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U.S.EDUCATION > The U.S. Education System > Structure of the U.S Education System > Testimony of Benjamin O. Canada

United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Testimony of Benjamin O. Canada, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Portland Public Schools (Oregon)
On behalf of Americans for the Arts
June 29, 1999

Good morning Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I can tell you that from both my personal experience and my 31 years of professional experience in education - the last decade of which has been as superintendent of schools in Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, Georgia, and now Portland, Oregon ---- arts education is the bedrock for keeping democracy alive in this country today. An arts education stirs children's imaginations to dream, instills the confidence to let them believe, encourages them to set goals, and helps them develop the skills to make their dreams a reality.

Arts Education and Democracy
Without a well-educated populace, the tenets of democracy will not be met. Democracy is based on uniting us under a shared vision and a common viewpoint, thus creating a civil society that enables citizens to get along with each other. Moreover, the arts enable citizens to understand, interpret and develop laws with a more humanistic perspective. In my opinion, the cradle for providing the education that is essential to maintaining our democracy lies in a comprehensive strategy of integrating high-quality arts education comprised of all artistic disciplines into every child's life for a complete education. Public schools have the responsibility for educating all of our citizens and not just a select few. Harvard professor Dr. Howard Gardner's theory of "multiple intelligences" tells us that children learn and process information in many different ways and that the arts access more of these pathways to learning. 1

When we consider what a good education entails, immediately such things as math, science, reading, writing and spelling come to mind. These subjects are critical, but when left alone without the support of a good value system - the ability to work both independently and collaboratively, the ability to think creatively and to imagine a better world - these subjects will not stand the test of a well-educated citizen. These subjects are not able to shape productive citizens neither in normal times nor in crisis situations.

From cave men using drawings to depict daily life to the songwriter Katherine Lee Bates who penned the words to America the Beautiful, these artists relied upon that part of the human soul that the arts nourish to convey to others the meaning and value of their personal experiences. When one hears these words: "Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain for purple mountains majesties above the fruited plains" there is no question that each can conjure up visual images that rely upon math, to describe the spacious skies and huge majestic mountains; dance to describe the flowing amber waves of grain; and colors that one learns at home or in kindergarten to paint the purple mountains. Katherine Lee Bates was an educator who used the arts to create one of America's best-loved poems that is now memorized by millions of Americans in song. For the last 100 years, this song has united the citizens of this country under an artistic vision of America, one that fills us with a gratifying sense of pride, patriotism and equality.
The making and appreciation of this song by millions of Americans is but one example of what we innately know about the power of the arts and what has now been backed-up by authoritative studies. According to research conducted by the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Family Consortium, the arts have been proven to be a powerful tool in engagement and imagination; a stimulus for memory and understanding; and an avenue for developing a child's competence and self-expression. 2 Moreover, infusing the arts into instruction in the other content areas has been shown to be an effective tool for raising student achievement. 3

National Picture of Arts Education
While in the last five years, we have been encouraged by the 47 states and many school districts that adopted curriculum frameworks or standards for the arts; we still have much work ahead of us. Our nation as a whole is still woefully negligent of actually providing a comprehensive arts education curriculum in each of the disciplines for our children. Too few schools have established student assessments and mandatory competency standards as a requirement of graduation. U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley recently called the lack of adequate arts education in the nation's schools "inexcusable." 4 I must agree. And based on the 1998 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the arts, it appears he is right. 5 That is why I want to join First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in her crusade, and I'm sure yours as well Mr. Chairman, in a call to action "to bring the arts back into every school in America."6

School-wide strategies that infuse the arts into all forms of academic content provide motivation for students and linkages of understanding across the curriculum. The mathematics of music, painting and sculpture; the biology and anatomy of dance; the history and culture of artifacts; the use of language in poetry; and the chemistry of photography are examples of how the arts make knowledge come alive for our students. A comprehensive arts education should include both learning the arts themselves as well as using them to better teach the other subject areas.

