Every child in every public school in America deserves access to the arts, and legitimate art classes, which include real credentialed art teachers!
In 2012, President Obama announced an Arts Education Plan called Turnaround ARTS. The program, which was to cost $14.7 million over three years, was to establish an intense art program for children in eight schools. Many fine artists came out to promote Turnaround ARTS and are apparently still working with the program. They are to be commended for their interest in helping children.
The program seems to have expanded to 50 schools in particular states and cities and includes charter schools.
But it is unfair and certainly not lending itself to the premise of equality, to pick out a few schools where children will get the arts. Also, the reasoning behind Turnaround ARTS is concerning.
The reality is that the arts were ripped out of public schools during the No Child Left Behind test-and-punish period. Principals focused on the classes that were tested–reading and math–and many schools discontinued their art programs. Art and music teachers also lost jobs.
Turnaround ARTS is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Endowment for the Arts, local partners, and several private foundations. But the arts should not have to rely on outside organizations and individuals to be implemented in our public schools.
Furthermore, the purpose of Turnaround ARTS is to determine whether the arts lifts test scores and keep students in school. We already know the arts do this! The arts, as many have stated repeatedly, are beneficial and important to a whole curriculum.
Turnaround ARTS also seems to be integrated in other classes. While that can be a good thing, art classes that stand alone are necessary to a well-rounded curriculum too.
The role of the so-called credentialed art specialist in the 7 Pillars of the program is to provide rigorous, sequential, and weekly (or more frequent) standards-based instruction to students during the school day and collaborate with staff regularly to develop arts integration.
The Turnaround ARTS program uses the word “rigorous” when referring to art education and they claim the arts should be strategically targeted to address larger school challenges. Turnaround ARTS appears to be primarily for improving test scores! There is a lot of “college-ready” talk too–always the signature trademark of today’s school reform.
The Turnaround Arts Program also involves competitively chosen schools. If you have a savvy principal with connections you get money for the arts! If not…well…tough luck! Maybe you can try again in a few more years.
Why should children have to rely on competitive grants for the right to demonstrate their artistic talent in any public school in America? Future jobs exist for those who study the arts, and the arts provide creativity that can support other academic areas. We already have enough proof of this!
If students have difficulty reading, they especially need the opportunity to shine in other areas where they might have talent.
Every child deserves access to the arts. Every public school in this great nation must provide access to art classes for its children!
Many thanks to the partners who help support Turnaround Arts, and please keep up the support, and yes the arts improve other subjects.
But this country needs to seriously fund its art programs for all its children–in every single public school just because, not only do the arts support other subjects, the arts stand alone in their importance to learning.
Now that NCLB is gone, replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the arts should be put back into all schools. Pronto!
Laura Stewart says
All true, but in our data-driven climate millions of dollars need to be spent to verify what we already know. I suppose it will be worth it when the data affirms that the arts improve test scores, because then the arts will be considered important and will be part of every school’s curriculum. It is a very sad comment on our society that intrinsic beauty and a sense of accomplishment are less valued than test scores.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for commenting, Laura. I certainly agree with you.
Two Teachers says
Great article Nancy, but let’s be even more direct. This is obviously a reaction to the NCLB testing backlash where everyone knows math and literacy testing replaced everything else, including arts.
Staggering fact – funding for arts materials in NYC schools dropped over 80% between 2006 and 2013.
But this program is hurting, not helping the effort to repair the damage done. Instead of saying schools need more arts, let’s support them with funding, flexibility and trust, they are saying let’s create a new federal program which we will design, implement and oversee. We will pick a select few winners for arts funding, and then we will measure the effectiveness of the artmaking, based on criteria that we decide.
Art is not something federal bureaucrats can measure – it’s subjective, it’s expressive, it’s experimental, it’s different in every part of the world, it’s undefinable, it’s intentionally NOT academic, it’s unexpected, rebellious, non-conforming. It’s all these things – but what it is not is constitutional. There is no federal authority for overseeing arts education, or any education for that matter. So this is an invented (and avoidable) crisis designed to make the federal government seem helpful in yet another area they are not needed.
Here’s what this really is – Obama knows everyone hates testing and everybody loves arts. He inherited a huge, bloated, useless USDOE with tons of for-profit and nonprofit partners that want money. He got rebuffed for too much measuring of academics, so he’s saying he’ll now change it up a little and measure arts. This will give all the consultants and bureaucrats the money they want.
What the feds should actually be doing, if anything, is making arts education equally accessible to 100% of US students. This basically means leveling the playing field, but the only measuring necessary is a check box that asks “is your school in compliance with the state requirements for an arts program?”.
If “yes”, they do nothing.
If “no”, they get no-strings funding to implement arts as the local, democratically elected school officials and community see fit. Just money, nothing else, thanks. It’s our money anyway.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for your more thorough explanation. It is appreciated.