Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Test Prep in Place of Middle School Arts Courses

ASD Middle School Art Work
Over the last 4 years our allegedly* cash-strapped SD, with school board approval, has cut over 400 teaching positions. This plan was called a "curriculum curtailment" and parents were told by district officials that the district had no choice but to cut teachers. Related arts courses, also known as "minor rotation" courses at the middle schools were cut by 50%. One art teacher is now shared by two middle schools. There are over 900 students at each middle school. We used to have 2-2.5 art teachers at each middle school. The "curtailed" courses include art, music, library, languages, health/PE, technology ed., and family consumer science. Students are being short-changed of a quality education.

Allentown SD middle school students used to enjoy a well rounded curriculum, with 2 related arts courses every quarter. Now the kids get only one minor rotation per quarter, and a class called "intervention and enrichment." In 8th grade, my son has had  PSSA test prep for 2 quarters (half the year) as his "enrichment" class. Parents were told that teachers would be doing special projects during enrichment class. When I expressed my concerns, the teachers told me they must teach test prep. I realize this is not the teacher's fault, but parents need to be aware of what is going on, and should speak up against this misuse of instructional time.  Cutting arts courses is bad enough, but then to add test prep in place of those courses, is just disgraceful.

* Recently, an extra $19.6 million in funds was discovered in the district's budget.  Local news media is reporting that number as $11 million, but the budget report shows an additional $8 million between Nov. and Jan. after an audit by the teacher's union. But ASD superintendent Dr. Mayo says there are no plans to restore the related arts teachers, (but they did hire a new arts administrator) and there has been no outside investigation of this shocking mismanagement of funds. No on has been fired. But there are plans to open a NEW career charter HS within the district, for 150 lucky students who win a lottery.

UPDATE 9/15: The district has now restored some of the related arts teachers at the elementary school level, but only PE was restored at the middle school level at this time. Not enough!! Full restoration of all related arts courses is needed in order to provide a well rounded education to all the students.


Mrs. Dottie said...

School board is well aware of this. A middle school teacher spoke at a board meeting last year, and held up the test prep booklets she is supposed to use for "enrichment" period. Also, I contacted school board members and they did nothing. But then again I have been contacting school board about many issues, which they have just ignored. Not voting for any incumbent school board directors.

Knitted in the Womb said...

I am SO glad my husband and I moved out of ASD when our first two children were babies! My husband went to ASD, and I knew I wanted better for my kids than the education he got.

But the whole craziness about standardized tests is not much better here in the "burbs." I just found out today that my kids are not allowed to talk to me about the tests. I'm waiting to learn more...but let's just say that I'm a teapot that is just about to start whistling!

Talking about it on FB:

Mrs. Dottie said...

I agree with you about standardized testing. Yesterday there was a PSSA pep rally at my son's school. They are still using these stupid gimmicks! The testing in ASD takes up 3 weeks of instruction time, and that doesn't include the test prep prior to the test. The testing is excessive. And with implementation of new common core, the tests will be much harder this year, and they will set kids up to fail. In NY state the majority (70%) failed their new common core tests. There has been a backlash against these tests in several states.The real purpose of these tests is to privatize public education. It's about money, of course, not students. Big profits in charter schools, new text books and curriculum, etc.

But I disagree with you about ASD. We've always had a fantastic arts program, an Arts Academy at Allen HS, a Science Academy at Dieruff, and a sequential year round arts program for elementary and middle school students. But because of 4 years of teacher cuts, growing income inequality, weak leadership, flight to charter schools- the district is not what it used to be. Also, there is an overall lack of empathy for other people's children in our city, and the idea of supporting and improving neighborhood traditional public schools for the common good is lost.