On the other hand, we are beginning to have some growing examples of state and local governments taking unprecedented initiatives to fully integrate arts education into the basic curriculum of public schools. For instance, the State of Oregon and the Portland Public Schools have included the arts in our educational standards for all students. This includes common curriculum and grade level benchmarks for all students and a requirement that districts assess student performance in order to certify mastery of these standards. Citizens of our state and local community will no longer allow the arts to be considered supplementary or elective in the standard curriculum. Arts education is now considered a standard component of the comprehensive curriculum for all students in Portland, and I believe this should be true in every state and local community in our nation.

I recently served as an Arts Advisory Committee member for a benchmark report released this year by The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Arts Education Partnership, entitled Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education. 7 In this report, a copy of which I have supplied to each member of the Committee this morning, we have carefully documented examples of how school districts in 91 diverse urban, suburban and rural communities in 42 states across America have uniquely integrated the arts into the standard curriculum by using a comprehensive strategy in, not just school-wide, but rather, district-wide efforts.

The Gaining the Arts Advantage report synthesized commonalties of success among these 91 school districts and found the following central theme:

The single most critical factor in sustaining arts education in schools is the active and collaborative involvement of influential segments of the community in shaping and implementing the arts policies and programs of the district.

Who do we mean by influential segments of the community? School districts broadly define community to include parents and families, artists, arts organizations, businesses, local civic and cultural leaders and institutions. Throughout this report, you will see dozens of examples from Atlanta, Georgia to Chittendon South, Vermont of where members of a community begin their successful campaign efforts to restore high-quality, sequential arts education back into the schools by realizing first the schism that existed within their community: while the arts were embraced and supported throughout the community, this basic value was not reflected within the school system. Addressing this inexplicable schism is one of the reasons it is so important to applaud the unprecedented national public service awareness campaigns that are beginning to provide the connective tissue to help communities realize that their appreciation of the arts needs to be reflected also in their school systems. National broadcasters have donated several millions of dollars of valuable prime time air to build public awareness and community support for arts education through such campaigns as CBS's The Arts Enrich Us All 8 and Bravo Network's Start Smart. 9

Community Arts Partnerships
If arts education is the bedrock of democracy, then community arts partnerships are the key to empowering this vision. We need to do a better job of encouraging local partnerships and collaborations to begin restoring arts education back into the schools. No teacher, principal, or superintendent can accomplish this on his or her own. Nor can the arts and business community force it upon the schools. As we've seen documented over and over again, the only way arts education can successfully be integrated into the core curriculum of our public schools in order to round out a complete education is through community arts partnerships. 10

What do I mean by community arts partnerships? Analogous to the collaborative work of the Arts Education Partnership, which was originally spearheaded and funded at the national level by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts, we need to aggressively replicate this initiative at the local level among local school boards, superintendents, businesses and foundations, elected officials, local arts agencies and cultural institutions. The Arts Education Partnership is a coalition of national education, arts, business, philanthropic, and government organizations that demonstrate and promote the essential role of arts education in enabling all students to success in school, life and work. For instance in Portland, the public schools have partnered with several groups to help us achieve our arts education programmatic and funding goals, including the Regional Arts and Culture Council; the Portland Public School Foundation, Young Audiences, the Leonard Bernstein Center Project and many other local arts organizations and corporate partners. We need support these kinds of local coalitions around the country so that we can get arts standards and assessments adopted by local school districts.

I believe that community-based arts organizations are crucial in our efforts to restore high-quality, sequential arts education programs back into the schools. Exposure to and participation in professional artistic performances and exhibitions --- the practical application, if you will - both in-school and after-school is critical to closing the loop to a comprehensive arts education for our children. Of course, community arts partnerships can only supplement, but never supplant, the important classroom instruction in schools by arts specialists. In my opinion, children need both, neither one alone would fulfill the objectives of a comprehensive arts education. Local and state arts agencies and community-based arts organizations have truly come to embrace the fact that ensuring arts education in the public schools is also part of their mission. 11 We just need to do a better job of providing these influential segments of the artistic community and school districts with the tools, research, best practices and funding support to establish or replicate successful partnerships so they can provide a comprehensive arts education in each of their communities for children and adults, alike. Research clearly indicates that the quality of arts education of school children today will directly impact the make-up of arts audiences tomorrow. 12

Why Businesses Care About Arts Education
I recently had the opportunity to participate in Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta earlier this month, where I heard representatives of the business and technology community masterfully articulate why an arts education is critical to the future of their businesses and to the economy of our nation. I'd like to share with you now some of these comments.

