You can NEVER have too much of a good thing...right? Arts education continues to take hits in schools across the United States despite its benefits

Alexis Boyages, Assistant Editor in Chief

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Used with permission/balletexcelohio.org

Kelsey Russo/The Explorer

Jen Frantz/The Explorer

Used with permission/Tim Naujoks

 

Senior Meredith Snyder works on her wall mural for her AP Art class.

 

The HHS marching band waits to play at the Homecoming Pep Assembly in September. 

Shrek, played by senior James Germano, and Donkey, played by senior Dan Hoornbeek, visit the dragon’s keep during this year’s spring musical.

 

This country faces an epidemic. Not one like HIV/AIDS, Ebola or obesity. One that is not so apparent. The United States faces a problem of a lack appreciation for the arts. 

    Now when you think of the arts, you might think of painting, drawing, sculpting and “boring” art museums. But the arts span multiple areas, not just “painting on a canvas” art. According to the Arts Education Partnership, the arts include “dance, music, theater, media arts, literature, design and visual arts.” 

    But more and more often, Americans would much rather spend their time watching a football game than watching a ballet or a play. People don’t want to support small art galleries; they would rather support huge baseball stadiums or basketball arenas. And rightfully so, the arts don’t appeal to everyone. However, not everyone has the chance to be exposed to the arts, thus they never have an appreciation for the arts and the benefits that they provide. And this is where arts education comes into play.


What is arts education? 

    As stated above, the arts includes dance, music, theater, media arts, literature, design and visual arts. Arts education focuses on all of these aspects and integrates all of these into the school curriculum. 

     Thomas Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction, said about arts education to edutopia.com, “When you think about the purposes of education, there are three. We’re preparing kids for jobs. We›re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.”

The No Child Left Behind Act  

     The most notable federal action created to support the arts in schools is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), federal legislation which was passed in 2001. NCLB made the arts a core academic subject that requires schools to teach the arts along with other core subjects like math, science, English and history. And along with making the arts a core subject, the act also, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, “...paves the way for the arts to be recognized both as a serious subject in its own right and as a part of a proven strategy to improve student performance in the other core subjects.” The primary objective of  NCLB was “to close achievement gaps between students by bringing all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or income to the ‘proficient’ level on state standardized tests by the 2013-14 school year,” according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. 


What are the benefits of arts education?

    Arts education has been proven to benefit students in all areas of their academic and social lives. According to the website dosomething.org, “New brain research shows that not only does music improve skills in math and reading, but it promotes creativity, social development, personality adjustment and self-worth.”

    Arts education also has major impacts on students who come from low-income backgrounds. According to Eric Cooper, president and founder of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences.” And according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, “Studies show children from low-income families are less likely to be consistently involved in arts activities or instruction than children from high-income families.”

    Students who have arts education as a part of their everyday curriculum have higher test scores than students who don’t participate in arts education during school. In an article run by the “Washington Post,” President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities found that, “Student achievement, typically as represented by reading and mathematics performance on high stakes tests, including transfer of skills learning from the arts to learning in other academic areas—for example, the spatial-temporal reasoning skills developed by music instruction.” The National Assembly of States Arts Agencies also reported, “In a well-documented national study using a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. Moreover, the high arts-involved students also watched fewer hours of TV, participated in more community service and reported less boredom in school.”

    Not to mention that as reported by dosomething.org, “Arts and music education programs are mandatory in countries that rank consistently among the highest for math and science test scores, like Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands.” 

    HHS Orchestra director Roberto Iriarte reiterates these findings and shares his opinion on how students are affected by the arts. 

    He states, “It [the arts] affects the analytical as well as the emotional aspects of learning and develops the human in ways that are all encompassing of language, math, science, physiology and the effect to the emotions.” 

    Amy Foulkes, HHS Choir director and Drama Club adviser, also feels that the arts have a positive impact on students, especially at HHS. 

    “Students involved in the arts build stronger self-esteem through their performances in front of larger crowds and through their creative process,” she says. 

    Foulkes also comments on the audition process as an important teaching moment for students. 

    She says, “The audition process can aid one’s ability to ‘learn to love rejection’ and develop coping skills.”


Why are the arts struggling despite their obvious benefits?

   Although the arts have proven to be beneficial to students in and out of the classroom, schools across the country are neglecting this information in favor of not teaching the arts in their respective schools. Most often, these cuts are done to save the school districts money. For example, take Chicago. A 2005 study found “ almost no opposition to arts education among principals and district superintendents, yet there were large disparities in school offerings around the state,” according to eutopia.org.    

