In its quartly journal, Teaching Theatre, the Educational Theatre Association asked various arts education advocates and theater educators, “What is the most important issue facing K-12 theater education in the next five years?” This question was posed in the spring of 2001, which means we are well beyond that five year benchmark. While there is no scientific way to determine which issue is the most important to arts education, the issues that the respondents brought up span a wide range.
Education Theater Association’s own Executive Director, Michael Peitz, identified an important goal of “Getting those in local, district and state decision-making positions to understand the broad value of theatre education.” This is an undeniably vital part of the arts education advocacy movement. Countless results and reports are out there that support the positive correlation between theatre engagement and academic achivement but these reports need to get into the hands of those with the power to actually change policy. More than that, as Peitz points out, we have to commit to creating ways of measuring the applicability of theater skills to the workplace such as creative thinking, working collaboratively, problem solving, a stronger emotional understanding, and the ability to see things from another point of view. All of these skills are much more difficult to measure, but if we can find a way to demonstrate the effect that theatre involvement can lead to these results.
In addition to policy changes, another important step for theatre education is to develop more creative and variable training and certification programs for theatre teachers. Maureen Johnson, an upper school theatre teacher in Ohio, has specifically identified the responsibility that veteran teachers have to novice teachers with the arts being such a flexible and constantly changing curricular area. There is already a collaborative sharing of ideas among theatre teachers, but a training program that would bring them together in a more formalized setting would help keep teachers at a level of confidence that is necessary to their effectiveness in the classroom.