Arts education necessary for Texas school children to excel

Education remains one of the most important statewide issues. After all, any system that hopes to prepare Texas children to become the leaders of tomorrow is of great importance to everyone. While there are many different viewpoints about the most appropriate ways to educate our future generations, most Texans agree on the need for excellence. Core subjects, including reading, writing, math, science and social studies, provide a critical foundation, however, it is important to note that a comprehensive quality education also includes the arts as a part of the core curriculum. Arts education in schools takes many forms. Young people may play an instrument in the orchestra, paint a mural, sing in the choir or act in a play. They may also have the arts incorporated into their lessons in other subjects in the classroom. Regardless of the form the expression takes, in order to prepare all young Texans to compete in the global economy, we must ensure instructional excellence rooted in education through the arts. The Texas Commission on the Arts defines art education as a core subject that creates experience-based learning opportunities, resulting in improved student achievement. It is conceptual learning’through perception, creative expression and performance, historical and cultural heritage, and response and evaluation’that gives students a more well-rounded education. The arts elevate each student’s abilities and provide all students with a broad understanding of world culture and their place within it. At TCA, we recognize that arts education leaders advocate different methods of including the arts in classrooms across the state and we support all of them because we do not believe that they are mutually exclusive. We believe that additional arts education curriculum is needed in Texas, no matter if it is integrated into classroom activities or taught as a separate class. There are many stellar examples of arts incorporated into the classroom across Texas. For example, Bethune Academy for Mathematics, Science and Fine Arts in Houston has a predominantly minority student population with 86 percent of the students considered “at risk.” The school boasts a 97 percent attendance rate and TAAS scores that average 88 percent in reading, 98 percent in math and 92 percent in writing. By combining the arts with quality instruction, technology and parental involvement, Bethune students are becoming productive and innovative citizens of Texas. Another successful program is Curtains Up on Reading, a collaboration of the Dallas Children’s Theatre and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Students in Dallas and throughout the state involved in the program have demonstrated continued improvement in standardized test scores. After Curtains Up’s first year, TAAS scores improved by almost 30 percent in all academic areas. Three years later, TAAS scores continue to improve with sixth graders reaching 81 percent mastery level. We can do so much more. A strong arts education program in every school is important, giving students the opportunity to learn basic kinesthetic, spatial and visual skills that can, in turn, be applied to their learning in other subjects. Studies have shown that, regardless of socioeconomic status, students who are involved in the arts consistenly perform better in traditional subjects than do the students learning without the arts. The fine arts act as the ultimate connecting thread across all academic disciplines, the one common link that unites perspective and facilitates learning in all subject areas. In the 2000-2001 school year, the Year of Arts Education, it is time for parents, educators and community leaders alike to endorse uniform standards for arts education in every school in the state, from pre-K through grade 16. Currently, in keeping with Senate Bill 1 of the Texas Education Code, passed by the 74th legislature, the fine arts are to be included in the “required enhancement curriculum” for the state. However, there is no current provision of appropriate time and staffing by certified personnel. Together, we can work to ensure the inclusion of comprehensive arts education programs in our children’s schools and within required foundation curriculum in the state of Texas. Legislators, business leaders, parents, teachers, school administrators and artists can make a difference by uniting for the benefit of our children. Texas schoolchildren need every-one’s help to receive the complete education that will prepare them for the world of tomorrow. We must reach out to parents and reverse the perception that arts education will only benefit a limited few. We must encourage parents to contact their local school district office and speak with the coordinator of arts education for the district. We must discuss possible plans of action through area parent/teacher organizations or with individual teachers or principals. Resources are available by calling the Texas Education Agency at (512) 463-4341, the Texas Commission on the Arts at (512) 463-5535, and/or the Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education at (713) 572-2870. Teachers and parents also have access to a number of free resources that can supplement a child’s education in the arts. Through TCA’s comprehensive Web site, they can find links to both state and national organizations that work to promote arts education in schools. State-approved, arts-related education curricula are also available on the site. Located at www.arts.state. tx.us, users can enter the TCAnet village and click on the schoolhouse for arts education resources. Please remember, no matter the mode of support, the importance lies in its expression. Together, we can create a brighter future for all of our children by ensuring that the arts are incorporated into the core subjects in every Texas school. As citizens, we appreciate the arts’performing arts, visual arts, literary arts, folk arts, film and multimedia’for their educational value and for their contributions to the quality of our lives. We must remember that art is for everyone’especially our children.

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