Reflections – Another Way to Celebrate the A in STEAM

by California State PTA Arts Education Committee

An A in the classroom is still the best grade. And we know putting the A in STEM, making it STEAM, is the right decision for all students. When schools include the arts as an integral part of their curriculum, they encourage students to be creative and find innovative solutions to real-world problems. Students learn to not be afraid of a blank canvas as they discover the world and become the leaders of tomorrow. PTA is committed to arts education and continuing to support art programs that bring families and children together.

PTA Reflections Art Program Happening Now In California

One way PTA can prioritize art  for educators, families, and students is through the Reflections Arts Program. Reflections exemplifies PTAs long-standing commitment to arts education. The Reflections Program provides opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, which boosts students’ confidence and success in the arts and in life.

In schools throughout the country, local PTAs are promoting and celebrating PTA Reflections, collecting entries from students, and planning Reflections programs. Full information and “how-to”s for local leaders are available on the California State PTA Leaders Website. We look forward to the art that will be performed, photographed, and created from the 2022-2023 theme “Show Your Voice.” 

Seeing how students express themselves through art is not only inspiring: it’s a conversation starter that can draw attention to arts education. We see this with the Reflections program as California students participate year after year. Most recently, California brought home many awards for the 2021-2022 Reflections theme “I Will Change the World By…”

Student PTA Reflections Themes Submission Open Now

Each year, the Reflections theme is chosen from student submissions. Suggestions for the 2024-2025 Reflections theme are currently being accepted, and more information is available on the California State PTA website.  

Student-created themes follow a long tradition, as does the Reflections program as a whole. Reflections was founded by Mary Lou Anderson, a National PTA Board Member and former Colorado State PTA President. The first theme, in 1969, was “Children and Youth, Mirror their World…” The PTA Reflections Program has since grown to include thousands of participants each year. Students today compete in six arts categories, including dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. Entries are divided by grade level and there is a division for Special Artists with  learning differences.

PTA Arts Advocacy Continues With Support of Proposition 28

California State PTA has long encouraged its local leaders and members to work with their school districts to improve arts programs. We provide a wealth of information and resources to support that local advocacy. 

Our advocacy advice goes further this year. California State PTA is urging support of Proposition 28 on the November 8 state ballot. We are also encouraging our local PTAs to campaign for the measure in their communities. California State PTA has strongly and actively advocated for a full curriculum that includes the arts for more than three decades. Based on that history, a study of the measure, and the strength of relevant organizational authorities, our Board of Managers voted to support Proposition 28.

The passage of Proposition 28 is expected to generate more than $900 million a year in dedicated new funding for arts and music education for all public schools across California – without raising taxes. 

Keep the Conversation Going in Your Community

Generate excitement and bring PTA Reflections and other arts education programs to your schools and communities. We encourage PTAs in California to continue advocating for the arts through election day, throughout the school year and beyond.

Take a moment and share what art means to you, as well as what is happening at your school, by sending the California State PTA Arts Committee a note at 

California State PTA Supports Prop 28: Art & Music in Public Schools

by California State PTA Legislation Team

For almost thirty five years, California State PTA has strongly and actively advocated for a full curriculum that includes the arts. Arts education supports all kids. In the past, many schools have cut arts education even though studies show that the arts keep students in school, increase the graduation rate, increase academic performance, and add to students’ ability to create, collaborate, think critically, and communicate.

Based on our long standing advocacy in this area,  a study of the measure, and the strength of relevant organizational authorities, our Board of Managers voted to support Proposition 28.  California State PTA is formally supporting and actively advocating for Proposition 28 – the Art and Music in Public Schools Measure. The measure is on the ballot of California’s statewide election on November 8.

How Proposition 28 Supports Arts Education

The passage of Proposition 28 is expected to generate more than $900 million a year in dedicated new funding for arts and music education for all public schools across California – without raising taxes. The measure provides extra funding for schools serving students in low-income communities, who are predominantly students of color, thus addressing current inequities in students’ access to arts and music education. This funding would be in addition to the state’s Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee. 

