Monday, April 27, 2009

Texas Aims To Take Art Out

While many of the performing and visual arts teachers are
aware of this action, others may not be. Let me make a plea
here, fine arts are the fabric that holds together our
society. While we need engineers and doctors and lawyers,
there is not one thing you wear, drive or live in that
didn't have a designer plan it out. Divergent thinking is a
higher order skill. As fine art educators, we deal with them
every day. So please consider contacting your state
representatives. It may just be art now, but what will it be
two years, five years or ten years down the road?

If you believe fine arts should continue to be required for
graduation because it is important to the overall education
of Texas schoolchildren and you believe that if the
legislature doesn’t require fine arts they will be sending
school districts the wrong message about its importance, you
need to call your Senator’s and Representative’s capitol
offices. Ask them to vote no on SB3 and HB3 unless fine arts
is kept as a graduation requirement (as is required in the
current Recommended Program). This notification is urgent as
Senate Bill 3 is expected on the floor Wednesday, April 29.

Find your Senator’s and Representative’s Capitol Office Numbers


* The current one-credit fine arts graduation
requirement will be eliminated if the Senate and House pass
their current committee substitutes for Senate Bill 3 and
House Bill 3 (the new accountability bills).
* Senate Bill 3 is expected to go to the floor on
Wednesday, April 29.
* The bills include revisions to the Recommended Program
for graduation. The revised program (commonly referred to as
the 4x4+2) will require a student to take four years each of
math, science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies
plus two years of foreign language. The other eight credits
in the 26-credit plan will be academic electives. After more
than twenty years, there will be no fine arts credit
requirement for graduation from Texas public high schools.
* Without a fine arts requirement, many students will
never experience rigorous, meaningful instruction in the arts.

You may select from the following talking points for why a
fine arts requirement is important as well as add your own:

1. Supports Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
(THECB) Fine Arts Graduation Requirement: Currently, the
THECB requires three credits of fine arts for a student to
graduate with a baccalaureate degree from a Texas
institution. To not include a fine arts requirement in high
school is philosophically counter to this requirement. With
no high school requirement, there would be no fine arts
required for students in public school after grade five. A
4x4+2 plan does not support a seamless K-16 education for
Texas students.
2. Supports Leading Business and Technology Author Dan
Pink’s Philosophy of 21st Century Workforce Training:
Twenty-first century work skill development should be the
driving force behind our education system moving forward in
Texas. As Pink details in his best-selling book, A Whole New
Mind-Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, while
“left-brain” abilities are absolutely necessary, that
dominance is gone and the workforce of the future belongs to
a different kind of person with a different kind of mind -
creative and empathetic “right-brain” thinkers. Rigorous
instruction in fine arts is a major component of this
workforce development.
3. Impact on Minority and Low Socioeconomic Students:
There is a genuine concern that these students, with no
required exposure to fine arts in middle school or high
school, will simply be channeled into courses focused on
TAKS or end-of-course performance and not clearly given
their options to explore fine arts, an area of study that
may keep them in school and encourage successful academic
performance in other subjects.
4. Aligns Texas Requirements with Federal Legislation:
The current core academic subjects defined in No Child Left
Behind include mathematics, science, English language arts,
social studies, languages other than English, and fine arts.
Requiring a fine arts credit aligns Texas with NCLB as well
as the core subjects of P21 - The Partnership for 21st
Century Skills.
5. Aligns with the College Board Publication, "Academic
Preparation for College - What Students Need To Know And Be
Able to Do": This College Board document defines the basic
academic subjects as English language arts, fine arts,
mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign language.
6. Creates Flexibility: Even with a fine arts credit
requirement, the Recommended Program will provide for seven
academic electives from the foundation and enrichment
subject areas versus the 3.5 elective options in the current
Recommended Program.
7. Offers Broad-Based Academic Experiences: Fine arts is
a subject area offering students the opportunity to explore
a variety of academic disciplines through state approved
courses in music, art, theater and dance. The arts options
are expansive and diverse unlike the other current required
enrichment subjects such as communications applications and
physical education which are singular or limited course
offerings. One ISD includes over forty TEKS-based fine arts
courses in its course catalogue.
8. Supports Texas Education Code (TEC) Objectives: Adding
a fine arts credit requirement supports a “well balanced and
appropriate education” as called for in Objective 4 of
Section 4.001 of the TEC.
9. Supports Student Success: Based on a TMEA study of TEA
data, students who participate in fine arts courses
demonstrate higher achievement in other academic areas,
better attendance records, and lower drop-out rates than
students who do not participate in fine arts.

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