Added to Medium, June 21, 2018
Museums continue to find ways to develop the relationships and collaborations with schools whether they are private, public, or homeschool. Even though museums are increasingly being seen as educational resources for school curriculums, education policies in the United States suggest that as museum professionals we need to continue to prove how significant museums are for our schools.
To be able to convince education policy makers the significance of museums, we as museum professionals need to have a better understanding of education policies and keep up to date with current education policies. The Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009: A Brief Synopsis, for instance, provides information about education policies in the United States.
Our education policies constantly change to fulfill our need to improve the quality of education in our nation. Education is a state and local responsibility, and yet the federal role in the schools has grown significantly since the mid-twentieth century, and as a result state-federal interactions in the realm of education policy have become increasingly complex. Both the New Deal and World War II contributed dramatically to the size and the scope of federal activities. In 1944, Congress passed the biggest package of federal aid to education to date: the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights which entitled veterans who had served at least ninety days in the armed forces to a year of secondary, special, adult, or college education, plus an additional month of education for each month in the service, up to a total of 48 months.
When Eisenhower became president, the increase in children during the baby boom had caused school districts to request federal aid to increase the number of classrooms and teachers to accommodate more children enrolling in schools. Since the Eisenhower administration, each incoming president of the United States faced various circumstances that led to them changing education policies to accommodate current economic and educational situations.
For instance, we had the No Child Left Behind during the Bush administration and the Every Student Succeeds Act during the Obama administration. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 supported standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education, and required states to develop assessments in basic skills. According to Julia Kennedy in her article “The Room Where It Happens: How Policy and Perception are at Play in Museum-School Relationships”, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gave incentives for states to adopt academic standards which prepare students to succeed in both college and the workplace, and narrows the government’s role in Elementary and Secondary education.
In the education policies, museums are not mentioned as education resources. While these education policies do not directly affect museums, it is important that museums pay attention to any changes to the policies. Museums and museum groups such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) have kept a close eye on the policy in an effort to become a better partner to the formal education sector. Julia Kennedy pointed out that
Policy remains a large divider between formal and informal educational institutions because: public schools are at the mercy of policy with state and local standards; museums are loosely legislated and not governed as official educational institutions; and museum’s strengths as places of lifelong learning are not considered when discussing educational policy.
Current and past policy reflects the perception that museums are just an extension of the classroom; and before any real, impactful, collaborative effort or long-standing partnerships can happen, the relationship between these two institutions must be examined.
Before we can convince policy makers museums have a ton of potential, we need to get the evidence by strengthening the relationships between museums and schools.
One of the articles that was posted on the American Alliance of Museums was written about how museums can improve the relationship between museums and schools from a teacher’s perspective. There are many complications in planning field trips for both museums and schools; the article described the teachers perspective on the challenges of planning field trips. Meg Davis pointed out it takes time, resources, and local expertise for teachers to plan field trips. To make sure a field trip happens, teachers have to navigate complex websites to find out costs, scheduling protocol and basic logistical details; then afterwards, teachers have to reach out to the organization to schedule the field trip, and that takes additional few days or weeks of back and forth so field trips teachers end up planning are ones that feel easy.
Davis suggested making a few changes to position museums as partners in the future of schools. The changes she suggested in the article were divided into three categories: on the website, in communication, and support students.
On the website, Davis suggested the website should highlight the alignment of each learning experience clearly so the teacher can quickly and easily explain what objective they can achieve through the field trip to their administrators and therefore will have an easier time getting approval. Also, it is important to list logistical information right on the website so teachers will know where the students can eat lunch, use the bathroom, and any offsite places the museum recommends so planning the field trip would be less intimidating. She also revealed that it would be helpful to offer a pre-trip preview so teachers can visit and have the opportunity to plan logistics and objects they want to highlight in advance.
When museums communicate with teachers, museum professionals scheduling field trips should shorten the feedback loop and communicate asynchronously. Davis explained that museum professionals should respond to requests in between 24 and 48 hours and if staff is part-time we should make sure it is indicated when staff is able to schedule field trips so that way teachers would be able to expect a delay and can communicate with their teams accordingly. Also, make sure there is an opportunity to make it easier for teachers to have time to make field trip arrangements since 90 percent of teachers have limited time during the day to answer a call or send an email.
To support students attending the field trips, routines should be facilitated and supplementary materials should be provided to the students. Davis pointed out that “If you have specific routines that teachers and students can follow when they arrive or move through your space, it makes the inherently hectic nature of shepherding 30 students through a new place feel calmer.” Since students are used to routines in the classroom, it will be easier for students to understand there are routines at the museums and to facilitate the visit. Also, if they are not doing so already museums should provide supplementary materials such as pre/post trip materials so students would be prepared with questions before they arrive to the museum. By making various changes and tweaks, museum programs would become more accessible to teachers and the museum-school partnerships will continue to grow and strengthen.
As we continue to advocate for museums and its educational mission, we need to continue to keep in mind what is going on in education policies to strengthen our knowledge of what we can do to better help schools.
What do you think of the educational policies? What is your reaction to the teacher’s perspective of the educational programming in museums?
Meg Davis, Founder, Explorable Places, “Meeting Teachers Where They Are”, https://www.aam-us.org/2018/06/13/meeting-teachers-where-they-are/
Julia Kennedy, “The Room Where It Happens: How Policy and Perception are at Play in Museum-School Relationships”, Museum Scholar Theory and Practice, Vol. 1, June 19, 2018.