GE Fund's Program Manager and Comptroller Jane Polin stated, "To develop future leaders, we need to encourage the development of broad abilities beyond technical skills. We see a tremendous need for workers who are creative, analytical, disciplined, and self-confident. We need workers who can solve problems, communicate ideas, and be sensitive to the world around them. And at the GE Fund we believe that hands-on participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities in all young people." 13

We all remember how the Mars Pathfinder captured the world's attention with images of Mars and the groundbreaking inventions created by NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). According to JPL's Pre-college Programs Officer David Seidel, the Mars endeavor was essentially a series of bold ideas, which created a set of problems that had to be solved through the process of creativity while mediated by the laws of physics. He went on to say that if we as a nation were only to concentrate our education and training on physics and math, we would merely create a generation of technicians and that's NOT what furthers the economy or vitality of America. 14 Training in the arts nurtures the creativity necessary for bold innovations in science.

If the space program is trying to recruit technicians with more artistry, the animation industry is trying to recruit and train artists with more technical expertise. Its's a different perspective of the same coin - a complete education. Warner Bros. Feature Animation Director of Artistic Development and Training Dave Master narrows in on the point that the artists they hire to conceive and execute their animation projects all need to receive specialized training in technology to supplement their creative skills. 15 These examples of looking at two sides of a coin highlight the point that we must provide our students with a complete education that includes subjects such as math and science as well as the various arts disciplines. Additionally, we should encourage schools to experience teaching these subjects in a non-compartmentalized manner so that education more closely aligns with real work environments.

Kathleen Dore, president of the Bravo Cable Networks outlined the five key traits for creating a successful workforce in the next Millennium: 16
1. Ability to articulate a vision. Our most talented artists must approach their work in this way - whether it's filmmaking, choreography or writing a novel.
2. High tolerance for ambiguity in this age of rapid change. The ever-changing nature of performance and interaction with one's audience provides an artist with firsthand experience with ambiguity.
3. Orientation toward results. Sucsessful managers must be able to get things done. And they must be able to organize resources and develop a process to reach a goal. The arts are, of course, wrapped up in "product" - a finished work - and just as significantly in the process of creating that work.
4. Spirit of collaboration and empathy. The arts foster a keen sensitivity to the artist's effect on those around him or her, as well as insight into the dynamics of human interaction.
5. Sense of play. This is the ability to punctuate the everyday with passion and fun. It is a necessary part of the artist's success and, I maintain, just as necessary a part of a productive and fulfilling work environment.

Special Needs for In- and After-School Arts Programs for Youth at Risk
If the lack of adequate arts education in the schools is "inexcusable," then the virtual dearth of arts education programming for poor and minority children living in rural and inner cities is outright alarming. Unfortunately, too many school administrators and educators unfairly view the arts on a class system and stereotype these children as not having a need to learn in the arts. The argument goes something like this: If the school district has limited resources, what "these children" need most are the basics in reading, writing and math - the arts are not essential. This assumption couldn't be more wrong. These rural and inner-city children have just as much a right to learn and participate in the arts as wealthier children living in the suburbs. Children of the poor are, first of all, children; they have the same capacity as other children for appreciating and benefiting from the arts. They, too, can have their intellectual skills stretched; they, too, can become actively engaged; they, too, can become problem solvers and creative thinkers. 17 On her reflections of conducting playwright workshops for inner-city youth in New York, Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein astutely pointed out "The decision to limit the arts is in fact elitist." 18 We need to do a better job of educating school administrators about the extensive new research in this area that shows youth at-risk excelling in school and in their social development through arts education. All children need to be treated equally. Every child deserves an opportunity to be a good citizen. We owe it to the children and we owe it to society.

