How many children left behind?

If your work in arts and cultural management includes a concern for arts in public education (and it should, by the way), you need to understand and engage with education policy at every level. At the national level, that means understanding the hopes and problems the No Child Left Behind Act, passed by congress and signed by the president in 2001.

To catch you up on the conversation, NewTalk hosted this on-line discussion earlier this month. Has the federal legislation — heavy on testing and process requirements — improved the education system and promoted a full range of learning styles and disciplines (including arts and culture), or has it impeded such progress? According to one participant, Diane Ravitch of the NYU Steinhardt School of Education, the answer seems to be ”not”:

Teachers know that the curriculum has been narrowed, that the time available for the study of the arts, history, science, geography, and every other non-tested subject has been reduced. They know that the law’s laser-like focus on test scores in reading and mathematics has led to constant test-preparation, which has replaced instruction. When time devoted to testing the basic skills crowds out every other kind of learning, this is not good education.

Education policy is dense, complex, and full of hidden assumptions and values. But given its importance and longterm impact, it’s worth a deep dive to understand and engage in your work in the arts.

[ Thanks to Richard Kessler for the link…and for his ArtsJournal blog on the subject! ]