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Behind the Curtain

The Long Road to the California Dance Credential
By Susan McGreevy-Nichols
Posted on 4/22/2016 1:38 PM
On March 8, 2016, thousands of arts advocates descended on Washington DC to meet with lawmakers in support of the arts and arts education. Certainly this is an important event and if you have never experienced Arts Advocacy Day, it is worth the trip, truly an education in “awareness raising”!

Advocacy happens at all levels: locally, regionally, and nationally. Advocacy addresses many audiences from national and state legislators to community leaders, school administrators and parents. With advocacy efforts, it is important is to identify and understand the audience and hone the message. The message can be broad and act as a way to remind the audience of the value of arts education or it can be a specific ask. Advocacy is ongoing and results can take years! Such is the case in the State of California in regard to CDEA’s quest for the reinstatement of the dance and theatre credentials.

Theatre and Dance are the only two subjects mandated in the CA Education Code (sections 51210 and 51220) that have CA State Content Standards that do not have supporting credentials in CA. In fact California is one of only two states in the country that does not issue a single-subject teaching credential in dance or theatre. For 46 years, CDEA and CETA have worked tirelessly to correct a clerical error that eliminated the dance and theatre credentials, how this happened is a story I will save for another time. This piece focuses on how the end might be in sight with the introduction of SB 916, the Theatre and Dance Act, TADA! This bill was introduced in January by CA Senator Ben Allen and announced by Senator Allen at the NDEO/CDEA Special Topic conference in Berkeley. It is amazing that this would even be a problem in a state like California. In a recent news release Senator Ben Allen comments, “ California is the arts and entertainment capital of the world, and it is fitting that we recognize the importance of dance and theatre as vital elements of our arts curriculum.” He continues, “How is it possible that ours is one of only two states in the country that does not have specific credentials for dance and theatre?”

So how would you paint a picture of advocacy? The following except is an example of advocacy efforts documented by Toni Marich, in a Brief History of California Dance Credential Advocacy” from 1970- 2007. One needs to know that it was in 1970 that a clerical error caused the previously existing dance and theatre teaching credentials not to be renewed, to the surprise of almost the entire arts education community and many other educators.

1970’s – In 1971, a distinguished group of dance educators, artists and founders of university dance programs created the Committee on Dance in the California State Colleges and conducted research in support of legislation for a dance credential, which was proposed and passed in the State Assembly, but defeated in the State Senate in 1979. Pat Finot served as Acting Chair; Joan Schlaich monitored the Ryan Bill and Survey; Angela Hudson met with Commissioners for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC); and a host of other exemplary professionals served in a variety of politically significant capacities.

1988 – Bergeson Act (SB 148) was passed by the state legislature requiring the CCTC to reduce or streamline the credential system to insure subject matter competence in one or more fields while allowing greater flexibility in staffing local schools. A CCTC Advisory Panel was formed.

1989 – Jacqui Lahr, CAHPERD Vice-President for Dance, created a State Task Force for a Dance Credential. The task force set out to educate all of the arts education organizations in California on the need for dance and theatre credentials as well as establish advocacy collaborations with CAHPERD, CDEA, CAAE (LACAE), TCAP, California State Department of Education, and all state arts education organizations.

1991 – In the CCTC Advisory Panel’s preliminary report, a Visual and Performing Arts credential was proposed requiring art specialists to be proficient in two art forms, while allowing music and visual arts to retain their single subject credentials. This proposal was rejected by California’s arts education organizations. Music and visual arts professionals argued that they could lose their credentials in the process. Dance and theatre professionals argued that all future teachers would be better served if they were able to choose their second area of specialization from all of the available options. While this debate was taking place, subject matter panels were being formed to develop new credentialing standards for the various subject areas that had credentials. Dance was officially subsumed under physical education and theatre was subsumed under English. CDEA members Jo Ness and Albirda Rose sat on the Physical Education Subject Matter Panel and developed standards for a Concentration in Dance with the help of Judy Alter, Toni Marich, and Judy Scalin. The standards were aligned with the National Standards for the Arts.

1992 – LACAE worked with Senator Patrick Johnston from Stockton on a plan to introduce legislation for Dance and Theatre Credentials-SB 762. The Senator testified at a CCTC Advisory Panel meeting. Toni Marich conducted a statewide dance survey and Charlotte Motter, LACAE President, conducted a statewide theatre survey to support Senator Johnston’s legislation. After an effective and collaborative presentation was made by arts educators to the CCTC, in January 1992, the Commission rejected the proposal for dance and theatre credentials. At about this time, Senator Johnston withdrew his bill due to a perceived lack of support from the legislature.

1993 – The Boards of CDEA and CAHPERD approved a Position Statement for Dance Education, which contained an endorsement for a Single Subject Credential in Dance. Note: CAHPERD’s membership of over 4,000 professionals is a powerful force for CDEA’s advocacy efforts.

1994 – Through the cooperative work of LACAE and Senator Patrick Johnston, the state legislature passed the Senator’s new credential resolution-8oR 31: Teaching in the Arts. This resolution required the CCTC to review and assess the adequacy of teachers of English to teach theatre and teachers of physical education to teach dance, and to report its findings to the Assembly, Senate and Joint Legislative Education Committees on the Arts no later than November 1995.

