Measuring Creativity and Innovation in California Schools


By Laurie Schell and Joe Landon, California Alliance for Arts Education

Last week Senator Curren Price introduced Senate Bill 789, sponsored by the California Alliance for Arts Education, which will establish an Advisory Council charged with crafting a creative and innovative education index for schools. The index would provide schools and districts throughout California with an opportunity to share evidence of how they are cultivating creativity and innovation as part of a comprehensive education.

What is a Creativity and Innovation Index?
A creativity and innovation index would provide a way for schools to rate their progress in teaching, encouraging and fostering creativity in students. Index scores would be voluntarily compiled by school and district staff from a survey of curricula and teacher reports. It would quantify the opportunities in each school as measured by the availability of classes and before and after-school programs offered by and through school districts that nurture creativity and innovation in students. Examples might include visual and performing arts education classes, debate clubs, science fairs, theatre and dance performances, music concerts, film-making, creative writing, and independent research.

The scores of individual schools and districts would be published, establishing incentives for schools to promote an overall environment that fosters creativity and innovation through visual and performing arts, science, humanities and other educational opportunities. Public evidence of a school’s active commitment to developing the full potential of its students would benefit schools in building partnerships with both parents and the broader community.

Why Do We Need One?
Standardized tests use assessments of student learning to provide one measure of school achievement. But, because the tests are the only public measure of school success and are attached to high stakes accountability measures, schools have an incentive to “teach to the test” and to ignore the broader spectrum of accountability measures that examine what it means to provide a complete education for the whole child. Those narrow test-related expectations fail to encompass the responsibility our public schools have to prepare students to meet the challenges and expectations of the workforce of the 21st century. As we have moved into an economy driven by ideas and innovation, our schools must respond by providing all our students with the opportunity to develop creative skills.

According to recent findings of a broad coalition of researchers, 81 percent of corporate leaders in America believe that “creativity is an essential skill for the 21st-century workforce.” In addition to creativity, these business leaders look for such skills as “collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and oral communication.” (Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management.)

Further, researchers at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University have identified the conditions that are needed for creative work. They include collaboration, cross-cultural exchange, interdisciplinary exchange, time and resources, and tolerating failure.  It would indeed be exciting to bring together educators and business leaders across sectors to develop a set of indicators to determine the presence of creativity and innovation in our schools.

This analysis aligns with recent statements by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who commented that: “The arts are a critical component of a complete education, providing an opportunity to see and think in new ways and to innovate.”  Last year, Massachusetts passed legislation to establish a creativity index and related legislative efforts are under consideration in other states across the country.

As we seek to build a future where both the entertainment and technology industries continue to thrive in California, an essential component of that mission is our investment in the human capacity for imagination, creativity and innovation that drives those industries. To that end, an “Index of Creative and Innovative Education” will demonstrate California’s commitment to lead and to raise the bar in preparing its students to meet the needs of the industries that are so vital to the success of California’s creative economy.

Want to support SB 789 and other efforts to provide California students with quality arts education? Join our Action Alert List.

Update: Right now SB 789 is on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s suspense calendar. If your Senator sits on this committee, you can send a message urging them to creativity in our schools and move the bill to the Senate floor.

2 Responses to “Measuring Creativity and Innovation in California Schools”

  1. Robert Csech Says:

    To win the future, we learn from the past! In 1903, a Russian, immigrant couple, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Morris and Rose Michtom invented the first Teddy Bear made in honor of then President Theodore Roosevelt. TR was known as the first President who smiled! The Michtom’s used their immagination and creativity to design their first Teddy with the President’s smile, along with using the President’s first name, Teddy! This was an overnight success. It is said that the Michtom’s tamed the beast because before this time, toy animals were made to look like the real thing. The world needed the exitement, this new Teddy gave them, the Michtom’s created using their immagination, the frenzy began! The Michtom’s were true innovators of their time, creating such an Americon Icon, the Teddy Bear! This first Teddy was trully a work of art!

  2. John M. Eger: Measuring Creativity in California and the Nation | Says:

    […] the "climate for creativity". While offering no solutions, Laurie Schell and Joe Landon, of the California Alliance for Arts Education make it clear that a "creativity and innovation index would provide a way for schools to rate their […]

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