The Demise of the Arts and Expansive Education
Within the American education system the importance of the arts and expanding a students mind and capability of comprehensive thinking is waning.
Dear Next President,
In the United States common core and standardized state tests have begun to dominate the school curriculum diminishing. They are diminishing the free reign teachers once had on what subjects they could teach, all that while reducing art, occupational, and other types of classes that students can take to almost non-existence. There are three ways that this ugly fact has shown itself in the American school system, these are the rise in the number of standardized tests that students take from pre-k to 12th grade, another being the loss of art and music programs in schools across the U.S., and finally that standardized tests have begun to affect not only the curriculum but the structure of the school day and year.
If you were to look at an average school student to day and track them from pre-k through 12th grade graduation you would see an astounding phenomenon, the amazingly high number of standardized tests each student takes. On average an American student will take 112 standardized tests while enrolled in school according to The Washington Post, that's about 8 test per year, and whereas and class based test may only impact a student's grade if they were to fail a standardized test could impact their future. For example if you were to examine the impact that the SAT has on a student you would be amazed, a good or bad score on such a test can affect not only the colleges a student can attend, but the scholarships other benefits they are eligible for. This is sickening because a bad test score on the SAT fails to account for outside variables such as student life, health, recent issues, or just having a bad day, which means that not every student who scores low is actually reflecting their academic capability. One test, one day could affect even the brightest of Young Americans future with no regard for their actual ability.
However when you take a glance into the actual school day there is an even more prevalent issue, the falling amount of art and alternative classes offered to American students. According to The Association of American Educators as early as 1999 100% of school districts offering "free or reduced lunch" offered a music program, now that number has fallen to 81%, and in the visual arts such as drama it's event more prominent with it going from 20% of schools in 1999 to 4% in 2009. This issue is something that must be addressed due to effects that a lack of performance arts can have on some students who excel in those areas. Where many of those enrolled in our schools can be taught well and develop thoroughly through almost wholly academic classes for those who can't this loss of the arts weighs heavily, possibly inhibiting their learning in every subject they make take, and driving the student away from school. This issue is perhaps best illustrated by the quote "Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid", the quote shows that no matter how smart a student may be if not offered the right opportunities it may cause inadequacy and self-loathing reducing a students want and ability to learn or even believe they can.
But above all else the rise of standardized tests is actually something that directly effects the arts, by causing districts and teachers to debate extending the school year or reducing recess and other breaks in order to fit in the required learning, in order to avoid this they may cut back on the arts and other "unnecessary classes". On a personal level this pains me because even though I am very good at test taking it tends to be my highest scoring criteria for classes enabling me to pass while falling behind in other categories, other students aren't like that and the format of standardized tests is not one that accounts for attention spans, fatigue or anything. This becomes an issue because when you fail to account for these things it directly effects even students like me, I may score high on test but I don't have the attention span to sit there for hours doing one. And when you get rid of the arts to prepare me for these tests it disregards something I love and enjoy aside from my academics and shows me that the main priorities of my school is not what it should be which is my development, but the main objective instead is test scores and standing of the school on standards that truly cannot measure my or anyone's ability as accurately as they've been sold to.
In conclusion with the rise of the number of standardized tests, the fall of the amount of arts programs available, and the fact that they change the overall school year and day, we cannot continue to ignore the negative impacts that standardized tests have on not only students but the overall curriculum. I believe it is imperative that we reduce the merit of these test scores or the amount of them being taken in order to benefit schools, students, and teachers, as well as bring back the arts to expand the education of all American children. I believe that in doing this we can bring America back up into the world as a place of rising capabilities and continue to make our great country even better, allowing students to excel in both academic and artistic fields.