Entertainers bring music, visual arts, dance or theater back to schools In this March 8, 2016 photo, teacher Steve Shin, left, instructs a group of students singing during a music class at Stevenson Middle School in East Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Christine Armario)
Entertainers bring music, visual arts, dance or theater back to schools
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Miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the red carpet, Steve Shin belts out tunes on a piano scarred with nicks and love notes written in scratches. He is teaching children how to sing.
 
In scores of other middle schools, his students might have already learned how to read the notes on a scale. But years of cuts have stripped arts classes from much of the Los Angeles district. That left many children in the world's entertainment capital with no instruction in music, visual arts, dance or theater.
 
When Shin arrived for the first day of class, he quickly realized many of his students were starting from zero. "A lot of them didn't even know they were going to be in a music class," he said.
 
Now the nation's second-largest school district is trying to enlist Hollywood studios to "adopt" schools. The idea is to provide students with equipment, mentorships and training. It is one way to reverse the layoffs that have decimated the curriculum.
 
The financial picture is slowly changing. The arts budget has grown to $26.5 million. That is about 40 percent higher than five years ago. But it is still a fraction of the $76.8 million sum that was once available for the arts. For the next school year, it will increase to $32.3 million.
 
In 2014, the district hired former TV writer and producer Rory Pullens. He now is the executive director for arts education. He has hired an arts teacher at every school.
 
Pullens is convinced his work in a district that has 90 percent minority students will one day help diversify Hollywood. It has become a widely discussed goal after the criticism of this year's all-white list of Academy Award acting nominees. He has already met with Paramount, Universal and dozens of other industry leaders to solicit help.
 
The renewed push for arts education in LA comes as new federal education policies stir hope that schools will begin shifting more time and money toward classes such as dance and drama. In recent years, districts have focused on areas emphasized by the No Child Left Behind law. That is the 2001 law that required schools to meet annual targets for math and reading proficiency or face intervention.
 
"We do see the pendulum swinging away from the stark focus on discipline and standardized testing toward a more well-rounded definition of what education should be," said Scott Jones. He is senior associate for research and policy at the Arts Education Partnership.
 
Forty-four states require high schools to offer arts classes. Forty-five states make the same requirement for elementary and middle schools. But at many schools, policy doesn't necessarily match up with course offerings.
 
The new federal law instructs schools to offer a balanced education. That includes music and other arts. In Los Angeles, school leaders are hoping a revised funding formula and industry engagement will rectify longstanding inequities in arts education.
 
When Pullens arrived, one of his first initiatives was to survey every school. He wanted to find out what arts programs they had.
 
In a presentation last spring at a Hollywood middle school with an aging auditorium, Pullens outlined the bleak findings. About 45 schools had no arts teachers. Most had no alignment between elementary, middle and high school course offerings. He called on Hollywood executives to pitch in. He hired Alyson Reed, a dancer and actress whose credits include playing Ms. Darbus in "High School Musical," to begin reaching out to industry contacts and coordinating donations.
 
Film and music studios have chipped in to help Los Angeles schools before. But their contributions tended to focus on the schools directly in their backyard.  For instance, Warner Bros. has provided funding to improve auditoriums at Burbank schools. Sony Entertainment Pictures has run career workshops at Culver City schools.
 
But the schools with the biggest needs are in less affluent neighborhoods.
 
Some studio leaders said getting involved with Los Angeles schools was difficult and bureaucratic. Others were simply unaware of the depth of the district's problems, Reed said.
 
Kelly Koskella, president of Hollywood Rentals, will be donating studio equipment ranging from lights to fog machines. Koskella said he was stunned to learn many Los Angeles Unified schools lack even the kind of gear used in public schools in the mid-1970s.
 
"It seemed very strange hearing that our schools here didn't have the type of equipment that we were using 20 and 30 years ago," Koskella said.
 
To date, the Los Angeles district has confirmed partnerships with Nickelodeon, Sunset Bronson Studios and Sunset Gower Studios. Reed said she and Pullens have also had encouraging meetings with many others. They include Disney, Sony and CBS. She hopes more will be announced soon.
 
Most of the donations have not reached students yet. Reed said the district is still assessing how the equipment will be dispersed.
 
Terry Quintero, 12, had never been in a music class before and now dreams of becoming a professional singer like one of her idols, Adele. When she's singing, Terry said, she leaves everything that's troubling her behind.
 
"What matters right now," she said, "is this class."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why would Los Angeles, entertainment's capital, have difficulty providing education about entertainment in its schools?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (64)
  • calis-3-bar
    4/14/2016 - 12:00 a.m.

    Los Angeles may have difficulty providing education of the arts because, although it is the art center of the world, it is also a very large school district. That means that it needs lots of money to supply all of its schools with everything that they need. The state only gives so much money to schools, and donations are needed to do some things that are not considered necessities in schools, such as the arts. SO, private donations are used to provide the arts and equipment for the art classes. I liked this article. I live in LA and am always interested in the programs provided to our schools.

  • genevieveb-6-bar
    4/14/2016 - 01:02 a.m.

    Los Angeles, entertainment's capital, would have difficulty providing education about entertainment in its schools because the culture of Los Angeles centers around entertainment, which results in budget cuts. At the beginning of the article, it claims that,"years of cuts have stripped arts classes from much of the Los Angeles district. That left many children in the world's entertainment capital with no instruction in music, visual arts, dance or theater" (paragraph 2). Due to the close proximity to the arts, Los Angeles probably believes that they do not need to teach their children the arts, therefore causing reduction on staff. Los Angeles probably has some difficulty providing entertainment education at its schools because of nearness to the arts and budget cuts in the schools.

    I found this article intriguing because I remember that our school used to include music and theater programs, but the Hermosa Beach Education Foundation had to reduce the staff due to budget cuts. Unfortunately, this led to the end of the performing arts programs in the Hermosa Beach School System.

  • iguerre45-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:36 a.m.

    They would have difficulty providing education about entertainment in its schools because probably there is not enough money for all the students to join .

  • atukes21-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:38 a.m.

    Los Angeles entertainment's capital would have difficulty providing education about entertainments in its schools because they had left the kids with no instructions in the past. The kids had no idea what was going on and started off with 0's. This means they have a lot of work to do with the kids. All kids have many different kinds of things that entertain them most.

  • mmeola21-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:38 a.m.

    People may not be as committed to the arts as most people would think, especially in the Hollywood area.

  • ndisomm82-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:40 a.m.

    They would have a Problem because the schools are taking all the attention of the people

  • azuniga41-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:41 a.m.

    Yes because you can learn more and in prove more

  • kgonzal05-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:45 a.m.

    They would have trouble because there might not be enough teachers who would teach about entertainment. Everyone in Los Angeles is mostly trying to become famous. Also schools might not be able to afford to hire people.

  • jmiller30-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:46 a.m.

    Los Angeles doesn't have enough teachers to learn about it and the school belives it isn't a need

  • yjimene59-mar
    4/14/2016 - 09:52 a.m.

    Because there's a lack of money and there's to many people.

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