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Framing The Arts


Judith Burton

Judith Burton

Seven years after Judith Burton founded Heritage School, her hand remains visible at that institution. And now the Teachers College art professor's fingerprints are evident in the new first-ever standardized arts curriculum, introduced in New York City public schools this past fall.

Known as the Curriculum Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, the new program is the result of a year-long collaboration among arts teachers and teaching artists from the public and private sectors. In the words of New York City School's chancellor Joel Klein, the Blueprint "gives students the opportunity to delve deeply into these subjects while giving their teachers the latitude to create an instructional program that demonstrates student learning over time and in varied dimensions." The plan combines both "subject-based" curricula, which define content to be learned, and "outcomes based" curricula, which define the skills learners should possess. Equally important, students will be studio-focused, through painting, drawing, singing, acting, dancing and making instrumental music, as well as engaged in classroom-based learning about art and art forms.

"Children living in New York City grow up within an artistic climate of extraordinary richness," Burton writes in her introduction to the Blueprint. "The diversity of art forms, cultures, setting and practices that entice visitors from around the world are available every day to our city's youth. Yet, for this rich world to become part of the larger context of education, in-school learning must address youngsters' own meaning-making abilities and help them to become sensitive to those efforts of others."

Those words should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Burton's contributions to the Art and Art Education program at Teachers College, which is unique in combining instruction in the teaching of art education with practicing art in the studio. "The idea is that the knowledge that practice gives is as critical as theory," Burton says. "And if practice is important to kids' learning, then it's important for our students' learning as well."

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