From The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Friday April 8th
Arts 'Core' Of Change For Education System, Official Tells LR Forum (Democrat-Gazette)
By Cynthia Howell
If students are going to reach the high achievement levels demanded by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools must include the arts as part of the curriculum, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education said Thursday.
"The arts are at the core of the No Child Left Behind Act," Susan Sclafani, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education in the federal agency, told leaders of the Education Commission of the States at the conclusion of their meeting on arts education held this week in Little Rock.
Not only do states have to develop standards for the arts just as they do for literacy, math and science, Sclafani said, the states and local schools should use the arts to attract students to school and to help them master all their academic subjects.
"When we talk about accountability and we talk about every child learning, that means we have to look at how each child learns. We have to look at what matters to them, what interests, engages and excites them," she said.
The No Child Left Behind Act – President Bush's education revision initiative – calls for all students to achieve at their grade level by 2013-14. To that end, states must test students annually in grades three through eight and in at least one high school grade in math and literacy. Science tests are to be added in future years.
Schools that don't meet student performance goals that are set by the states must permit their students to transfer to higher achieving schools. If the pass rates continue to falter, the penalties become more severe and schools may eventually be closed.
Sclafani discounted arguments that the demands of the law leave little time for teaching the arts and that there is no federal funding to support the teaching of the arts.
Federal Title I money that goes to schools with high percentages of children from poor families can be used, she said.
"Title I is for enabling our students who are economically disadvantaged to achieve at the same level as our other students," she said. "How do we do that? We do it by giving them a rich, comprehensive, coherent education – that includes the arts."
Federal Title II money, which is designed to ensure that teachers – including art teachers – are highly qualified also is available. That money can be used for teacher training programs, she said.
Sclafani, who has a doctorate degree and is a former Houston math teacher and high school principal, said the federal law gives states flexibility in how they help their students achieve. There is "no one silver bullet from Washington," D.C., on how best to educate students, she said.
But states must develop a set of policies or standards that ensure that the core subjects, including the arts, are taught, she said.
"You have to define what it is you want every child to know and be able to do in the arts, and then [decide] what additional policies are necessary to ensure that it happens," Sclafani said.
She cited Kentucky as a place where students are actually tested by the state in the arts because of the belief there that the subjects that get tested are those that get taught.