When I was in elementary school there was nothing was quite as exciting as the gleeful anticipation of putting on my smock for art class or pulling out the wooden recorders for music. And when it was time for the class play. Boy!!! was I ready. Whether I starred as Shirley Chisholm or wore a mom made costume of Creature #3, school couldn’t get much better.
Now our kidz are lucky if they get a half empty book bag of art supplies . When they do, proponents often have to justify the programs in relation to students’ performance on standardized reading and math tests. Because in this age of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), few things matter more than test scores . The bad news: although kidz who are involved in the arts do tend to test better, there’s no direct cause-and-effect evidence that participation actually helps raise scores.
Putting all the focus on nonstop test-prep is not having the desired effect tho. Test scores have failed to rise as expected. Meanwhile, Hong Kong as well as Japan, Canada, Finland and five other countries that consistently outperform us in math and reading all require extensive education in the arts without narrowing their curriculum. According to a new report from Common Core, a Washington, DC, educational research and advocacy organization. “We have lots of proof that a broad education that includes the arts works better than what we’re doing — and yet we’re ignoring it.”
According to a recent study at Harvard’s Project Zero, an educational research group, participating in a school arts program increases a child’s ability to:
Observe the world carefully and discard preconceptions n envision something and then create it
Go beyond just learning a skill to express a personal voice
Problem-solve and persist despite frustration and setbacks
Reflect on the results and ask what could improve them
In a landmark 2008 study by the nonprofit Dana Foundation, neuroscientists at seven universities found that:
Musical training improves reading by helping children distinguish the sound structure of words
Acting boosts memory and the ability to articulate ideas
Strong interest in a performing art leads to better attention and memory
“Art gives kids a chance to learn by doing instead of just being lectured to,” says Jeff Gonzalez, a middle school art teacher in Dobbs Ferry, NY. “There’s no right answer in art, which means they can explore, connect new ideas, and learn from what they feel were their successes and failures without negative consequences.
Thank goodness!!! The Obama administration is starting to act on this belief by launching a new survey to assess the state of arts education. But results aren’t expected until 2011 :-(. Arts programs are expensive—so they’re often the first thing to go.This is one of the reasons why Grassroots organization like CC’s Kidz exists. Art exposure rarely happens in the classroom so it’s up to us parents to bring it to our children. Especially in struggling communities like Bedford Stuyvesant, East New York, Brownsville the list goes on.
In the meantime of taking your kids to really kewl and educational places…. jump on the school’s back to remind them how important art is in the school, make sure these arts programs are kept. Us parents have much more power than we realize, but we actually have to use it.
How to do just that:
You can help CC’s kidz with the goal of empowering young mothers and their children in the Great Cultural Institutions by donating HERE
You can Sign up for Parenting’s Mom Congress at Parenting.com/momcongress. You can connect with moms from across the country who are fighting for the same changes you are, plus access our Arts in Action tool kit, a one-stop-shop resource guide. You’ll find links to top arts-advocacy organizations and easy ways to let your representative know that funding for arts education is one of your top priorities.
Find out what the law says. Contact your school board and state department of education to learn how many hours of arts education your state mandates. Then look at your child’s schedule to see if that’s what he’s getting. Unfortunately, it’s common for schools to ignore the law without repercussions.
Reach out to the principal. If you’d like to see more arts on the school schedule, gather a group of like-minded parents and ask the following questions: Does every grade receive arts instruction every week? Is there a budget for the arts? Is there a designated arts teacher for each discipline?
Speak up. Show how much you value arts education by sharing your child’s experience at school-board meetings, and encourage other parents to do so. A few voices can go a long way.
Go public. Let your local news reporters know immediately if your school’s arts program is being threatened. Another effective strategy: Submit a letter to the editor or an opinion piece about the importance of arts education.
Did you know the National PTA has been honoring students’ artistic achievements through the Reflections Program since 1969. More than 500,000 students in pre-K through high school enter each year in one of six categories: musical composition, literature, visual arts, photography, film production, and dance choreography.
Get all the details on the program at PTAreflections.org. And while you’re there, check out the Mary Lou Anderson matching-grant program, as well. This fund provides up to $1,000 to local PTAs serving at-risk kids who want to establish an arts program in their school!!!!! I am going to apply for my daughter’s school plus volunteer for an arts program threatened to be cut. What are you gonna do???