The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 has aimed much of its legislative power at helping the poorest children learn to read (USA TODAY). In the seven ensuing years, schools have narrowed their curricula and reduced their liberal arts offerings in order to help those students learn despite the NCLB designation of Art as one of 10 core academic subjects. The unintended outcome for the arts has been to place them more and more to the side of core courses.
Arts education has responded by developing programs that plug into school curriculum slots with less frequency but also with more impact, better design and fuller integration. One of the outside providers leading this good work was incubated in Washington at the Kennedy Center.
ARTSEDGE — the National Arts and Education Network — supports the placement of the arts at the center of the curriculum and advocates creative use of technology to enhance the K-12 educational experience. ARTSEDGE empowers educators to teach in, through, and about the arts by providing the tools to develop interdisciplinary curricula that fully integrate the arts with other academic subjects.
ARTSEDGE offers free, standards-based teaching materials for use in and out of the classroom, as well as professional development resources, student materials, and guidelines for arts-based instruction and assessment.
A program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, ARTSEDGE is also a partner of Thinkfinity, a consortium of national education organizations, state education agencies and the Verizon Foundation. Thinkfinity Content Partners develop free, standards-based, discipline-specific educational Web sites for K-12 teachers and students.
The process of fully integrating art into core curriculum is complex and not well understood even at the national policy level. However, one good resource for connecting policy with teaching in the arts is hosted by Americans For the Arts. In this political season it is important to work on arts integration from a variety of perspectives including upcoming reauthorization of NCLB. American for the Arts recommends these actions:
- Retain the Arts in the Definition of Core Academic Subjects of Learning;
- Require Annual State Reports on Student Access to Core Academic Subjects;
- Improve National Data Collection and Research in Arts Education;
- Reauthorize the Arts in Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education.
If arts integration is to make progress, national policy must support it's use.