Friday, August 2, 2013

Keast to Run for State Representative

Kristi Keast--ISEA Executive Board Member and ISEA/NEA Fine Arts Caucus Member--Announces Her Candidacy for the Iowa House of Representatives 

Mt. Vernon, Iowa - Kristi Keast of Mt. Vernon announced today she will run for the Iowa House in District 95, which includes part of Buchanan County and most of Linn County except Cedar Rapids and Marion.

"It's time for us to build an economy that works for the middle class. As an educator, I've spent my life working with kids to build our skilled workforce and prepare them for the jobs of the 21st Century. We must do more to help each child be successful," said Keast, a Democrat.

Keast is a music teacher at Washington Elementary School in Mt. Vernon and has been in the classroom for nearly 30 years, serving in both public and parochial schools. She graduated from Westmar College in Le Mars and earned her Masters in music education from the University of Iowa. She achieved National Board certification in 2005 and has helped train candidates working to earn their own certification.

 "It's time for new leadership in the Iowa House. We need to put aside the divisive issues and work together to move our state forward. I look forward to meeting folks at their doorstep and listening to their ideas for Iowa," added Keast. Keast grew up in Southwest Iowa active in 4-H and then served as a leader and project leader when her own kids were in Linn County 4-H.

Her family still farms the same land, including her grandfather's land. She is an active member of the Mt. Vernon Education Association and has served as President of the East Central Uniserv Unit and is presently on the ISEA Executive Board helping support local educators.

 Keast is an active member of First United Methodist Church, serving as a church musician, singing in two groups, performing piano, and directing bells and youth choir. She also participates in the Mt. Vernon Community Band and has worked in community theatre. Keast is a member of the Entre Nous book club and PEO. Keast has three grown children and four grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Professional Educator's Creed

Join other educators across this country and stand up for our profession by signing on to the Profession Educator's Creed at

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


GREAT NEWS!  We won!  I just received an email from Dennis Van Roekel and the Jobs Bill passed.  Thanks to everyone of you who helped us win for students, teachers, schools and our country.  Here's the scoop from Dennis.

Dear Delegates,

You did it! Just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed $10 billion in education jobs funding that the U.S. Department of Education estimates will save 161,000 jobs in public schools across the country.

This funding, which was approved by the Senate last week, will be signed into law by Pres. Obama, and will help many schools throughout the country decrease class sizes and restore critical programs our students need to be successful.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Right Brain Project: An Arts Initiative

Arts Advocacy as a Double-Edged Sword

Guest Blogger Jane Remer: Arts Advocacy as a Double-Edged Sword
In today's entry for her recurring guest blog, titled CliffNotes, Jane Remer tackles arts education advocacy. Never one to mince words, Jane gives us all lots to think about.

As I have said for years, the arts education community is not a true "field," as it is riddled with great diversity of philosophy, purpose, method, content and ways of accountability. Arguing or advocating for financial and other support can be a tricky business because different "camps" make different claims, and it is often difficult to know what "outcomes" arts groups are campaigning for. As I see it, there are three major (often overlapping) positions when it comes to persuading, begging and bragging for financial support and recognition:

• The Human Intelligence and Development approach - Teaching and Learning, "we believe the arts are essential to every child's cognitive, affective, social and physical growth and belong in the core of the curriculum alongside math, literacy, science, and social studies," folk,

• The Moral Imperative approach - Enrichment and Exposure, "we believe every child deserves regular exposure to all the arts to enrich the quality of their lives and the culture of their communities, ... and to build future audiences," folk, and

• The Utilitarian Cake and Eat It approach - "Arts Integration, "we believe the arts are important vehicles and provide pathways for learning other subjects, skills, and concepts and should be woven into the curriculum to help teach math, literature, science, etc. folk. (Note: this definition is often tempered in writing with the caveat that the art form will receive equal treatment and attention, but in classroom actuality, time runs out and the study, skills and understanding of the art forms are more often than not forgotten or neglected.)

The Arts Effect

Why Schools With Arts Programs Do Better At Narrowing Achievement Gaps
By Sandra S. Ruppert
from Education Week

Most Americans agree with President Barack Obama’s assessment that a “complete and competitive education for the 21st century” means all students will need some form of education or training beyond high school. That’s why college and career readiness for all by 2020 is his administration’s top education goal.

Yet while we recognize that higher levels of educational attainment will open doors to a better life for students, we haven’t been able to keep an estimated 7,000 of them each day from heading quietly for the exits before they’ve had even a chance to earn a high school diploma.

Fewer than seven in 10 students in this country graduate from high school on time, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Education. For students of color and those living in poverty or residing in large urban areas, the odds of on-time graduation are even slimmer. Barely half (51 percent) of African-American students successfully complete high school, while only 55 percent of Hispanics do.

