In Response to Looking at the Schools

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Case Western Reserve University]On: 31 October 2014, At: 08:45Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Arts Education Policy ReviewPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vaep20

    In Response to Looking at the SchoolsSamuel Hope , Janice B. Riddell , John J. Mahlmann , David Pankratz & ConstanceBumgarner GeePublished online: 24 Mar 2010.

    To cite this article: Samuel Hope , Janice B. Riddell , John J. Mahlmann , David Pankratz & Constance Bumgarner Gee (1999)In Response to Looking at the Schools, Arts Education Policy Review, 100:4, 28-30, DOI: 10.1080/10632919909599467

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10632919909599467

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  • In Response to Looking at the Schools

    SAMUEL HOPE

    ime to Move On is an important re- T port for those concerned with arts education policy. It helps clarify the po- sitions held by parents on many critical policy issues. It distinguishes those ideas about quality that have strong sup- port from those that do not. The good news for arts education is that all par- ents see academic achievement as the

    In the arts, academic achievement means work in and about dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts. Fortunately, the arts education field has a number of excellent, detailed formulations of what such achievement means. The foremost of those is the National Voluntary K-12 Standards of 1994. Time to Move On in- dicates that if policymakers want parental support for arts programs in the schools, they must focus on serious se- quential teaching and learning and on providing the time, teaching expertise, and content necessary to achieve indi- vidual competence.

    The reports findings bode well for those in all sectors of arts education who are seeking to build and enhance curricular programs led by qualified professionals. It indicates that study must be the focus if the full power of the arts is to be brought to bear on reducing educational and cultural disparities among various groups of students. Let us hope that this message is heard and

    first priority.

    that its meaning is accepted as the basis for continuing policy development, es- pecially at the local level.

    Samuel Hope is executive director of the National Office for Arts Accreditation in Higher Education and an executive editor of Arts Education Policy Review.

    JANICE B. RIDDELL

    he Public Agenda report Time To T Move On: African-American and White Parents Set an Agenda for Public Schools documents the good sense and sound priorities that both black and white parents have in regard to the edu- cation of their children. The level of consensus found in the Public Agenda survey of black and white parents is re- freshing to ears accustomed to hearing from the media-as well as from many scholars, politicians, and interest-group leaders-about black and white divi- siveness. The consensus bodes well for the future of American education, in- cluding education in the arts.

    Tbo of the surveys findings stand out for me, and both reveal how parents views can differ markedly from those of the professionals who shape education policy. The first is that African American parents, by an eight-to-one margin, place a higher priority on raising academic standards and achievement than on in-

    creasing racial diversity and integration. While black parents say that integration is valuable, the report finds that black parents have a laser-like focus on acad- emic achievement. African American parents believe that it should be possible for their children to receive a good edu- cation whether or not they attend a school that is predominantly black. That view is sensible, and it is borne out by evidence today. Black, inner-city children in strong urban schools, many of them Catholic, are achieving, graduating, and going on to college at levels on a par with their counterparts in affluent, majority-white suburban school districts. The finding also puts to rest the notion offered up by many opponents of the school choice movement that many parents may not make good educational choices for their children. The survey shows that both black and white parents have their prior- ities straight and recognize that academic achievement is the essential element in a good school. Parents focus on academics should give heart to those who argue for challenging academic approaches to the study of the arts disciplines. In short, par- ents do not want fluff, and they are eager to send their children to schools that offer substantive and serious curricula in all subject areas.

    The second notable finding concerns black parents views of standardized testing. The survey finds that most black parents accept standardized testing as a valid measure of student achievement;

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  • only 28 percent think that the tests are culturally biased against black students. For years, Americans have heard from various quarters that standardized tests are culturally biased and that differences in black and white students scores, therefore, should not be given much cre- dence. Indeed, some educators think that test results for all children are suspect because knowledge cannot be objective- ly measured, because some kids test well and others do not, or because test results are misused by those in charge. Granted, standardized tests have limitations; there is always room for improvement. How- ever, the survey confirms that black par- ents believe the tests give useful infor- mation about what and how well their children are learning. Moreover, they be- lieve that this information should be aired fully and publicly. Rather than paper over test results, most African American parents believe we should look results squarely in the eye. That view is not only gutsy but in the end, op- timistic, for it rests on the idea that if we know what areas need work, we can begin to take steps toward success.

    In sum, a high quality education is not a great mystery to most parents, and in the survey, parents readily point to some of its key elements: teaching good work habits, teaching standard English, high academic standards in all subjects, and safety and order. The survey find- ings show that parents want substance and regular and real assessment of stu- dent achievement. The findings give a green light to those who promote acad- emic rigor and careful assessment in the arts disciplines.

    All kids need-and deserve-high quality schools and teachers, along with the challenge of high standards and the expectation of achievement, whatever their background.

