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New Report on Art and Music Classes-Alarming!

A bleak picture emerged from a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education on the state of arts education.

Fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than a decade ago, a decline many attribute to budget cuts and an increased focus on math and reading. The percentage of elementary schools with a visual arts class declined from 87 to 83 percent.

Music at the elementary and secondary school levels remained steady, though there were declines at the nation’s poorest schools.

Music and Arts classes are still out of reach for many. While 100 percent of high schools where 76 percent or more students qualify for free or reduced lunch — a key indicator of poverty — had a music class in the 1999-2000 school year, only 81 percent did a decade later.

See link to article in Star Tribune:

http://www.startribune.com/nation/145804075.html

Apparently, in many states, we aren’t playing to what we know works relative to Music and Art classes:

1.  The cognitive advantages students have from participating in highly structured, highly rigorous Music and Art classes are statistically significant as revealed by numerous high quality research studies and reports.

2.  School districts and states can conduct far more feasibility studies, efficiency studies, and go farther in trimming regulatory departments and non-core areas (such as student transportation) to ease the ill-effects of tight funding on direct-to-student offerings, especially those that offer such incredible benefits such as high quality Music and Art classes.

3.  Social benefits are not as well-studied as the academic benefits of Music and Art classes; however, any in-tune parent knows the advantages gained in a childhood steeped in Music, Art, Theater, Sports, Dance, etc.

I am deeply disappointed by the findings of this new UDOE report.

JW

P.S.  That wasn’t a swipe at student transportation-it is important for schools, districts, and states to offer.  I doubt there is a school transportation department where more efficiencies cannot be found (and implemented without cutting services to students).

American Education: Can we Trust the System?

Yesterday, I got the chance to spend time with a few old friends.  Among them were Stoney Sellars and Howard Haworth-two incredible guys from whom I have learned a lot.  I was with them to seek some important advice.  Both are strong proponents of Public Education.  Both get why/how the acceleration of performance in American Education is critical to not only our prosperity, but also to our survival as a Nation.

In both conversations, the issue of trust came up.  Can we trust the system?  Can we trust the data coming from the system? Can we trust that superintendents, school boards, teachers, and principals will make the right decisions for the right reasons at the right times for children?  Note that these gentlemen are terrific proponents of the school system and of the state where they live.  Both are successful businessmen with strong civic leadership records as well.  These guys are experienced champions of “the system”.

After my cumulative reflections from the conversations, Howard mentioned 3 guiding principles which resonate for me in putting into action what both Stoney and Howard suggested (separately): Candor, Clarity, and Context.

Candor: for the system to build and accumulate trust, the truth must be told-always and in a timely fashion

Clarity:  especially when sharing performance data, providing clear, concise, and readily transparent information-must be achieved in every conversation

Context: when articulating candor and clarity, providing the context and relating that context to bigger and smaller pictures when necessary.

Both Stoney and Howard have long been gifted at boiling down rhetoric and wisdom into concise points.  These 3 Cs hit home for me.

So whether your “system” is a big complex school system (such as Charlotte Mecklenburg, where Stoney and Howard live) or a small network of schools (Distinctive Schools in Chicago comes to mind for me) continually developing, building, and accumulating trust is something we must do-especially if we want our stakeholders to support and champion our work.

Great day yesterday.  From two additional friends, I learned some other lessons, and I will share those soon.

Thoughts?

JW

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