Friday, November 4, 2011

Update on ESEA - (NCLB)

As I have been commenting on in the last several blogs, Congress is right now, re-writing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better know to most people as the No Child Left Behind Act.  As I have been encouraging you to do, making your voice heard right now, is the only way to help make changes to what will be the National Education Policy for the next decade or so.  


One of the organizations that is active for the arts - on a National level, especially in education, is Americans for the Arts.  I have included several links to their organization, including the sidebar on the left of this article, which connects you to contact information for your own legeslators.  They are one of the organizations that lobby for arts initiatives in Washington, and one of the inroads to Congress  that we as arts activists, actually can make use of to get our voices heard.  Americans for the Arts and their national partners have been lobbying for legislative equity for the arts at the National level this year.  You may take a look at those recommendations at their website here.
  Last week, Americans for the Arts released a memo updating us on the work that is taking place right now in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee of Congress, which is the committee tasked with re-writing the ESEA act.    Americans for the Arts, has been actively lobbying members of this committee on behalf of the arts, and last week they issued a memo, regarding the current recommendations of that committee.  The central portion of that memo is included below:


"The legislation as amended has several items that are of interest to the arts education sector.
  1. 1)  Arts education was retained as a “core academic subject” – ensuring that the arts maintains this designation is critical for eligibility to use federal funds locally.
  2. 2)  The term “core academic subject” has been incorporated into far more programs than No Child Left Behind did. It now places core academic subjects, including the arts, as central to extended learning programs, “highly qualified teacher” qualifications, parental engagement programs, advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, reading or language arts, and STEM initiatives. This is a giant leap from the diminutive position that “core academic subject” held in the No Child Left Behind Act.
  3. 3)  A new program called Extended Learning was created to provide competitive grants to school districts to extend their school day and the arts and music are among the specified reasons for this new program.
  4. 4)  The Well Rounded Education Amendment, described in more detail below, and based on the Obama Administration “Blueprint” proposal, creates a single competitive grant program to provide support to: arts, civics and government, economics, environmental education, financial literacy, foreign languages, geography, health education, history, physical education and social studies. The authorized funding level for this grant program would be $500 million a set of similar programs currently receives $265 million this year. This amendment sustains direct federal support for arts education, which would have been terminated otherwise.
  5. 5)  Among ten programs of “National Significance” is specific direction for the Department of Education to support “projects that encourage the involvement of persons with disabilities in the arts.”
  6. 6)  The most substantial changes from current law in the legislation are: it ends Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in favor of a measure of “continuous improvement” and it no longer forces states and local school districts to create evaluation systems in order to receive funding forteacher and principal development. Both of these changes could reduce the “teaching to the test” and reverse the narrowing of the curriculum that has occurred since NCLB was implemented. It might also mean that art and music teachers could be evaluated in their subject area, if a state so chooses, instead of being evaluated on their student’s math and reading scores. "

The entire memo may be found here.  As I am sure you will agree, the recommendations show considerable thought and improvement over the present National Policy.  A critical part of this process begins next week, when the Senate will open a hearing to consider these recommendations.  There is significant opposition to various portions of the recommendations by members of both parties of Congress.  What the legislators do to, and with this bill will significantly affect arts education for the next several years.  I again encourage you to contact your legislators, and voice your support for the arts in education. 


Til Next Time
Ron Zell 

(c) 2011 by Eduarts4us. All rights reserved.