Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dear Allentown School Board: Make the Arts Mandatory Core Subjects


Cityscape by 5th grade ASD student

Dear School Board Director: 

 I am concerned about the well being of my child and all ASD children. I'm a parent, a former ASD art teacher, and a current substitute teacher. I believe ASD students are being unfairly denied equal opportunities for a quality education. I am concerned because the school curriculum is being narrowed to only what is tested and measured by data, with the primary goal being to boost standardized test scores, instead of providing a rich curriculum. Children are not data points, they are humans. All children need a variety of opportunities to be creative, and to discover their talents at school. 

I am concerned because there are plans to possibly eliminate 150 teaching positions, and completely eliminate related arts specialists at all elementary schools, and maybe some at the middle schools. I believe that only certified specialists are qualified to teach a comprehensive, quality arts program, and our kids deserve this high quality. Our children get only one chance at an education, and I want more than "the minimum" for my child and all ASD children. 

The arts, physical education, and library science, taught by certified specialists, are essential to the school curriculum, and should never be cut or reduced. The arts should be valued on their own, but also because they help reinforce concepts children learn in math, science and social studies. The arts help children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, fine motor skills, social skills, appreciation for other cultures, self-awareness, joy, sense of accomplishment, self discipline, and the arts help children to create meaning in their own lives. These are all skills and qualities our children will need to be successful, healthy participants in a democracy. And arts programs also motivate children to stay in school.

Our children also deserve a safe and stable learning environment where all their needs are met. ASD students have many needs. Removing teachers from schools harms vulnerable children, and destabilizes their learning environment. If academic needs of students are not met due to staff reductions, narrowing of curricula, and teaching to the test, I believe this is not only a disservice to our children and community, but it is educational malpractice. 

I suggest that our school board mandates that the subjects of art, music, physical education, and library be CORE academic subjects that cannot be cut from the curriculum because of budget cuts. This was done in the Los Angeles Unified School District, so why can't it be done in Allentown? Our children deserve the same quality arts programs as students in Parkland and other suburban districts. Anything less would be an injustice to our children.

If Allentown can find $300 million for an arena why can't we can't find $300 million for our school children!

(I sent this to all school board directors, and Dr. Mayo)

UPDATE: From Erin Gough at the PA Arts Education Network: "Regarding the Arts as part of the core curriculum.  They already are.  They are listed as core under the Federal Elementary and Secondary Act (No Child Left Behind) and in the Pennsylvania Public School Code:

Pennsylvania Public School Code
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/1949/0/0014..HTM
Article 13, Section 1326

(1)  At the elementary school level, the following courses are taught: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.

(2)  At the secondary school level, the following courses are offered: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science, to include biology and chemistry; geography; social studies, to include civics, economics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; a foreign language; mathematics, to include general mathematics and statistics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health and physiology; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires.
One of the largest issues facing arts programs is that while they are required in the code, there is currently no formalized statewide assessment or Fine Arts and Humanities Advisors in the Pennsylvania Department of Education so districts feel free to eliminate programs that are not a state-level priority.  They are not being accountable for having them, or having them to a certain degree. "

But individual districts can make arts a priority and NOT CUT THE ARTS, since they are considered "core academic subjects, of the same importance as math, science and the humanities." (See PA Senate Resolution No.55, and House Resolution No. 146.)

5 comments:

Mrs. Dottie said...

Dr. Mayo's response to my letter. I don't think he gets it.

ASD Superintendent Russ Mayo responds to my letter: "Thank you for your input.

As you must know, any of the cuts are painful. It would not be my choice to cut these positions, but we have no where else to cut. The list affects all grades.

If more revenue comes to us, we can surely look at putting some things back."

Russ

Mrs. Dottie said...

