Update 1:25 p.m. Wednesday: The state took exception to any assertion that officials aren't aware of Coronado's STEAM program and offered more information Wednesday.
According to Jim Greco, manager of the California Department of Education office responsible for the coordination of such efforts, other areas are getting on board, including districts in Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Orange and San Diego counties. They have have established centers for similar programs.
The department itself is involved in promoting arts education, Greco said, enlisting a consultant who advises on the visual and performing arts. The state also is involved in a number of initiatives, such as Create CA, to return the arts and humanities to the K-12 curriculum.
When the California Arts Council held its in Coronado last month, STEAM was the word.
It came up in breakout workshops. It was chattered about between sessions.
All this brought smiles to Coronado school officials at the conference, because the district adopted , a year ago. Many educators said it has been a model for achieving the goal of injecting more creativity into the classroom.
“There are already special arts classes with credentialed teachers for elementary students, middle school and high school,” Claudia Gallant, the district's director of curriculum said. “All of our principals have been instrumental in coming up with ways to include the arts in the curriculum.”
By the fall of 2012, Gallant hopes to have the STEAM program fully integrated into the classroom.
Coronado still is the only district in San Diego County implementing it, according to Kim Richards of KDR, a company that has been promoting STEAM in San Diego.
“Other schools are doing STEAM work, but not in a formalized manner,” she said. “It is very much cutting edge. There are only a few places around the country where it is being implemented.”
Most observers credit the local forward thinking to the , where Kris McClung, a retired teacher who spent 36 years with the district, acted as founding director.
The California Arts Council selected Coronado for the March 30-31 forum “because of Kris McClung’s success in the establishment, and the ability to grow CoSA,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, a Create CA task force member and director of the Arcata Arts Institute. Her organization was modeled on CoSA.
“CoSA has been a huge influence,” Gallant said.
Having a conservatory, a school within a school, allowed teachers to observe whether arts education enriches learning. “Art has become the model for other classes,” McClung said.
“Art teaches higher thinking skills,” she added. “We need more of that in all subjects. Everyone says that we need to teach our children to think critically, yet we ignore the one thing that teaches them.”
It's overlooked, McClung and other arts advocates argue, because of the focus in the last several years on standardized testing. “Art is hard to grade, to quantify.”
Currently there are efforts to develop metrics to quantify the arts, including the development of an arts index. Gallant thinks the chasm may not be all that great.
Visual Arts and Preforming Arts (VAPA) standards are not that different from Common Core Standards or the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), two accepted measures of academic achievement.
“They all use similar instruments with an unique spin,” Gallant said.
As Coronado moves forward in integrating the arts at all levels, not only San Diego, as Richards noted, but the rest of the state’s educational establishment, appears to be behind the curve.
Though , when contacted about STEAM, officials at the Department of Education had no idea what the program was.