1995 – The CCTC did not respond to SCR 31 in a timely manner. LACAE Legislative Action Teams were designed and organized by Susan Cambigue and Paul Tracey. John Knecht and Kristin Gunn served as leaders for this outstanding advocacy model. CDEA members were encouraged to join their geographical teams. Note: The most effective form of advocacy is at the grassroots level. LACAE employed Kathy Lynch as its lobbyist. Ms. Lynch and Senator Johnston pressed the CCTC to respond to SCR 31.
1996 – The CCTC appointed a State Task Force, chaired by Mike McKibbinAo respond to SCR 31. CDEA members Toni Marich, Jo Ness and Albirda Rose served on the task force that met for the first time in Ontario, April 11, 1996. CCTC representatives developed a working draft of a survey targeted for school district personnel, teachers and members of arts education organizations. CDEA membership labels were mailed to the CCTC. Judy Alter and Jo Ness provided thoughtful feedback to the CCTC on the development of the survey.

1997 – The CCTC reported on the results of its survey, which did not support single subject credentials for dance and theatre (based on perceived employment needs by school administrators). The design of the survey and the results remain unclear to dance educators. The CCTC also reported that it is unrealistic for dance and theatre educators to expect the awarding of single subject credentials due to the fact that credentials must be accompanied by a state exam (Praxis), which would cost approximately $300,000 to develop.

1998 – The Year of the Arts in Education Linda Bond, Director, Governmental Relations for the CCTC, supported appropriating $300,000 to cover the cost of developing Praxis exams for dance and theatre. Assembly Member Susan Davis, San Diego, submitted the following legislation: AB 1024 (Davis) Credentialing and Curriculum: Dance and Theatre. In August, this-bill was amended to exclude single subject credentials for dance and theatre. In its final draft (September 1998), it was not signed by Governor Wilson.

1999 – The Year of Education Reform in California: In January 1999, formal letters were sent to Governor Gray Davis from LACAE, all state arts education organizations, and CAHPERD. The purpose of the letters was to offer professional expertise to the Governor as he embarked on overseeing education reform in California. Assembly Member Susan Davis authored AB 752 (Davis) – Credentialing and Curriculum: Dance and Theatre.- This bill was originally written to issue a single subject credential in dance and a single subject credential in theatre. A Dance Think Tank was formed to study AB 752 and plan proactively for a possible amendment. Sensing a lack of support from Governor Gray Davis, AB 752 was amended to delete both single subject credentials and add two or three primary subject areas to the choices available to aspiring dance and theatre teachers. In its amended form, and due to a lack of support from the California Teachers Association, AB 752 was vetoed by Governor Davis.

2003 – CDEA formed a Steering Committee to develop a Pedagogical Competency Certification Process.

2007 – CDEA developed Strategies for Obtaining a Credential in Dance and Theatre.

The period from 2008 to 2015 reflects similar efforts, ongoing and tireless including a big push in 2009 and 2013. Current CDEA co-president Kristin Kusanovich notes “I think it is very safe to say that CDEA has regularly taken a stance in advocating for the credential, whether it was a small committee or a large active membership campaign for letters, the history of the organization shows a constant concern for the issue and periods of active leadership with regard to solving the dance and theatre credential issue..” Kusanovich shares that this is one of those times in history where CDEA’s leadership and membership is very involved in an educational campaign around the Senate Bill 916 that represents what dance and theatre education needs in the state of California succinctly and clearly. “We feel hopeful that even people who have traditionally been against additional credentials, when they are educated about this, can come around, and realize that in some way this could be considered a 'fix it' piece of legislation for a situation that, unfortunately, many have gotten used to and has become normalized.”

Fast forward to 2016. According the California Alliance for Arts Education website, “A convergence of state and national circumstances opens a window of opportunity since the 1970s to make real progress in reinstating single subject dance and theatre credentials.”

When I asked Joe Landon, CAAE Executive Director to specify some of these circumstances he said, “As the arts increasingly gain traction nationally as a clear component of a well-rounded education, and specifically in California as we see how directly components of arts education address the eight priorities of the “Local Control Funding Formula”, it heightens the inequality of a statewide system which validates music and visual arts as disciplines worthy of teaching credentials, yet considers dance a subset of physical education and theatre a component of an English credential. SB 916 (Allen) has given advocates of arts education an opportunity to create a “roar” that will hopefully resonate from the halls of the legislature to the Governor’s desk and restore dance and theatre credentials in California.”

Kudos to co-president Jessy Kronenberg and Kristin Kusanovich and their executive board who, since January 2016 have put out weekly advocacy briefs leading CDEA’s members through the intricate steps of active advocacy, worked with the 4ArtsEdOrgs to communicate and coordinate (CETA, CATE, CAAE), given public lectures, participated in webinars, helped get school board resolutions in favor of SB916 passed and reached out to the particular committee members hearing the bill next in the California Senate. That said, we should not forget that this most recent attempt at gaining back the credential is built on the shoulders of past CDEA presidents and board members such as those listed in the above history and this current decade’s leaders of CDEA especially Nancy Ng, Shana Habel, Danae Rees, Beth McGill, Ted Warburton, Judy Alter, Leah Bass-Bayliss, Cecelia Beam, Diana Cummins, Susan Cambigue-Tracey, Jo Ness, Patricia Reedy, Paige Santos, Judy Scalin and please forgive me, I am sure there are many, many more that I have failed to mention! It is also fair to say the CDEA has been joined over the years by partner organizations: CETA, CAAE, CPTA, Create CA, TCAP, CDE, CAHPERD and of course NDEO.

Though the outcome of SB916 is still unknown and though it faces a long and challenging road to passage, it is good to see momentum in the right direction. The moral of this blog is you should never give up! Advocacy requires persistence, grit and courage. The CA credential story is evidence of this!

For more information about the CDEA advocacy efforts go to:

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