Elevator Chat: Lori Snyder, Executive Director Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance
During her teaching career, Lori Snyder received national and local awards, including the Maryland Art Educator of the Year in 2011 by the National Art Education Association. Snyder was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Performing & Visual Arts (PVA) Magnet Programs in Anne Arundel County Public Schools. She served as Senior Manager of the PVA Magnet Programs. Before becoming Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS) executive director on November 2, 2015, she was a principal partner with AEMS for many years.
AEMS spearheaded work to establish a statewide approach to increasing students' access to quality arts education. Through the Governor's P-20 Leadership Council Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools, which AEMS co-chaired, staffed, and published the final report; the entire state now has a guide for coherent and consistent action to bring equity, quality, and access to arts education benefiting all Maryland students.
MSAC: You are coming up on six months (in May) as the executive director of AEMS. What are the most surprising and challenging parts of your position since you took over in November 2015?
LS: I have known of the great work of AEMS for many years, but what was surprising to me was the incredible board of trustees who are actively involved in promoting the mission and vision of AEMS. The challenging part of the position is advocating for equitable access to arts education for all students across the state. Maryland has some of the best arts education programs in our country. Yet, there are still some schools – many in our lower income neighborhoods – that do not offer courses in the arts.
MSAC: Has there been a shift in the Maryland educational system, in regards to using the arts as a creative outlet and teaching tool for students since the P-20 Task Force made its recommendations? Please explain.
LS: Yes, I am thrilled to share that each of the ten recommendations from the P-20 Task Force report are being addressed including the implementation of a statewide fine arts data collection system, revisions to the Maryland State standards for fine arts and changes to the Code of Maryland Regulations of fine arts education. Additionally, many districts are embracing and expanding arts integration strategies as a sustaining practice that transforms students’ performance in schools both artistically and academically.
MSAC: In 2015, President Barack Obama signed S.1177 Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This bipartisan bill supports the principle of educating the "whole child." This act gives more autonomy to local school districts to incorporate arts into their curricula. How will AEMS facilitate this conversion in Maryland schools?
LS: The enactment of ESSA puts arts instruction and the use of arts integration strategies at the center to teach the “whole child” and reach all students. AEMS will continue to provide technical assistance to local school systems and schools concerning program design, professional development, and advocacy. Currently, changes have been made to Maryland Artistry in Teaching Institute (MATI), which will expand to reach both art educators and teachers across the state providing professional development in the arts and arts integration. In addition, the Teaching Artist Institute will provide training for community artists who will work with students and teachers in schools across the state.
MSAC: With state support of the P20, and national support through the ESSA, what is your vision on how these policies will affect Maryland students?
LS: My vision is that arts instruction and arts integration will be at the core of education reform in Maryland Public Schools so that every student in grades Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade will be provided art instruction in all of the art disciplines: dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts each year.
In addition, students in middle school will have art instruction that allows them to concentrate on one or more particular arts disciplines each year. Every high school student will graduate career and/or college ready having received instruction in one or more arts disciplines that has made them collaborative, innovative and creative future leaders of our country.
MSAC: What are your goals for AEMS future?
LS: I believe that arts education and access to the arts is a universal human right. The arts are essential not only to ensure the quality of life but moreover to ensure the advancement our society. My goal is for AEMS to continue the work to ensure that high-quality arts education and programs will be available to all children in Maryland no matter their geographic or socioeconomic place in our state. And, that AEMS serves as the lead arts advocate to make certain that all of the arts: dance, music, media arts, theater, and visual arts are supported at the local, state and national level for future generations to come.