The majority of the funding is to be used to hire new teachers and staff (80 percent). That represents about a 50 percent increase in arts and music educators in classrooms in California. Besides traditional Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) programs, funds will be used to pay for instruction in computer graphics, animation, coding, and costume design. The measure helps address cuts to arts education which have occurred in many California school districts. 

The initiative also includes strong accountability and transparency measures. It requires school districts to submit annual, public reports to verify the funds are spent as intended, to directly benefit students.

Local PTAs Can Use Their Organizational Voice to Lend Support

When there is an officially adopted California State PTA position on a ballot measure, such as Proposition 28, local PTAs can use that as their authority for their own local advocacy. Many PTAs in California already actively advocate for arts education, for equity, and for strong education funding. This measure has all three!

Local PTAs can use your regular local meetings, social media channels, newsletters and other communications platforms to encourage your community to Vote Yes on Proposition 28. California State PTA will also be putting together social media messages for your convenience. 

Remind families (and students!) to register to vote. And don’t forget to encourage everyone to vote in the November 8 election.

Individual action and advocacy is also important. The official Yes on Prop 28 campaign website encourages individuals to join the campaign and has a sign-up for volunteers.

A Wealth of Education and Arts Organizations Support Proposition 28.

California State PTA is not alone in supporting Proposition 28. A growing list of organizations in the Arts, Education, and many other fields have signed on to the coalition. You’ll find the full coalition list on the campaign website.

Social and Emotional Learning and the Arts

By California State PTA Arts Education Committee and Health & Community Concerns Commission 

There is no question that an emphasis on the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the educational environment has grown exponentially. SEL has been an emerging educational priority over the past several years, as school leaders confronted the ever-increasing signs of stress and trauma our students are experiencing.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

 SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.

Well documented is the alarming rise in teen suicides (which are now appearing in our middle schools and high schools), social media shaming, ghosting, peer pressure, and school shootings. These have all contributed to what is clearly a mental health crisis in our schools and society. All of this was occurring pre-COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues by causing youth to miss milestones (graduations, concerts, proms, trips, sports activities, travel) and has impacted the ability to look ahead regarding career aspirations and finding a successful pathway to their passion in life. 

How can the arts help?

A recent report from the University of Chicago and Ingenuity entitled Arts Education and Social-Emotional Learning Outcomes Among K-12 Students noted that much of this can be understood by considering the framework of how students learn.

  • The way children and youth develop competencies, beliefs, and behaviors is through developmental experiences — opportunities to act in the world and reflect on their experiences; and,
  • Experiences are most influential in shaping the course of development when they take place within the context of strong, supportive, and sustained developmental relationships with important adults and peers.

Developmental relationships and developmental experiences form the bedrock of SEL for students. The key is whether or not these experiences are positive ones!

The researchers identified 10 developmental experiences that were particularly powerful contributors to youth learning and development, including the development of social-emotional competencies. These include five action experiences (encountering, tinkering, choosing, practicing, and contributing) and five reflection experiences (describing, evaluating, connecting, envisioning, and integrating). Evidence from a range of disciplines suggests that the more students have the opportunities to engage in these types of experiences, the more developmentally healthy and successful they will be.

The connection to arts education is clear  because the arts are social. Look at our arts classrooms to see the social interactions between students and the decisions each student makes in the course of being  part of a group. The arts, by their very nature, are also emotional. One cannot look at a work of art or hear a piece of music without feeling something.

 What can we do?

For SEL to be effective, it must be embedded, intentional, and sustained within the curriculum. How do we intentionally embed SEL to the work in our arts classrooms to make meaningful connections? We can begin with The Arts Education & Social and Emotional Learning Framework.

By connecting the new Arts Learning Standards to the SEL Competencies, along with examples of effective strategies —arts educators and administrators will have a road map they may use to aid in the SEL integration process—and our students, schools, and communities will be better for it. Opportunities to develop literacy and fluency in the arts have always been an important dimension of education. Now more than ever, these opportunities are essential to the well-being of our students.  California State PTA has partnered with Create CA, an organization dedicated to advocating for high quality arts education for all students by providing policy expertise and by mobilizing a statewide network of advocates and allied partners. Learn more by downloading  this flier to help you continue or even start your arts advocacy journey.

