work in progress and identify questions for the research to be funded. In addition to the artists, educators, and researchers named in this report, we benefited from the involvement of arts and education leaders from across the country. They included Terry Baker, Jim Berk, Bob Bucker, Jessica Davis, Elliott Eisner, Carol Fineberg, Rita Foy, Milton Goldberg, Derek Gordon, Doug Herbert, Sarah Howes, Peter Martinez, Ruth Mitchell, David OFallon, David Perkins, Terry Peterson, Jane Remer, Dan Scheinfeld, Josiah Spaulding, Robert Stake, and Louise Stevens.
Under the leadership of executive director Dick Deasy, The Arts Education Partnership has been a critical partner for the Champions of Change research initiative. We are also grateful to The Presidents Committee for the Arts and the Humanities, honorary chair First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and executive director Harriet Mayor Fulbright for their involvement and support since the inception of this ambitious undertaking.
Finally, we thank the advisory committees and the boards of our respective institutions whose support made this extraordinary endeavor possible. We believe their significant commitment of resources for Champions of Change will help transform countless young lives for the better through the arts.
Jane L. Polin
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