It does pay to write.
I wrote a letter of complaint to Sec. Paige Office of Education concerning
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and ART.
Here is the reply.
September 21, 2004
Dear Mrs. _________:
On behalf of the Secretary of Education, I want to thank you for writing
with your observations and concerns about art education opportunities in the
____________and ________ Independent School Districts. In order to respond
more thoroughly to you, I contacted Thomas Waggoner, Director of Fine Arts
at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and received information about both of
Regarding the ________District, you are correct that the elementary schools
do not have visual arts specialists. I understand that the district is
making plans to add art specialists in the future, and, in the meantime, has
implemented the following art education initiatives under the direction of
the district's director of fine arts, __________:
The elementary classroom curriculum has incorporated and has been aligned
with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in Art, which are the
state-approved learning standards. In addition, art resource materials are
being provided to all elementary classroom teachers to support the local art
There is a very active Volunteer Parent Art Association that travels to each
elementary campus on a regularly scheduled basis to offer art education
opportunities to students in grades K-5.
After-school, tuition-based art programs are offered on every elementary
I'm also advised that next month a local bond issue will be decided which,
if passed, will provide support for construction of designated art
classrooms in all of the __________elementary schools.
Regarding class sizes for art instruction in the __________District,
________, art coordinator for the district, indicates that classes average
between 36 and 44 students. You may also know that the classes are taught
by certified art specialists and are scheduled every other day, every other
week. I'm advised that the district recognizes the need to reduce the
average class sizes in both art and music, but is presently constrained by
local budgets from addressing that objective.
Regarding both of the districts, Thomas Waggoner informs me that the Texas
Board of Education recently passed a rule that will require all school
districts to provide instruction in art, music, and theater that is based on
the TEKS at every grade level in elementary school, and the rule takes
effect this school year. This is the result of Senate Bill 815, which
mandates that TEKS-based instruction be provided in all of the required
foundation and enrichment content areas. Previously, as you may know, the
TEKS were designated as only "guidelines" for instruction in the enrichment
content areas, which includes the arts.
You know from Secretary Paige's July letter that there is an increasing
amount of research that supports the critical role of arts learning for both
its own sake and for the contribution it makes to students' general academic
achievement and social development. A research study report that was not
cited in the Secretary's letter, Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from
School Districts that Value Arts Education (1999), identified a number of
"critical success factors" that create and sustain strong arts instructional
programs in school districts. Based on my understanding of the situations
in both the________ and _________ School Districts, a number of these
factors are in evidence, including:
The community -- broadly defined as parents and families, artists and arts
organizations, businesses, and local civic and cultural leaders and
institutions -- is actively engaged in the "arts politics and instructional
programs" of the district.
District arts coordinators facilitate program implementation throughout the
school system and maintain an environment of support for arts instruction.
Arts programs in the elementary school years are the foundation for strong
Successful districts employ state or national policies and programs to
advance arts education.
The study also concluded that it is important to combine a compelling vision
of the importance of arts education with a thoughtful implementation plan
that would apportion resources over time to reach all students, grade
levels, and schools. Successful districts have developed different
strategies for gaining and allocating new resources, often based on
stimulating a "bottom up" request for arts education funding from school
It appears that the ____ and _________districts are committed to art and
arts education and are making efforts to improve the quantity and quality of
the instructional programs in the arts. Each has the critical success
factor of professional leadership at the central offices in the arts
coordinator positions occupied by ______and _________, both of whom are
highly respected in Texas for their instructional leadership. I hope you
will contact both of them, as well as Thomas Waggoner at the State education
agency, to determine how you can support their plans and strategies to
improve the art programs in both districts. And I hope that the information
provided in Secretary Paige's letter is helpful to all of you in your
efforts to ensure quality arts education for students in the two districts
and throughout Texas.
If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.
Special Assistant on Teacher Quality and Arts Education
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202