Since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Goals 2000: Educate America Act were last authorized five years ago, we have amassed an impressive body of research on the power of the arts to influence a child's educational and social development.

Research conducted by Dr. Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University has shown that at-risk students who are actively engaged in after-school arts learning and arts productions improve their self-esteem and confidence, assume leadership roles and improve their overall school performance. This research shows that these programs provide children with unique opportunities to develop cognitive, linguistic, and socio-related skills during non-school hours. 19

Research conducted by Dr. James Catterall of UCLA analyzed the school records of 25,000 students as they moved from 8th grade to 10th. He found that students who studied the arts had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests, had better attendance records and were more active in community affairs than students not engaged in the arts. Of great interest is the fact that he also found that students from poorer families who studied the arts improved their overall school performance more rapidly than all other students. Clearly, the arts are helping to level the "learning field" among all students. 20

I would also refer the Committee to the landmark Coming Up Taller report that profiled more than 200 programs - many of them funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and local and state arts agencies - that offered children, especially children at risk, a chance to learn in the arts and a chance to succeed in life. 21

Evaluation Study and Replication Toolkit for Effective After-School Arts Programs
I would like to share with you another national study that evaluated the effectiveness of afterschool arts programs targeted at juvenile delinquency prevention as well as academic achievement. I have provided the Committee with copies of the executive summary for this fascinating project. The YouthARTS project has had a dramatic impact in the two communities that I've been involved with - Portland and Atlanta - in deterring delinquent behavior and giving our children hope for the future. Three years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Justice took the lead in jointly funding this national evaluation project so that local arts agencies and cultural institutions across the nation would be able to replicate successful arts programs to better reach at-risk youth in their local communities.

The YouthARTS project was developed as a national test model to rigorously evaluate, document and disseminate "best practice" models and "lessons learned" of year-around after-school arts programs specifically designed to work with youth at risk. One of the primary goals of this project was to ascertain the measurable outcomes of preventing youth from getting involved in delinquent behavior by engaging them in community-based arts programs. For three years, the local arts agencies in three diverse communities participated in this national test model that allowed evaluators contracted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to poke and prod at the program design, establish and monitor control groups, and coordinate focus group sessions. These "brave" communities participating in the national test model include Portland, Oregon; San Antonio, Texas; and Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia.

In order to provide a community-based, comprehensive arts program for youth at risk, the local arts agencies in these three test sites partnered with their local schools and PTAs, juvenile courts, social service agencies, and local arts organizations and artists. Arts programs were targeted for a range of youth ages 11-to-17 with some having previous juvenile records or others exhibiting various identified risk factors. Evaluators established two sets of groups to monitor in each community -- one group consisting of the youth participating in the arts-infused programs and a second "control group" of peers not participating in these arts programs.

After three years of rigorous evaluation of these programs and of the youth participants' academic and juvenile court records, here's what we know. As compared to their respective control groups, the youth participating in these after-school arts programs demonstrated these four measurable outcomes: 22

1. Youth involved in the program significantly decreased the frequency of delinquent behavior and school truancy;
2. Youth involved in the program increased their communication skills;
3. Youth involved in the program improved their ability to work on tasks from start to finish;
4. The number of youth incurring new court referrals was dramatically reduced.

Please keep in mind that the YouthARTS project, for the first time ever, allows us to move away from the anecdotal and to the proof that arts programs for youth are highly effective in deterring delinquent behavior. For instance in San Antonio, delinquent behavior among youth enrolled in the arts programs dropped 16 percent; whereas the non-arts control group's delinquency rate only dropped by 3 percent.

