After decades of neglect, New York is now trying to rebuild the arts programs in it’s schools.
The city Education Department is in the process of rolling out a new Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, laying out a curriculum for what students should be learning in visual art, music, dance and theater.
There’s just a few problems with the plan. It’s not required and it comes with no additional money.
As a result the student-teacher ratios are impossibly high (1 music teacher for 1200 kids!) and there’s no additional funding or materials for minor things like art supplies.
Then there’s the matter of standardized tests as far as the eye can see.
Given the intense emphasis on math and reading scores, schools remain focused on test preparation and have no comparable incentive to improve arts education. “Arts are not on the school report card,” said Richard Kessler, the executive director of the Center for Arts Education.
More arts instruction – or drilling kids on tests which, if they fail, will cost the principal her job? Which do you think most schools will go with?
However, New York certainly isn’t alone in all this. While schools like to show off student art projects in the lobby (and what’s a football game without the band), behind the facade is little support and even less money.
And the amount of time for arts instruction is gradually being whittled away as administrators put students into more and more test preparation.
But, in this particular case, there’s an even bigger shame in how New York is handling it’s half-hearted Blueprint.
The city is one of the major arts centers of the world. Shouldn’t the schools reflect that?