Monday, July 11, 2011

- Arne Duncan "Boost Academic Achievement

I'm certainly not the only one who reads and listens to our nations Secretary of Education, Arnne Duncan and sees a great disconnect between what he says, and what he sees as a solution to the problem.  

None-the-less, at times, he talks a pretty good talk.  For instance, below are some excerpts from a talk a year ago to the Arts Education Partnership.  I encourage you to read the entire speech.  Not only would I agree with his remarks, but I've made many of these statements already in this blog.  The disconnect comes when you compare these statements with his conclusions, or his understanding of the causes of the problems.   A tongue-in-cheek way of looking at it may be found in  Aaron Pallas' comment in the Washington Post.  

How bad is NCLB? Arnne's own assessment in May of this year is that 82% of the schools in America will possibly fail this year.  Our educational system is not working.  In addition to all the other ways that it is failing,  it doesn't provide a content-rich, arts-rich education which he states is a vital part of an education, and needed desparately in our schools today. So what should we do about it?  Well, remember that Sir Ken Robinson called for completely overhauling our mass-education system in a way that isn't based on an 1800's industrial model, with antiquated ideas of what it means to be intelligent, or educated.   Mr. Duncans prescription however is to prescribe more NCLB, but with waivers rather than reform, hoping that if we ignore the problem long enough, it will go away.  It won't. 

Education Secretary - Arnne Duncan, -

The Well-Rounded Curriculum
Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Arts Education Partnership National Forum
Archived Information

April 9, 2010

"Now, I spent much of last year on a Listening and Learning Tour that took me to more than 35 states. And I heard quite a few stories. I spoke with thousands of students, parents, and teachers. And almost everywhere I went, I heard people express concern that the curriculum has narrowed, especially in schools that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students. There is no doubt that math, reading, writing, and science are vital core components of a good education in today's global economy. But so is the study of history, foreign languages, civics, and the arts. And it is precisely because a broad and deep grounding in the arts and humanities is so vital that we must be perpetually vigilant that public schools, from pre-K through twelfth grade, do not narrow the curriculum.

The case for a well-rounded curriculum begins with a disappointing reality: Many schools today are falling far short of providing an engaging, content-rich curriculum. Instead, students are often saddled with boring textbooks, dummied-down to the lowest common denominator. It is no wonder that much of today's curriculum fails to spark student curiosity or stimulate a love of learning. As Ernest Boyer pointed out years ago, "Many kids drop out of school because no one ever noticed that they dropped in."

Yet we know from research that access to a challenging high school curriculum has a greater impact on whether a student will earn a four-year college degree than his or her high school test scores, class rank, or grades. And we know that low-income students are less likely to have access to these accelerated learning opportunities and college-level coursework than their peers.
One impact of the content-lite curriculum is that many Americans are appallingly ignorant of our nation's origins.

You will perhaps not be surprised to hear that a recent public opinion survey by the American Revolution Center found that more than 80 percent of Americans know Michael Jackson sang "Beat It" and "Billie Jean." By contrast, a majority of Americans believe the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the War of 1812 occurred before the Declaration of Independence. Less than half of Americans today know that Valley Forge, the iconic site of George Washington's winter encampment with the Continental Army, is in Pennsylvania.
In the coming debate over ESEA reauthorization, I believe that arts education can help build the case for the importance of a well-rounded, content-rich curriculum in at least three ways.

First, the arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college. Second, arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a global economy. And last, but not least, the arts are valuable for their own sake, and they empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works.
As the First Lady sums up, she and the president both believe "strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation's leaders for tomorrow."

It is not surprising that visual arts instruction improves reading readiness, or that learning to play the piano or to master musical notation helps students to master math. Reading, math, and writing require students to understand and use symbols--and so does assembling shapes and colors in a portrait or using musical notes to learn fractions.

Is it any surprise then to learn of the large impact that arts education has on student achievement and attainment, especially among disadvantaged students?
Low-income students who play in the orchestra or band are more than twice as likely to perform at the highest levels in math as peers who do not play music. In James Catterall's well-known longitudinal study, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, low-income students at arts-rich high schools were more than twice as likely to earn a B.A. as low-income students at arts-poor high schools.
English language learners at arts-rich high schools were also far more likely than their peers at arts-poor high schools to go on to college..."

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