In Portland, only 22 percent of the arts program participants had new court referrals as opposed to the 47 percent rate among the non-arts comparison group. In Fulton County, 86 percent of youth participating in the arts programs could communicate effectively with peers by the end of the program; whereas only 29 percent were able to effectively communicate at the beginning of the program. Finally, in San Antonio, the 11-to-13 year old youth participating in after-school arts education programs increased their ability to work on tasks from start to finish by 13 percent. Today, 85 percent of the participating youth have achieved this success.

Mr. Chairman, we've all heard the alarming statistics of how thousands of children drop out of school every day, the highest crime rate period among youth is the unsupervised after-school hours of 3:00pm to 8:00pm and that we, as taxpayers, are spending billions of dollars annually incarcerating these young offenders. For this reason, the findings of the YouthARTS research are very timely and provide genuine opportunities for local communities to begin to stem the tide of juvenile delinquency with innovative, replicable and proven programs in the arts.

In fact last year, the United States Conference of Mayors held a national summit on "School Violence and Kids from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm." The Mayors' National Action Plan specifically called for more support of arts and music programs for kids because they increase learning skills, help reduce violence and truancy and give kids a positive outlet for self-expression. 23

In order to share the best practices documented in the YouthARTS project, the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, the three local arts agency sites and several corporations and foundations have funded the creation of the YouthARTS Toolkit. This multi-media toolkit includes both training and presentation videos, a comprehensive step-by-step handbook for replicating programs, and a computer diskette providing communities everything from sample curriculum materials and parental consent forms to evaluation and artist training guidelines.

In the most recent survey of the nation's county officials, the National Association of Counties (NACo) found that problems dealing with juvenile delinquent behavior and at-risk youth ranked among the top 10 concerns in counties across America. NACo President Betty Lou Ward, stated "Prevention is better than prosecution any day. That's why we've made the arts a priority. We can really see how arts programs for young people impact character development, making for better schools, healthier families and a stronger workforce." NACo has purchased 250 copies of the YouthARTS toolkit for distribution to counties across America.

As I first wrote when the Arts Standards were adopted, "This is not to say that the answer to violence in the schools is arts programs; it is to say that children have been shown to respond positively when expectations - such as those provided by the Standards - are raised....Well-rounded arts programming can only increase the likelihood of success with these problems." 24

Conclusion and Policy Recommendations:
In conclusion, I believe that public and private sector leaders at the national, state and local levels need to step-up their support for integrating the arts into a comprehensive strategy to provide children with a complete education. It is abundantly clear that all segments of the community must be engaged and must partner with local school districts to make this happen. I believe a complete education involving the arts must include both high-quality, sequential instruction in the classroom as well as participation and learning in the arts in the community. In order to step up efforts to get arts education back into the schools and to place it at an equal par with other subjects, I encourage this Committee to add special language throughout the proposed Educational Excellence for All Children Act that would help local education agencies and administrators understand that arts education is recognized as one of the core subject areas and that arts education should be strongly considered in delivering comprehensive educational services in their school districts. From teacher training to educational services for the underserved, the arts need to be encouraged so that we educate all our children with the democratic values that we so strongly hold dear.
Specifically, I would recommend the following policy recommendations:

1. Re: Title 10, Part D, Subpart 1, expand authority to include support for collaborative activities and partnerships at the local and state level, in addition to activities at the Federal level. Moreover, eligible recipients should specifically be expanded to include local and state arts agencies.
2. Re: Title 10, Part D, Subpart 1, expand authority to specifically encourage more partnerships at the national level among national arts, civic, business, policy and education organizations in order to increase emphasis on arts education, encourage bottom-up local partnerships, conduct and disseminate arts education research, and help to finally connect America's public attitudes of broad support for the arts and arts education with the local decision-makers who control public and private funds for education.
3. Re: Title X, Part D, Subparts 1 and 2, maintain strong support for the continuation of arts education programs as they provide assistance in reaching special education students and at-risk youth. The suggested merging of authority of these programs will make it easier for districts and cultural groups to work with the Department of Education. However, we would encourage that you add important findings related to the new research that I've outlined today in working for youth at risk as well as encouraging replication efforts.
4. Re: Title II, Teaching to High Standards, will support state and local efforts to help all students achieve challenging state academic standards by giving teachers the tools they need to raise student achievement. The infusion of the arts into our regular classrooms will take new forms of teacher preparation, both pre-service and in-service. We should insist that teaching the arts is basic to quality teacher preparation and to the success of a well-educated child.
5. Re: Title V, the increased emphasis on programs of choice is supported by communities, especially of programs of choice in the arts. However, we need to find resources to expand and grow these programs to respond to the demand in our community, which this reauthorization may help do.
6. Re: Title X, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, add language and more emphasis and incentive for providing support for after-school and summer arts education programs, such as the ones highlighted in the YouthARTS project. Perhaps special authority could allow funds to be used to educate more school districts about the vehicles of capitalizing on 21st Century Community Learning Center funds for arts education programs.
7. Re: Title I, add language that specifically recognizes that the arts address the needs of the traditional Title I population. Arts offer avenues of success for students who are not achievers in the traditional ways - the arts help to level the "learning field." Spotlighting arts education as an eligible program will help educate local school adminstrators to think "out of the box" in terms of educational services to this population.
8. Re: Title IV, Safe and Drug Free Schools, add special emphasis to how the arts have been shown to be a successful medium for teaching skills for drug abuse and violence prevention.

Footnote References

1. Dr. Howard Gardner, Harvard University. Frames of Minds, 1983.

2. Martha Farrell Erickson, Director of University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Families Consortium. Presentation at Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

3. Dr. James Catterall, UCLA. Different Ways of Knowing: 1991-94 National Longitudinal Study Final Report.

4. Videotape presentation at Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

5. The 1997 NAEP Arts Report Card, released by the U.S. Department of Education on November 10, 1998.

6. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Recognizing the Power of Arts in Education, September 17, 1998.

7. Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education, released by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Arts Education Partnership on March 3, 1999.

8. The Arts Enrich Us All is a three-year public service announcement campaign (1997-2000) co-produced by CBS and Americans for the Arts.

9. Start Smart is a multi-year public service announcement campaign (beginning in 1998) co-produced by the Bravo, the Arts and Film network and Americans for the Arts.

10. Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education, released by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Arts Education Partnership on March 3, 1999.

11. Local Arts Agency Facts, March 1998. Monographs series by Americans for the Arts.

12. Effects of Arts Education on Participation in the Arts, 1996. National Endowment for the Arts, Research Division Report #36.

13. Jane Polin, GE Fund. It IS Your Business: The Role of the Private Sector and the Arts in Preparing the Workforce of Tomorrow, Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

14. David Seidel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

15. Dave Master, Warner Bros. Animation. Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

16. Kathleen Dore, Bravo Networks. Americans for the Arts' National Youth Arts Forum in Atlanta on June 7, 1999.

17. Dr. Benjamin O. Canada, Building Support for the Arts Standards among School Administrators, Perspectives on Implementation. Published by Music Educators National Conference, 1994.

18. Wendy Wasserstein, The Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, Americans for the Arts, March 22, 1999.

19. Dr. Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University. Living the Arts Through Language+Learning: A Report on Community-Based Youth Organizations, November 1998. Monographs series by Americans for the Arts.

20. Dr. James Catterall, UCLA. Involvement in the Arts and Success in Secondary School, October 1997. Monographs series by Americans for the Arts.

21. Coming Up Taller, 1997. President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Americans for the Arts.

22. YouthARTS Project Executive Summary, 1999. Caliber Associates for United States Department of Justice.

23. National Action Plan on School Violence and Kids from 2:00pm to 8:00pm, adopted by the United States Conference of Mayors, September 24, 1998.

24. Dr. Benjamin O. Canada, Building Support for the Arts Standards among School Administrators, Perspectives on Implementation. Published by Music Educators National Conference, 1994.

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