    Also reported by eutopia.org, “In California...participation in music courses dropped 46 percent from 1999-2000 through 2000-04, while total school enrollment grew nearly six percent, according to a study by the Music for All Foundation. The number of music teachers, meanwhile, declined 26.7 percent.” The report continued to reveal that, “In 2001, the California Board of Education set standards at each grade level for what students should know and be able to do in music, visual arts, theater and dance, but a statewide study in 2006, by SRI International, found that 89 percent of K-12 schools failed to offer a standards-based course of study in all four disciplines. Sixty-one percent of schools didn›t even have a full-time arts specialist.”

     Hudson is not immune to these types of cuts either. According to Sheryl Sheatzley, Communications Manager for Hudson City School District, Hudson City Schools face cuts by the State Biennial Budget proposal, created by Governor John Kasich. 

     “Should this proposal pass as it is written,” says Sheatzley, “Hudson will lose $2.98 million.” The final vote on the proposal will be held on June 30.

     Sheatzley continues, “If there is no compromise in the proposed budget, the district will need to consider putting a levy on the ballot sooner than anticipated in Five-Year Forecast…So, basically, the only way to make up the proposed reduction in funding (should it be passed as proposed) is to place the burden on taxpayers.”

     Sheatzley explains that the reason behind the cuts are coming from Governor Kasich. 

     She says, “The Governor has stated that he believes communities like Hudson can pay more based on personal incomes. We believe that our citizens already do their part, and, in addition, Hudson already receives less state funding than many other districts. We’re not asking for more state money – we are just asking that no more funding be taken away.

     Hudson has taken significant cuts to funding over the years. 

     Sheatzley explains, “Currently, Hudson only receives 23 percent of its operating funds from the State. In the new budget proposal the percentage will drop to 11.6 percent in 2017 and 5 percent in 2018.” 

     With these cuts, Hudson has been able to save the arts, for the most part, in the district. However, for other districts across the country, this is not always the case. If districts face significant budget cuts, one of the first things to go is, most often, the arts programs. 


 How are organizations changing the perceptions of arts education?

    There are organizations across the U.S. that are dedicated to using the arts to make a difference in the lives of students, especially students who are from low-income families. One of these organizations sits right in Hudson’s backyard. ROAD, which stands for Reach Out and Dance, is a community outreach program that is “committed to brightening the lives of children through the arts,” according to its website. ROAD goes to schools around Northeast Ohio where students would otherwise not be exposed to the arts, and Akron Public Schools is one of the major recipients of ROAD services. 

    According to the ROAD website, the program focuses on, “ Utilizing the energetic instruction of dance, voice and drama, children experience teamwork, self-discipline and increased self-esteem in an arts classroom while aiming for the high standards in an arts program.”

    Volunteer for ROAD, Grace Goldenberg, explained that, “The ROAD program travels around to schools each week and will teach the classes basic things, such as warming up, all the way to full-fledged choreographed routines, which they will then perform for friends, family and fellow classmates during a big show at the end of the year.”

    Katie Sole, administrator of ROAD, believes that the students involved in the program are only positively impacted. 

    She says, “I believe it makes them more confident, well-rounded people. And, it gives them a great appreciation for the arts.”

    Sole says that students in ROAD are engaged in the lessons and are receptive to what is being taught in the class. She explains what keeps them engaged and involved is “the enthusiasm and the energy of the teacher.”

    Sole explains how she has been impacted by ROAD saying, “I have become patient and have learned to teach children with a wide range of disabilities. I’ve also learned how to tailor my teaching to children from different demographics.”

    ROAD not only is a positive experience for students and teachers, but also its volunteers. 

    Goldenberg says, “My favorite thing about being an assistant with ROAD was seeing how happy the kids were in rehearsals and how proud they were after a performance. They really improved because they enjoyed being there.” She continues to say, “Not all of the kids come from the greatest home lives and with ROAD, they are introduced to the wonderful world of musical theater and the arts. The rehearsals were such a happy environment to go to each week; both the teacher and the kids were excited to be there, and that is why I enjoyed it so much.”


How does arts education apply to HHS? 

    Most would agree that Hudson is a very fortunate community. For the most part, all students have been exposed to the arts at one point in their lives. According to both Foulkes and Iriarte, Hudson is a community that supports the arts. Both the orchestra and the Drama Club have expanded its number of members; the orchestra has gone from 40 to 120 members in the span of 19 years that Iriarte has been teaching, and a similar trend can be seen regarding the Drama Club. 

    Foulkes says, “I have found that over the years, the kids like to do hands-on activities to give themselves a break from the ‘academic’ activities.”


    Sole put it perfectly when responding to what the arts mean to her: “The arts mean a better life, a better community and a world for everyone.” 

 

    The arts are supposed to be fun; they evoke creativity and improve both the academic and social lives of those involved. Remember, ‘you can’t spell Earth without art.” It deserves a little bit of appreciation.     

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2015-05-19 08:20:10

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