On January 20th, the USDOE is hosting an information session for arts education constituents concerning the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known during the Bush administration as No Child Left Behind.
In regards to the arts, I know no one who holds the view that NCLB was anything but bad legislation. In a GAO report last year, it was reported that NCLB led to considerable problems related to equity and access. In other words, the kids who depend on schools the most for a quality education that includes the arts, got a raw deal.
So, where is the administration heading on this?
An article this week in Education Week predicated that that the reauthorization of ESEA would resemble the USDOE’s Race to the Top (RttT):
• Turning around the lowest-performing schools.
Bolstering state data systems in order to link K-12 systems with early
learning, higher education, workforce, social services, and other state
• Improving teacher quality and the distribution
of effective teachers.
• Strengthening standards and assessments.
In addition, the RttT’s enhanced focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) is also likely to be focused on within ESEA.
I guess the big question for arts education advocates is whether or not ESEA will be arts education positive, neutral, or negative?
What can we learn from the last time around? The big win last time around was that arts education was classified in NCLB as a “core subject,” thanks to the efforts of a number of national advocates.
Yes, a win is a win, and in principle, it was important in helping to avoid arts being seen as “extracurricular.”
That being said, the next steps must be to ensure that accountability and other elements of ESEA, tied to testing in a few non-arts subjects do not ultimately make the arts non-core subjects as a practical matter.
I am attending the January 20th meeting and will be happy to report back as a blog entry.