    It seems to me that if education is to accomplish those mutually valued out- comes, what matters most is not the failed philosophy of Lets get kids to feel good about themselves so theyll achieve, but the results-oriented and proven approach of Lets get kids to achieve so theyll feel good about themselves.

    The arts, and music in particular, can help with the later. Accomplishment in a school music ensemble has demon- strated over and over again that kids can achieve in an area of education that in- volves rigor and discipline, and that in- herent in its very content, practice, cre- ativity, and thinking skills lie the necessary components of success. Lets be fair, especially in an area that is oc- casionally criticized for being the do- main of the rich and privileged. The arts need not and should not be a part of a cultural caste system in which only the wealthy can provide these important life skills through arts instruction to their children. Good schools, good teachers, and good curricula that in- clude the arts are the rights of all stu- dents in an educational system serving a democracy.

    We seem to know what parents want and what kids deserve. Lets expend a little effort in providing educational ex- periences and opportunities-including ones in the arts-that can furnish it.

    Janice B. Riddell is on the staff of the John M. Olin Foundation and is a member of Arts Educution Po1ic.y Reviews advisory com- mittee.

    John J. Mahlmann is the executive director of Music Educators National Conference and an executive editor of Arts Educurion Policy Review.

    DAVID PANKRATZ JOHN J. MAHLMANN

    ime To Move On is a great title for T a report that confirms a similar, al- most identical set of beliefs and aspira- tions among parents.

    ooking at the Schools presents sev- L eral findings of consensus among African American and white parents that, in my view, are of special significance. They predominantly agree that

    high academic achievement for their children is the most important ed- ucational goal;

    traditionally favored strategies to achieve equal education opportunity- such as affirmative action hiring, multi- cultural curricula, charter schools, and school vouchers-are not effective; and

    underachievement among African American students is best addressed through locally controlled schools that are safe and orderly, that stress the ba- sics, that have high academic standards and strong teachers, and that enjoy high levels of parental involvement.

    But agreement on those point does not in itself constitute a cross-racial agenda for public schools. For exam- ple, the article reveals that although both sets of parents believe that African American children attend poorer schools and are less likely to do well academically, only African American parents call the situation a crisis. Yet 55 percent of black parents say it is the re- sponsibility of the family, not the school or society, to address the problem of black student underachievement. Those viewpoints are puzzling. If white par- ents acknowledge relatively low black student achievement yet do not see i t as a crisis, then would they be willing to direct resources for good schools and teachers in African American communi- ties to encourage high student achieve- ment? Also, are black parents realistic in saying that parental involvement is the key to their childrens academic per- formance? Educational change is a complex process that requires long-term leadership, cooperative planning, and fi- nancing. The responding parents agenda for change4espite their en- dorsement of preschool programs, par- ent education, and drug prevention- does not seem to reflect an understanding of those complexities.

    Looking at the Schools indicates parental consensus for a solid back- ground in the basics. But how are the basics defined? In Goals 2000, the arts are considered fundamental to a basic education, but the Time to Move On re- port does not indicate whether the arts are seen that way by parents.

    Vol. 100, No. 4, MarcWApril 1999 29

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  • I hope that the open question about the role of the arts in a basic education, along with issues about the complexities of educational reform, will be discussed at planned community discussions in- spired by the report. I also hope that arts educators will take the initiative to be- come involved in such discussions.

    David Pankratz is an arts and education consultant and writer based in Pasadena, California, and is a member of Arts Educu- tion Policy Reviews advisory committee.

    CONSTANCE BUMGARNER GEE

    he most surprising aspect of the T Public Agendas survey of African

    American and white parents views on education is that they felt the need to conduct such a poll. Why would anyone think that black parents would not want the same for their children as white par- ents-that is, the best education possi- ble? Is it really because, as Farkas and Johnson infer, those following the [ed- ucation] issue are so muddled by media rabble-rousing and partisan dem- agoguery that they cannot distinguish between integration and affirmative ac- tion on the one hand and diversity and good K-12 education on the other? It is heartening (although far from unex- pected) that parents can and do differ- entiate between those concepts, placing high academic standards and cultural diversity decisively above busing and hiring policies that focus on quotas rather than quality.

    Perhaps, if nothing else, these costly survey findings can be cited to help keep the quotamongers at bay and the focus of pre-K-12 education on provid- ing students with the best teachers, ad- ministrative systems, curricular materi- als, and learning environments possible. In the future, however, instead of polling for the obvious, I propose we use research and funding resources for the most essential element of a quality education everywhere-attracting the best, brightest, and most caring and committed people to the profession of teaching and keeping them there.

    Constance Bumgarner Gee is an assistant professor of education and policy at Brown University, a member of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and an executive editor of Arts Education Policy Review.

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