Testimony of

Robert B. Morrison

New Jersey Arts Education Partnership

for the New Jersey State Board of Education

October 5, 2011


Good afternoon. My name is Bob Morrison. I serve as the chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership – the statewide umbrella organization for the visual and performing arts. Our members represent all aspects of arts education in our state. Our members include the professional arts education associations in dance, music, theatre and visual arts, arts educators and the many cultural organizations whose programs provide both educational experiences for students and professional development opportunities for teachers.

I am here today to comment on the proposed changes to the NJQSAC District Performance Review (DPR) and the Statement of Assurance (SOA).

During the August 3, 2011 public comment period of the State Board of Education meeting several representatives from the Visual and Performing Arts, Career and Technical Education, and Physical Education testified regarding the proposed changes to NJQSAC as presented during the July 13, 2011 state board of education meeting. The concerns at that time centered on the unintended consequences of the creation of a two-tiered system of core curricular content areas: those included in the DPR and those relegated to the SOA. This was viewed as having policies without accountability.

Many of the concerns raised were because of the positive impact NJQSAC has had on arts education in New Jersey. Whether it is from revised and updated curriculum in many districts, adherence to the expectations for arts education as established by this board, to the implementation of arts learning opportunities for thousands of children previously denied… the inclusion of all content areas in NJQSAC has lead to a significant increase in both access to, and participation in, arts education in our state. This can only be seen as a tremendous benefit to our students.

We are very encouraged by the staff initiated revisions to NJQSAC that have removed the inequity between the content standards present in the prior version. We applaud the leadership of the department to present these changes in revised draft DPR and SOA for NJQSAC for the your review and consideration. We support this revision.

The reason is simple: the compelling evidence of the impact of arts education in schools.

A recent study of Texas longitudinal data revealed schools with increased participation in the arts over a four-year period had the greatest improvement in school performance, schools academic ratings and graduation rates.

A study released this spring in Louisiana of all 8th grades students found that the English language arts and math scores on the statewide LEAP test were significantly higher for music education students than for students not enrolled in music. This held true regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

In Florida, an evaluation of student level data for all 12th graders found students with music study achieve higher academic success in the classroom and higher scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). In addition, the data showed these students have lower drop out rates and score higher on the SATs regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic levels. Most importantly, the longer a student studied music, the greater the benefits I have described.

There are many more studies with similar findings.

I cite data from other states because we do not have the systems in place in New Jersey to do a comparable study. Once NJ Smart is fully operational I suspect we will find similar results for New Jersey.

Sequential arts education taught by highly qualified teachers is valuable in its own right. It is also clear arts education is one of the solutions for improving all of our schools. In fact, there is no study that indicates that reducing arts education has any benefit to our students whatsoever. Not one.

We recognize the revisions being discussed today represent a short-term fix. We understand the long-term goal is to streamline and consolidate NJQSAC and the reporting requirements under No Child Left Behind into a single system. We are encouraging the Commissioner, the department staff and this board to engage with the professional content associations to assist in the development of this new accountability system as well as the other major educational reform priorities for the state — including the new evaluation systems being piloted under the Excellent Educators for New Jersey program. Inclusion of the expertise of the content areas, particularly the non-tested subjects will be critical for success and will help you avoid potential unintended consequences, which may not be obvious.

You may not be aware that one of the nation’s leading experts in the area of assessment and evaluation in the arts is a staff member here in the New Jersey Department of Education, Dale Schmid. New Jersey is also home to many widely regarded national leaders and experts on the how arts education assists education reform.

Please know the visual and performing arts education community stands ready, willing and able to work with the department and the state board as you work to achieve your goals to improve education for all children. We offer the depth and breadth of our expertise to assist in these important efforts for our state.

Improving our schools is a goal we all share. Increasing access to and participation in the arts is part of the solution!

3 Responses

  1. Bob,
    Thank you so much for posting this. We read it aloud tonight in my “Topics in Theatre Education” class. The students are pre-serve drama teachers who already had a working knowledge of the NJBOE and the state of NJ arts education. But there was something about reading about an essentially real-time issue that prompted more teachable moments than usual. We looked up the NJQSAC, needing to know more in order to understand the context of your testimony. We reviewed the role of NJAEP and the data you cited. They found your statements most articulate and helpful. Considering the fact that they hope to enter the classroom soon as HQ’d theatre educators, your blog shed light on an issue with which they will cope in innumerable ways.
    Thanks from Rachel, Lissette, Jensyn, Anniely, Raven, and Brenna

  2. Thank your for this wonderful resource and for so eloquently voicing what all of us in arts education need to be telling our policy makers. Would you please provide sources for studies quoted?

  3. Thank you for your testimony, especially emphasizing that there is no benefit to anyone when music programs are cut. I am a firm believer that school reform should not include eliminating music and art programs and I will continue my advocacy in this area here the Washington DC area.
    Uncle Devin

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