Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arts and Education

"An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life." ~Author Unknown

Recently we received a note from our elementary school that the distract had changed the grading scale of the special arts classes grades 2-4. The change included two main things that would change for the elementary student body. The first change is that the grading scale will now be A,B,C,D, F scale instead of the scale of the past which was E,S,N scale. The second change is the grades from all the related Arts classes will be a determining factor on the honor roll system. In the past, these class where not included or grouped with the core classes of Math, Science, Reading, etc.... Plus these changes will open up a whole new expectation of parents, arts teachers and students to communicate on a deeper and more clear level. This change I welcome with open arms. I am big on the partnership between teacher, student, and parent for education. All seems simple enough, right?

Upon further investigation, here's what I've found. Students receive an average of 15 recorded grades from their homeroom teacher in their core classes. Also, the homeroom teacher spends everyday getting to know their students and their learning patterns, struggles and strengths. It is much easier for a homeroom teacher to assess her students on a fair level and give them the assistance needed to achieve goals. The Arts teachers see the students on average once or twice a week and as of the last grading period gave the students an average 6-9 recorded grades. So my question and concern with this is, does the time the Arts teachers have with each student lend enough time to teach a new skill, develop and assist said new skill and then take a fair assessment and adequate data to give the student a fair grade over that new skill? In the core subjects, students are given multiple chances to develop and learn new skills through teaching, homework, projects and testing. Related Arts teachers do not have that same playing field, nor do the students in their once or twice a week classes. I am only concerned that this new policy will do more harm than good, while putting even more pressure on our already under paid and overworked teachers.

Don't get me wrong, I support the related Arts program and think it is a very valuable tool within our public school system. Anyone who knows my family personally knows just how important a role music plays in this family. I just believe that the Arts programs have an entirely different function and purpose than that of the core academic programs. I believe the arts should enrich students lives, build confidence, establish thinking patterns outside of the box, encourage healthy living, and all in all expose a world to children that might not get any other chance to be taught the Arts. The Arts should be enjoyable to students. After all, isn't that what the Arts are to us adults? Enrichment for our lives somehow? Isn't that why we listen to music and line our walls with art to make our lives richer and more beautiful? I think the Arts are a very valuable program to our schools. All in all, I am just saying that rather than good and brilliant teachers struggling to figure out what they can get more recordable grades from and how they can put art and such in paper and pencil form, I would like to see those teachers exploring the arts with my sons. Maybe showing them new instruments, exploring new color patterns to make the world a more beautiful place. Perhaps, learning that healthy bodies are happy bodies through fun life changing exercise habits.

It's very true, life is not fair. As adults, it gets even less fair and I believe we do need to prepare our children for changes, even new policies in their schools and lives. But do we as parents and educators not have the responsibility to new generations to do our very best to make the world a fair and just place? To teach them that 'life is not fair' and the path is not easy, while explaining that to fight for what is right is never a battle to which you surrender, no matter how large or small the cause. And education is no small cause.

I just want to say in closing that the school my children attend is a great school with an amazing, top-notch staff. Despite my concerns with this new district policy, I am very confident that the educators in my children's school will do their very best to help parents and students adjust smoothly to this new policy. I trust their judgment and respect their abilities to prepare my children for the next season of their lives.


benjaminnleslie said...

I just got done reading your studio visit entry on your lyrics and love blog....I loved it!! So sweet and touching even just for me to hear you talk about Carter and his love and fascination with music and the whole process. You write beautifully too and it allows readers to feel some of what you feel. You're a great mother! ...didn't see that I could comment there so I thought I'd leave you one here. ;)

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