Note: I'm posting this letter, with permission from Ben Sears (Chair of the Art Department at ARHS), which was sent to the Regional School Committee in January. I had been meaning to post this for some time, and it just got lost in the midst of other issues -- my apologies to the ARHS art teachers for this delay. My interest in posting it was to commend these teachers for this very thorough presentation of the importance of art, as measured by national and state standards (including MASS Core). In addition, these teachers gathered information on each of the 11 districts selected as our comparison districts, which I found really helpful. As you can read below, ARHS is the only high school without an arts graduation requirement and ARMS is the one of only two middle schools that doesn't offer arts in both 7th and 8th grade. I believe both of these issues should be considered in the upcoming year, and I want to commend Mr. Sears, Ms. Hartl, and Mr. Stauder for doing such an impressive job of conveying the position of art both locally and nationally.
To Whom It May Concern,
The information in this packet demonstrates why the Arts are a fundamental part of public education nationally, locally and in this district. The data that we are presenting addresses the following:
• The Arts are defined as a core academic subject by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education.
• Massachusetts is identified as one of only four states that do not have an Arts Education state mandate.
• Massachusetts is one of only ten states that do not have an Arts requirement for high school graduation.
• MassCore recommends that students in Massachusetts take one year of an arts program before graduating high school.
• Last year alone, the high School Art Department was reduced from 4.2 to 3.0 FTE.
• In 2006 the Middle School Art program was cut in half. As a result, students receive no Art instruction in the 7th grade.
• All of our comparison districts have Art for Middle School students in both 7th and 8th grade.
• Ten out of eleven of our comparison districts have an Arts graduation requirement.
These facts are important to take into consideration in planning for the future of the Visual Arts in the Amherst Regional Schools.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.