One of the important education policy topics at the national level is the diversity of our nation. It seems obvious that we are diverse, but the way in which policy is made can confuse the way in which our demographics are not represented in our policies. From the need to identify, represent and include, diversity challenges us to look at who we are and what we stand for. Our policies help to reflect back to us our opinions, our agreements and the work we still need to accomplish in setting good educational policy.
In arts education research we talk about priority populations that mean, for example, students who are at risk for language, poverty or achievement. But there is a greater need to draw a bigger circle. If one gets down to understanding that probably every student is at risk for challenges to their learning, perhaps we should draw a bigger circle of defining priority populations as inclusive of many more students?
I think teachers are already in this thinking space in their classroom instruction. They already take into a account how kids learn, why they might be stuck and they account for how to help move students along in order for them achieve standards level work. So what is it about teachers in the arts, and teachers more generally, that makes them good assessors of students at risk? I think teachers have a more comprehensive set of understandings and a more diagnostic set of teaching skill sets that help them see why students struggle. We could all benefit from learning how teachers do this.
Perhaps we should help teachers lead us all in this important discussion about policy-making for priority populations?