ASD School Board President Robert Smith Jr. Responds at Facebook, and so do I.

obert Smith Jr. I understand your concerns Angie,I HAVE A GRANDDAUGHTER AT Harrison Morton.I will DO EVERYTHING TO FIND THE MONEY TO RESTORE CUTS TO THE ARTS.we HAVE TILL June STATE,Sen BROWN GAVE US 4 MILLION EXTRA last year.We could get same or more this year.Thank you for your concern,I DO NOT USALLY DISAGREE WITH WHAT YOU SAY,BUT REMEMBER the board is not the enemy.
about an hour ago · Unlike · 1

Angie Villa Robert Smith Jr. Board members who bash teachers are the enemy and should be publicly denounced by you and removed. Armstrong is a divisive and negative force with a personal agenda. But thanks, and please do not vote for cuts to the arts or reduction of teaching staff. We need more teachers, not less. Needs of students must be top priority.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Details about the cuts were given at packed ASD board meeting this past Thursday night. Looks like arts will be greatly reduced at middle and high school levels as well. Parents, teachers, and students spoke passionately at the crowded board meeting. A couple board members actually asked questions and raised concerns about the cuts. Armstrong was booed, yelled at by a teacher, and confronted with the FACTS on the pension crisis by Deb Tretter, the union president. Divisive, mean spirited Armstrong only spoke about pensions, repeatedly. He should be removed from the board, because he has nothing to offer. Neither does Zimmerman, who looks grumpy, mean and bored.

But it's obvious that the main problem in ASD is Mayo, and the administration. Mayo seems incompetent, defeated, and indifferent to needs of students. He'll never get it. Dr. Mayo, If you say you don't want to cut the arts, THEN DON"T CUT THE ARTS! He keeps saying he has no choice.He actually repeated what he had said to me at a parent meeting "don't treasure what can't be measured." That's not what parents want to hear.

Board member Ce-Ce Gerlach brought up my idea of making arts mandatory core subjects, but Mayo said he thinks it's up to the states,not local districts. I don't think he really knows, so this idea is worth looking into. Board member Jo Jackson told me she would look into it. I left at 10pm, but meeting went on for another hour. The meeting when they vote on the cuts is scheduled for next Thursday at Trexler Middle School. There is a rally at 6:30 pm outside the school to support teachers. Meeting starts at 7:30.

Mrs. Dottie said...

My response to Dr. Mayo:


Dr. Mayo,

This is important information. According to PA Senate Resolution No. 55 and PA House Resolution No. 146 "Whereas, the arts, which include dance, music, theater, and visual arts are considered, in Pennsylvania and nationally, core academic subjects of the same importance as math, science, and the humanities." Here is a link to the house bill: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2013&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=R&billNbr=0146&pn=1135 If you value the arts like you say you do, then DON"T cut the arts, or physical education, or library, or recess! Children are more than test scores. Please find the money to provide ASD children with equal opportunities.

I would suggest cutting the useless test prep, and "value added" junk science that has a high margin of error, 25% to 50%! Data driven instruction is a waste of money, so is DIBELS, Study Island. These methods don't improve learning, they are based on research that was never peer reviewed, they are about profit, not real learning, and they don't benefit children. My son's interim scores never show growth, are inconsistent with his grades. Some kids just don't do well on these benchmark tests, or PSSAs. These scores should never be used to place students. Kids are bored at school, they need to be engaged in hands on activities. They need the arts. And the constant testing is not developmentally appropriate. I helped write the ASD's DAP curriculum for early childhood centers in the late 90's, with Dave Snyder from Wilson ECC. Young children learn through play and exploration, not testing or worksheets. DIBELS is nonsense. I can show you tons of educational research that proves VAM is a scam, yet you continue to base decisions on this faulty model. Please see Fairtest.org for the facts. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Angie Villa

Mrs. Dottie said...

Letter to Robert Smith, School Board President:

This is important information for PA school boards. Legislation has been introduced in the PA House and Senate that mandates the arts as core subjects, like I have been requesting our school board to do. I encourage you to support this resolution. Please pass this along, I don't get much of a response when I Email board members.

According to PA Senate Resolution No. 55 and PA House Resolution No. 146 "Whereas, the arts, which include dance, music, theater, and visual arts are considered, in Pennsylvania and nationally, core academic subjects of the same importance as math, science, and the humanities." Here is a link to the house bill: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2013&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=R&billNbr=0146&pn=1135 If you value the arts like you say you do, then DON"T approve cuts to the arts, or physical education, or library, or recess! Children are more than test scores. Please find the money to provide ASD children with equal opportunities. Cut the testing and test prep, and the administration. Hold the Mayo- accountable! I sent this to Mayo too. Also, a curriculum "realignment" is just a scheme to lay off arts teachers to balance budget. Not in best interest of students.

Sincerely,

Angie Villa