Beyond the Basics

Annual arts report shows no budget toll on programs, funding

Principals allocated slightly more funding to the arts last year, according to a new report from the Department of Education. But arts spending is still much lower than it was before citywide budget cuts two years ago.

The total school-based spending on arts last year was $316 million, up from $312 million in the 2009-2010 school year but down from $326 in 2008-2009. The tally is contained in the city’s 2010-2011 Arts in Schools Report, an annual collection of facts and figures that the DOE released today.

“This year’s report shows that thanks to the hard work and resourcefulness of our schools and cultural partners, we continue to make steady progress in offering arts instruction to more students,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

Other notable data points:

  • Fifty-four percent of elementary schools provided instruction to all grades in four arts disciplines — theater, music, visual arts, and dance — up from 51 percent in 2010 and just 40 percent in 2009.
  • In middle and high schools, the percentage of students receiving instruction in all the disciplines is very low and fell slightly.
  • Three percent of high school graduates receive their diplomas without earning two arts credits, as the state requires.
  • About 20 percent of schools do not employ a single arts teacher, even for a part-time position.

Whether principals complete an arts survey is part of their performance evaluations, but schools and principals are not judged on the quality or depth of the arts programs they offer.

Arts advocates said they found much to be happy about in the report. But they said the report documents once again that the city is a long way from offering ideal arts educations to all of its students.

“While we are encouraged by this increase — especially as schools are facing severe budget decreases — the fact that 46 percent of elementary schools are not providing what students are promised in state education law clearly demonstrates there is still much work to be done to ensure all public elementary school students receive equal access to quality instruction in the arts,” said Lori Sherman, acting executive director of the nonprofit Center for Arts Education, in a statement.

Sherman also noted that the growth in the number of schools far outstripped the tiny increase in the number of arts teachers, meaning that more students are likely without arts instructors.

In an uncertain budget climate, the status of the arts is all but assured — a reality that has arts advocates nervous. Earlier this month, after some arts administrators were relocated from the DOE’s headquarters at Tweed Courthouse to a Gramercy office building, CAE’s director of research and policy, Doug Israel, said he worried about the move’s implications.

“It definitely sends a message, even if not intentionally, to parents and students that the arts are somehow being downgraded,” he said. “Tweed serves as the locus for educational decision-making, collaboration, communication, and innovation. If the arts are not at that core, we have to question how high the arts are on the DOE’s priority list.”

DOE officials said the move consolidated arts office staff from across the city and did not reflect budget cuts to the department’s arts program.

The complete 2010-2011 Arts in Schools Report is below:

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.