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ARTS for All looks to address arts education in schools

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 29, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

As we enter another school year, many school system’s arts programs are feeling the negative impacts of education reform efforts of the past 20 years. Program like No Child Left Behind (NCLB), have forced schools to shift focus primarily to the “tested” subjects of reading, math and science.This narrowed emphasis often pushes the arts and humanities to the sidelines. In a nationwide survey of visual art educators in 2010, “32% reported that enrollments in their art programs had decreased… students were denied access to art classes because they were required to take extra math or language arts courses or because they had failed to pass language arts or math tests required for the measurement of Adequate Yearly Progress.”

The Need to Foster Innovation, Creativity, and 21st Century Skills
Arts education—dance, media arts, music, theatre/drama, visual arts—is a necessary component for the development of the “whole child,” enabling each individual to become a productive, creative, and innovative member of society. Equal access to high quality, sequential arts education is essential to developing important 21st-century skills and will allow our Commonwealth to regain and maintain a competitive economic edge globally by exporting creative ideas and products.

In addition a number of schools in Boston, Worcester and other Gateway cities have turned to arts as a tool to turn around badly performing schools. The Boston Arts Academy, a public high school in the city whose students spend half of their time in school in arts classes, will send 94% of its graduates to college next year.

Currently arts education is not equally accessible to all children. While some districts have rich, sequential and regular arts learning in every grade, others have limited or no arts learning.

The ARTS for All Initiative
The ARTS for All Initiative calls for the development and implementation of a comprehensive arts strategic plan establishing arts education as integral to every school district’s curriculum.

As a first step, the ARTS For All Initiative will work with higher education to establish one year of arts education in high school as an admission requirement to the Massachusetts state university and UMass systems. Current admission criteria include specific courses in English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Foreign Languages. Experience has shown in Massachusetts that adoption of these subject requirements ensure they are taught in every high school across the Commonwealth, resulting in a de facto mandated sequence of learning. Inclusion of the arts will help make certain all students in the Commonwealth have access to the arts regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, economic level, or any other demographic status or condition.

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education should follow the lead of ten other states and require incoming university students to take at least one year of visual or performing arts, music or dance in high school as an admission requirement to the state university system.

Matt Wilson is the Executive Director of MASSCreative.

[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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