Apr 10, 2012
Arts Instruction Remains Prevalent—For Some
A new nationwide survey on the state of arts education in U.S. public schools finds that arts offerings haven't declined as much as expected, but that students in high-poverty schools, particularly at the secondary level, do not receive the same rich exposure to arts opportunities as their wealthier peers.
Educators have long suggested that the No Child Left Behind Act's singular focus on reading and math combined with state and federal budget woes has forced schools to dramatically cut their arts programming. But the congressionally mandated study reveals no significant national declines in the availability of music and visual arts instruction in both elementary and secondary schools. Ninety-four percent of elementary schools offer music instruction and 83 percent offer visual arts instruction. However, only 3 percent of elementary schools offer specific instruction in dance, and only 4 percent in drama—a decrease from 20 percent of elementary schools offering instruction in those subjects during the 1999–2000 school year.
At the secondary level, 91 percent of schools offer music instruction, 89 percent offer visual arts, 12 percent offer dance, and 45 percent offer drama. None of these percentages represent significant changes from a decade ago.
The most troublesome survey findings demonstrate the gaps in arts availability for students in high-poverty secondary schools. Music instruction at these schools dropped from 100 percent in 1999–2000 to 81 percent in 2009–10, and visual arts instruction dropped from 93 percent to 80 percent.
During his announcement of the report's findings, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "A well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students' success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode."
ASCD agrees with Duncan's conclusion and works with a coalition of education organizations to help ensure all students receive a well-rounded education. As part of this work, the coalition advocates for Congress's Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization efforts to include subject-specific grant programs that provide funding to support a whole child education.
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Get to the Core: Register for ASCD's Free Webinar on the New Math Standards
ASCD's Common Core webinar series features a free webinar on the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. During the session, participants will learn about the overarching priorities of the new math standards and the major instruction shifts these standards require. Presenter Sandra Alberti of Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit organization that facilitates effective Common Core implementation, will also present recommendations for teachers about how to introduce the necessary instruction changes in a thoughtful, concrete way.
Register now for the webinar, which will be held April 17, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. eastern time. A similar webinar focused on the English language arts standards will be held on May 2, 2012.
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Attention Teachers: Secretary Duncan Wants to Hear from You
Just over a month ago, Secretary Duncan launched the RESPECT Project (which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) to involve teachers and principals in a national conversation about strengthening the profession.
He now invites teachers to not only participate in this national conversation, but to also help lead discussions and provide the U.S. Department of Education with ideas related to teacher recruitment and preparation, career pathways and professional advancement, teacher evaluation and development, and compensation. The RESPECT Project’s new web page includes a toolkit to help teachers facilitate these discussions; provide feedback to the department; and become involved in transforming teaching in their states, districts, and schools. The toolkit includes reading materials, how-to guidelines, and invitation and thank you templates.
During ASCD’s 2012 Annual Conference, members of ASCD’s Legislative Committee met with Gamal Sherif, a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow, to discuss federal policy issues, including the Obama administration’s RESPECT initiative. Sherif was responsive to Legislative Committee members’ messages about the importance of providing support for teachers and principals in this difficult economic climate.
Read more about the RESPECT Project (PDF) and sign up for the department’s Teaching Matters newsletter for regular updates on the teaching profession and future information about the RESPECT Project.
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Nine States Win New SIG Funding, First-Year Results Released
On the heels of new information about how effective the U.S. Department of Education's controversial School Improvement Grant (SIG) program is, Secretary Duncan announced that nine states—Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania—will receive additional SIG funding to turn around more of their persistently lowest-achieving schools. The awards are from the $535 million designated for the SIG program in the FY11 budget, and they range from Illinois’s $23.6 million to North Dakota's $1.2 million.
In the meantime, the department has released more details on the preliminary results of the SIG program’s first year based on data from 700 of the 830 schools that participated:
- In math, more than 25 percent of SIG schools reported double-digit gains in proficiency, while only 7 percent reported double-digit losses.
- In reading, close to 20 percent of SIG schools made double-digit gains, more than double the 9 percent of schools that had double-digit declines.
- Math proficiency increased in 63 percent of SIG schools, while 33 percent reported declines—meaning that increases in math proficiency were almost twice as common as declines.
- Reading proficiency increased in 58 percent of SIG schools, while 35 percent reported declines.
Department of Education officials attribute the gains to two main factors: 1) a dynamic school leader who is deeply committed to the school and surrounding community, and 2) teachers and other school professionals who share a relentless focus on improving instruction through both increased collaboration and better use of data.
The department plans to publish the full set of first-year data in the early summer.
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