Balanced Diet of Art and Education

I find myself wanting to ask, or scream (depending on my mood), local school board Superintendents and Principals questions like:

“Why are the art programs first to be cut when the budget gets tight?”

“Why aren’t you emphasizing arts education as a core part of your curriculum?”

“Do you know what the benefits are of having a balanced focus on arts education for your students?”

Since the inception of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, Arts education in the United States has taken a drastic turn in the wrong direction.

The No Child Left Behind Act’s main focus is on skills in reading, writing and mathematics, which are areas related to economic success. And even though the Act clearly defines art as a part of the core curriculum, schools continually cut the arts funding and staff, and fail to provide any support outside of it being an elective choice.

Defintion of core academic subjects as stated in Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(1)(D)(11), of the No Child Left Behind Act:

The term `core academic subjects’ means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.

A few (frustrating) facts from the 2005 survey on the state of arts education in Ohio conducted by the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education:

  • 60 percent of respondents reported no school improvement initiatives that included the arts or the integration of arts with other academic subjects in their districts.
  • 56 percent of respondents reported that their arts education programs are not aligned with their school’s continuous improvement plan.
  • 12 percent reported that the arts were included in district strategies and activitiesto improve student performance.
  • 16 percent reported that their district included performance indicators for the arts in their district’s improvement plan.
  • 78 percent of respondents reported that no supplemental information regarding the arts was included on the Local Report Card.

Why is this happening? Well, because the arts are viewed as a subjective and exploratory area. And that’s the main reason why officials fail to see it as an essential part of the school curriculum. More importantly, it’s the reason why arts program budget’s are the first to be cut – because it’s just not that important when schools have to raise test scores.

Given the extreme pressure schools are under to raise test scores, and the greater autonomy principals have over school budgets, it is not surprising that we are witnessing a shift away from the arts. Meredith Kolodner

Some districts are reducing the amount of time spent on the arts in favor of remediation. Ken Rohrer

This is disheartening when we know the paramount role arts education has in a student’s development and achievement. Time and time again, it has been proven that students who actively participate in arts education programs achieve higher marks and scores on national and local tests (such as the SAT’s, ACT’s, and GRE’s) and have a higher graduation rate and acceptance rate into College and University programs.

For more information on the benefits of Arts Education check out:

If we have the research and the facts, why aren’t the changes being made?

It’s the million dollar question.

It is HOW we COMMUNICATE the importance of arts education to our local officials that needs to change. Even with a sea of research material, data, and resources – it’s still not getting across. We can’t address school policy and budgetary allocation issues if they (the all-important decision makers) don’t understand the benefits in terms they can relate to and identify with. The 2008 research report by ArtsWave, The Arts Ripple Effect: A Research-Based Strategy to Build Shared Responsibility for the Arts, does just that. It is a systematic and thorough analysis of how the surrounding community perceives and understands the role of arts. The report shows us that there is a clear misinterpretation of the arts and its essential role in building sustainable communities and neighborhoods. Furthermore, it shows how influential our words and rhetoric are in describing the arts role in our community.

This ground-breaking report is the model that pro-arts education policy makers need to follow and adopt.

It’s a change that would benefit everyone and something that needs to be addressed in balancing the focus of arts education in public school curriculum.

 

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