"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, June 26, 2006

Test Preparation Trumps Arts Education

Thanks to people outside of Joel Klein's office, the New York City Schools have what sounds like a first-class blueprint for a compreshensive arts curriculum for the Schools. Only problem--no leadership and no cash to make it happen.

Wouldn't this be a great beginning for spending just a tiny fraction of the Buffet billions that he is giving away? Or is he, like Gates, only interested in the work curriculum or the curriculum for corporate growth? A clip from the Times:

"The blueprint is not curriculum, the blueprint is only a recommendation," said Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., a Democrat of Brooklyn, chairman of the council's Cultural Affairs Committee. "They're not requiring schools to have music teachers or art teachers. They're not saying, 'You have to have this much art.' " Because the blueprint is aimed at arts specialists, it does not address schools that do not have them, or those with insufficient art space or supplies. "There is such a gap between the aspiration and the resources to actually make that happen that it feels like a hoax or a P.R. document," said Eva S. Moskowitz, former chairwoman of the City Council Education Committee, who now runs a charter school, Harlem Success.

Given the intense emphasis on math and reading scores, schools remain focused on test preparation and have no comparable incentive to improve arts education. "Arts are not on the school report card," said Richard Kessler, the executive director of the Center for Arts Education.

No real change can occur until they are, arts advocates say. "The chancellor would have to issue a mandate that arts is required as part of the curriculum and schools will be assessed and held accountable," said David Shookhoff, the director of education for Manhattan Theater Club, which produces plays on and off Broadway. "That would be a necessary step to ensure that we really move forward where every school has qualified arts specialists."

That mandate is not likely to come, said Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor: "I'm a little hesitant to start to say, 'I'm going to mandate an arts curriculum, and I'm going to mandate a social studies curriculum, and I'm going to mandate a language curriculum.' Sometimes a little bit of judgment and discretion goes a long way."

Discretion?? What kind of discretion was used to determine that children in grades 3, 5, and 7 would be held back in school if they did not pass the annual test of mandated reading and math content? Was it Klein's discretion of Bloomberg's to ignore the warnings of the American Psychological Society and American Education Research Association against the use of such tests as the sole criterion for making life-changing decisions? Discretion??


  1. It's truly sad how the value of arts education in our society has truly been ignored.

  2. I just finished reading several essays by Elliot Eisner. One of his essays from the 1970s spoke about the consequences of standardization and testing: merit pay for performance, a drop in higher order thinking skills, and a total disregard of the whole child. His prophecy has certainly come true in many places.