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NCLB Outrages

NCLB Leaves Out Art Programs

Ohanian Comment: This is a case of "Be careful of what you wish for." Making public aware of the importance of art is vital. Trying to get NCLB to fund it seems iffy. Looking at NCLB's Reading First strictures, the result is likely to be mandated Paint by Numbers.

Arts educators cheered when the arts were declared a “core” academic subject under the No Child Left Behind education reform measure signed into law two years ago by President Bush.

Since then, however, those cheers have turned to consternation as arts educators have watched school districts across the country cut classroom time and funding for art and music. School officials say they now need to focus most of their attention and money on reading and math — the subjects in which students are tested annually under this law.

But arts educators, joined by groups representing teachers, parents, school administrators, school boards, are fighting back. Citing research showing a strong correlation between the arts and students’ academic success, these groups have mounted national public awareness campaigns aimed at convincing parents, educators and school board members about the importance of arts education in creating well-rounded students.

The National Art Education Association also has created a “Tips For Parent Advocacy” booklet to help parents lobby locally to keep or increase arts education in their schools.

Another group, the Arts Education Partnership, has produced a guide, “No Subject Left Behind,” designed to help state and local education leaders identify and apply for federal funding that can be used for arts education under the NCLB law.

The importance of arts education took center stage recently at the national conference of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based group that works with governors, legislators and state education officials.

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, the commission’s incoming chairman, has chosen arts education as the theme for his two-year term in that job, and is expected to push for efforts to integrate the arts into the K-12 curriculum.

The issue also was a focus at the recent convention of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the Americans for the Arts group. Donna Collins, executive director of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, is part of a convention panel that will explore ways to ensure the continuation and improvement of arts education in American public schools.

“We all want a high-quality education for our children and we want schools to be accountable for providing that,” Collins said in a telephone interview. “But we can’t just be focused on reading, writing and science.”

A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll done last year found that 80 percent of Americans have at least a “fair amount” of concern that there will be less emphasis on the arts and other subjects because of the NCLB’s focus on assessing student improvement only in reading, math and, eventually, science.

The law, among other things, requires annual math and reading tests from third through eighth grades and once in high school.

Under the NCLB, arts education was listed as a core subject for the first time in federal education law. But reports released over the past several months have documented that arts classes are getting squeezed out of schools because the federal law doesn’t require that students be tested for their proficiency in art, music, dance or drama.

— Karen MacPherson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Detroit News


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