For many of the 1.3 million young people who leave high school each year without a diploma, the path that eventually leads to this educational dead end begins in middle school. The National Assessment of Educational Progress—often referred to as “the nation’s report card”—provides a snapshot of student achievement in various subject areas at crucial transition points, including 8th grade. In June 2009, the results of the 2008 NAEP arts assessment in music and visual arts were released; it was the first NAEP arts assessment conducted since 1997.

Those 2008 results tell a disappointing, but incomplete, story of 8th grade student achievement in the arts. In music, for example, 8th graders had just a 50-50 chance on average of being able to identify the correct response on any of the multiple-choice questions. In visual arts, 8th graders on average were able to identify the correct answer only 42 percent of the time. As troubling as the overall lackluster performance were the significant disparities in achievement based on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, gender, and type and location of schools.

Does it really matter if the performance of 8th grade students on the NAEP arts assessments is mediocre at best, or that significant achievement gaps based on socioeconomics and other characteristics continue to persist? It matters only if we as a nation are truly serious about reaching the president’s goal of preparing all K-12 students by 2020 to succeed in school, work, and life.

Arts learning experiences play a vital role in developing students’ capacities for critical thinking, creativity, imagination, and innovation. These capacities are increasingly recognized as core skills and competencies all students need as part of a high-quality and complete 21st-century education. And, as a matter of social justice, we must be concerned when students are denied access to a high-quality education—one that includes learning in and through the arts—simply because of where they live or go to school.

Eighth grade is a crucial turning point for students as they prepare to make the transition from middle school to high school. By 9th grade, researchers can predict with a high degree of accuracy which students are most at risk of dropping out of school, based on three factors: absenteeism, behavioral problems, and course failure.

We know the arts can make a difference in the academic lives of 8th graders. A decade ago, the Arts Education Partnership published groundbreaking research that compared 8th graders who were highly involved in the arts with those who had little or no involvement, and found consistently better outcomes for the highly involved students: better grades, less likelihood of dropping out by grade 10, and more positive attitudes about school. The study also showed that the benefits of high levels of arts participation can make more of a difference for economically disadvantaged students.

Here are five strategies, drawn from the NAEP results, that can help arts education leaders, policymakers, and educators improve performance in the arts and narrow achievement gaps.

Ensure equal access to arts education. Not surprisingly, 8th graders who attend schools where visual arts instruction is offered at least once a week perform better than 8th graders who attend schools where the visual arts are not taught. The same is true for music education. Yet based on projections contained in the NAEP results, more than half a million 8th graders attend the 14 percent of schools where no visual arts classes are offered. More than 300,000 8th grade students attend the 8 percent of schools where no music classes are offered.

Raise levels of participation in arts coursetaking. Even in schools where the arts are offered, actual rates of student participation can be low. For example, one-third of schools estimate that no more than 20 percent of their students received any music instruction in 2008. Fewer than half of 8th graders reported taking a visual arts course in 2008.

Build interest in and demand for the arts in the early grades. Multiple factors can account for mediocre performance and low levels of participation in the arts, but one plausible explanation is that we are seeing the effects of the reduction or elimination of elementary school arts programs, which help build interest in and demand for arts courses in middle school. It may also be a contributing factor in 8th graders’ low self-assessments of their skills: Only 24 percent think they have a talent for visual arts, while just 36 percent think they do for music.

Focus on what works in improving student achievement in the arts. Based on the NAEP results, 8th graders perform at consistently higher levels when they attend schools where any of these conditions exist: (1) a state or district curriculum is in place; (2) classes are taught by a full-time or part-time arts specialist; and (3) classes are located in a designated and adequately equipped space.

Level the playing field to help close the arts education achievement gap. Minority students and those from low-income households have less access to instruction and are less likely to attend schools that have a state or district curriculum. They are less likely to receive instruction from a full-time or part-time arts specialist, or to take field trips or have visiting artists in their schools. Put simply, we provide students who are likely to benefit from arts instruction most with the least of everything.

NAEP’s next arts assessment is scheduled for 2016. The 8th graders who participate in it will be part of the high school graduating class of 2020—the first class in which we can measure whether we have met the ambitious goal of ensuring that all K-12 students are prepared to succeed in college and the workforce.

If we are to meet such a goal, we must take seriously our commitment to close achievement gaps and keep all students on the path to high school graduation and beyond. Arts learning opportunities—both as stand-alone classes and integrated with other subjects—must play an integral role in providing them with the complete education they need to succeed. Let’s hope we see the results of our efforts in 2016.

Sandra S. Ruppert is the director of the Arts Education Partnership, a national coalition of more than 100 arts, education, government, and philanthropic organizations advocating for an increased role for the arts in schools.

Iowa Alliance for the Arts Publishes Survey

This intersting survey charts the responses of educators from throughout the state when it comes to an education in the arts.  The questions, answers, percenetages are insightful.  Check out this information.  Thanks to the Iowa Alliance for the Arts.  CLICK THE TITLE of this post and you will be redirected to the Alliance's survey.