To the Editor:
In their Commentary “Putting Arts Education Front and Center,” (Jan. 26, 2005), Rod Paige and Mike Huckabee reaffirmed what many of us who are involved in learning in and through the arts know so well. As the director of a schoolwide arts program, I can attest to the capacity of the arts to transform the culture of entire schools.
SmART Schools, a grantee of the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination program, is a comprehensive, whole-school-change reform model that places the arts at the center of learning across core subject areas. All of our schools cultivate professional learning communities in which classroom teachers and arts educators collaborate in the design of arts-integrated curriculum, instruction, and performance assessments. Collectively, they are infusing dance, drama, music, and visual arts into the curriculum to increase the academic performance and social success of every student.
The results have been remarkable. Teachers rekindle their love of teaching, and students who were the least successful often become leaders in their classrooms. One teacher shared her own excitement at being able to use the same high-level text with her entire 6th grade class for the first time in her career. By using informal classroom drama performances, she was able to inspire reading and writing among all her students, half of them children with special needs.
Let us hope that Mr. Paige and Gov. Huckabee are not simply new voices in the wilderness, but reflect instead a new view of policymakers in asserting the importance of regular exposure to the arts for all students.
Education Development Center Inc.
A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as Underscoring the Value of Arts in the Curriculum