Parents, guardians, and caregivers partnering with our music and arts educators are the secret weapon to implementing social-emotional learning in our schools, and arts education is the super power to once again connect our students to our schools and provide a pathway to express themselves in this post-COVID world of education.

 This article borrows heavily from:

Robert B. Morrison’s article- Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning: A Secret Weapon for Our Students.

Additional Resources:

Webinar: Steps to Take Action as an Arts Education Advocate

Join this informative webinar and discover how you can take action as an arts education advocate for students!

  • Learn about the role of parents, students and community members to serve as advocates and to convince decision makers about the value of arts education.
  • Walk away with ready-to-use tools from Create CA, CA PTA, Arts for LA and Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area that will support you in advocating for a creative education for all students in your district.

Happening on February 3rd at 6:00pm, REGISTER HERE

March 31st is National Crayon Day

Take some time with the family today to celebrate both National Crayon Day and the end of Arts Education Month. Our Communications Commission created these coloring sheets that highlight PTA’s advocacy efforts over the years — enjoy coloring them with the family or your PTA unit.

PDF version                         PDF version                  PDF version                  PDF version                 PDF version                PDF version


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New Arts Education Data Released

Every student has the right to a dynamic, creative education, and California Education Code requires it. Yet 88 percent of California schools are failing to meet this standard. This. Must. Change. That’s why California State PTA joined forces with Create CA to launch one of the most impactful public will campaigns for the arts in recent history demanding arts education for all students.

Simply put – arts education should not be optional.

This week, the 2017-2018 arts education data was released and you can see it here:

The good news is that over the past five years there has been positive growth in delivering arts education to students. The bad news is that it will take 45 years for half of California’s middle and high school students to receive the education they are legally entitled to.

California State PTA’s Arts Education Committee Chair Erin Jenks sat down to take a look at how her school district measures up.Here’s what she had to say about the data in her community.

“I am fortunate enough to live in North Orange County, where we have relatively good schools. I have five children and eleven grandchildren and have been a member and serving in PTA for over 25 years. I have been a school district employee for 23 years; first as an instructional assistant and now as a library media tech (I run a high school library at an alternative high school). Between being a mom with all of the fun things that go with that (car-pools, team mom, team dinners etc), I have also had the good fortune to work with kids in my employment. That’s why I continue to serve in PTA – kids matter!

When I was in sixth grade, Fridays were dance days. I remember that everyone loved those Fridays – even the boys. And although Friday was always test day, no one missed because it was dance day. One Friday, the class was being particularly rambunctious and the teacher said she would cancel afternoon dance if we did not settle down.  Needless to say, no one believed her, until she told us no dancing today. I still remember all these years later that collective groan and a palpable feeling of disappointment permeated the entire class room and every student in the classroom was quiet for the remainder of the day.

When I reviewed the Data Project and I looked at the statistics for the school district I grew up in as well as the one that I work at and where my children attended school, I experienced that same feeling of disappointment that I did when that Friday dance class was cancelled. Imagine my consternation that things are not better since my Friday dance days, but are actually worse.

At the school where I work only 34% of students are enrolled in art – visual art 17%, 17% other. There is no dance, no music, no theater. Every day these students struggle towards graduation. Knowing that kids who receive arts education are five times more likely to graduate and that there is inequity in who receives a quality arts education, I am saddened to see that not just my district but so many others have not placed the value an arts education that should be a priority.

Arts matter – dancing, acting, singing, videos, poetry – what makes our souls sing, what makes everything better and easier – the arts.

CreateCA How To Navigate the Data from linda on Vimeo.

Take a closer look at the data for your school district to see how it compares. Share your response with us at and with your PTA network and School Board.

Together, we must spark a movement with the public, parents, educators, artists and policy makers to demand a comprehensive, sequential arts curriculum for all children in grades K-12. If you haven’t yet, join California’s movement for arts education. Sign up at