Curriculum Reporter's Notebook

State Policymakers Hear Strong Case for Arts Education

By David J. Hoff — July 26, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The No Child Left Behind Act has focused educators on improving student achievement reading and mathematics. But one state group is reminding them: Don’t forget that teaching the arts is a vital part of any curriculum and may even be helpful in improving test scores in the three R’s.

The Education Commission of the States’ annual conference here last month included a variety of plenary sessions in which the group’s leaders and other speakers advocated ways for policymakers to integrate the performing and other arts into efforts to improve learning.

The state legislators, commissioners of education, and other policymakers heard from Piedad F. Robertson, who became the group’s president in February, about the importance of using creativity to lead schools and other organizations. They also learned about the opera-in-schools program in Washington and Los Angeles led by the renowned tenor Placido Domingo.

At a social event at the Red Rock concert venue, the rhythm-and-blues band of Gov. Mike Huckabee entertained those who attended the July 13-14 conference, held in the ECS’ headquarters city of Denver.

The Arkansas Republican chose “Arts in Education” as his focus for his two-year stint as chairman, which ends in 2006.

“There is not a student in America that would not benefit from an arts education,” Mr. Huckabee said during the conference. “We’re trying to point out that arts are not extracurricular. They’re essential.”

Many observers said that schools are overlooking the arts because they face pressure from the 3½-year-old No Child Left Behind Act to improve reading and math achievement. But Mr. Huckabee reminded attendees that the federal law lists arts as part of the core curriculum.

And a Bush administration official said he hopes that policymakers heed the ECS’ message.

“Yes, we do believe we must start with reading and math,” deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education Raymond J. Simon said in his July 13 luncheon speech, where he also announced that the department would publish states’ graduation rates, using a common measure. (“Efforts Seek Better Data on Graduates,” this issue.)

But, Mr. Simon added, “we believe that forcing a choice between … reading and the arts is a false choice.”

As part of the arts education theme, Mr. Huckabee presented the chairman’s award to Mr. Domingo. As the general director of the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, the world-famous singer leads a program through which public school students have the chance to attend operas and participate in them.

State policymakers also learned more about an effort by one arm of the federal government to create new curricula and actively work to improve teachers’ ability to teach about the arts.

The National Endowment of the Arts will soon publish curricula on William Shakespeare as well as on the history of jazz, said David Steiner, the endowment’s director of arts education.

The grantmaking agency also has created summer institutes in which teachers learn about the arts.

“What we’re trying to is bring teachers together with world-class scholars to study one or two great pieces of art,” Mr. Steiner said during one of the conference’s several breakout sessions.

The arts endowment has budgeted $480,000 to finance seminars at 12 sites.

While the projects are helpful in expanding and improving arts education, they are only small steps toward ensuring that all students have the opportunity for what Mr. Steiner called a “sequential arts education.”

“We have a huge challenge in front of us,” he said.

While the ECS’ focus of the past year has been on art education, the conference agenda included a variety of topics spanning the policy world. One well-attended session focused on improving high schools, which was also the theme of a national summit led by the governors in February. (“High Schools in Limelight for Summit,” Feb. 23, 2005)

“Right now, we’re in the ‘what’s wrong?’ stage, not the ‘what are we going to do about it?’ stage,” Jo Lynne DeMary, Virginia’s state superintendent of education, told a crowd that overflowed into the hallway.

And the task of improving high schools will not be easy, another panelist said.

“It’s going to be very difficult work, because it requires a complete culture change,” said Gerry House, the president of the Institute for Student Achievement, a Lake Success, N.Y.-based group overseeing improvement projects in 24 districts. Ms. House is a former superintendent of schools in Memphis, Tenn.

But there are enough successful efforts to emulate, said Jean Rutherford, the director of educational initiatives for the National Center for Educational Accountability, based in Austin, Texas.

Those model schools are effective at defining exactly what students ought to know about a subject, and tracking whether they learn it, Ms. Rutherford said. When students’ achievement fails to measure up to the standard, she said, teachers analyze data to figure why not, and then change how they teach.

“We’re starting hear stories about places that are doing this, and that to me is the most encouraging thing,” said Ms. Rutherford.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
How Can Data-Driven Instructional Programming Promote Equity and Student Achievement?
By now, you’ve started the new school year and begun gathering new academic data on your learners from interim, summative, and perhaps even social and emotional learning (SEL) assessment sources. These data points help you
Content provided by ACT

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Texas Lawmaker Demands Districts Provide Lists of Books on Racism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ
The Texas attorney general candidate's request has received criticism from educator groups who say the inquiry is politically motivated.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Teachers' Use of Standards-Aligned Curricula Slowed During the Pandemic
More math teachers are using standards-aligned materials than English/language arts teachers, according to RAND survey results.
4 min read
Illustration of a grading rubric.
priyanka gupta/iStock/Getty
Curriculum Teacher Fired for Lesson on White Privilege Loses Appeal
Matthew Hawn told students, "white privilege is a fact," and was accused by administrators of breaking the state's teacher code of ethics.
4 min read
David Cox, former Director of Sullivan County Schools, left, testifies during a public hearing for former social studies teacher, Matthew Hawn.
A hearing for former Sullivan County teacher, Matthew Hawn.
Caitlin Penna for Education Week
Curriculum Holocaust Books Must Be Countered With ‘Opposing’ Views, Texas School Administrator Says
Teachers were told they're required to offer alternative information for debated and controversial topics. The district later apologized.
Brian Niemietz, New York Daily News
2 min read
A book about David Boder's recordings of concentration camp survivors sits next to one of his wire recorders on display at the University of Akron's Center for History of Psychology on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Akron, Ohio.
A book about David Boder's recordings of concentration camp survivors sits next to one of his wire recorders on display at the University of Akron's Center for History of Psychology on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Akron, Ohio.
Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal via AP