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Opera Education Programming for State and Federal Education Standards
Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink8/18/2008

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Since the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, arts educators from all backgrounds have experienced a reduction in the amount of time spent with their students. In fact, 30% of school districts with at least one identified school — those with students most responsive to the benefits of the arts — have decreased instructional time for art and music, according to Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era from the Center for Education Policy. For those who service the field of education through the arts, this has required some creativity on how to make better and more significant use of their time with students.

While opera educators have taken some interesting steps, a solid approach has been to simply align their programming with state and federal standards. Not only does this help make the case for their interactions with the students, but also has the potential to encourage students to visit the opera house. Julie Green, education and community programs manager at Boston Lyric Opera states, "My philosophy is that the more relevant we can make opera to every aspect of classroom instruction, the better equipped a teacher will be to make his or her case that the students should take a field trip to the performance!"

Education staff of opera companies throughout the country share Green's view on making connections with the classroom. "The Dallas Opera works with Dallas ISD and other school districts, and uses Texas Education Agency standards to align our curriculum with school objectives," says Linda Bedwell, associate director of education at The Dallas Opera. "We enter our standards online for Arts Partners, so that the teachers can see beforehand what our program is about and learn about our lesson plans and the associated Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS)."

Study guides are a simple, tried and true method for educators to use. Many opera companies with educational programming create guides for teachers to use with their students. As these guides focus on student's learning, they have the potential to provide in-depth connections with classroom curriculum. Stuart Holt, education director at Nashville Opera, says, "We prepare a study guide for our touring production that includes curriculum connections and lessons for teachers. All of the lessons are tied to either the state standards or the federal standards." In Nashville Opera's case, the guides connect with the standards for music and arts, language arts, science, math, technology and foreign language.

For information about advocacy for arts education and opera, visit operaamerica.org.

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