Whole Child Loses When Subjects Compete for $
Speech and theater saved Keegan Robinson, a shy student who could spit out standardized test answers but hadn't found the connection that would keep him coming back to school.
The dramatic arts brought him out of his shell and into the school community as a contributing member. He eventually won an academic scholarship to college.
Robinson, a former student of Bronx Preparatory Charter School in the South Bronx, N.Y., illustrates how essential a well-rounded education is to averting dropouts and, better yet, to nurturing career-, college-, and citizenship-ready young adults, said Bronx Prep arts educator Kate Quarfordt at Thursday's Capitol Hill briefing on policies that support balanced education.
Bronx Prep is located the poorest congressional district east of the Mississippi. "Kids in my neighborhood don't get a second chance," Quarfordt said.
We have to ask ourselves, she added, are our schools funneling kids into the dropout machine, or are we persuading kids to stay with us; graduate; and go on to college, career, and an engaged civic life?
She shared several other stories like Keegan's, where the "spirit of equality among disciplines" at South Bronx meant the difference between losing kids to the streets and changing lives for the better.
Quarfordt, and the other educators behind the more than 20 major organizations who have signed on to the well-rounded education consensus recommendations, provide the vital link between the classroom and education policy.
On the table for consideration: balanced representation of all the major disciplines in the coming ESEA reauthorization and federal funding schemes for education in FY11.
Although the Obama administration has proposed a $38.9 million (or 17%) increase in funding to support teaching and learning in the arts, history, civics, foreign languages, geography, and economics in the FY11 budget, the administration proposes combining eight subject-specific grant programs into a single competitive grant program. Disciplines would compete against each other to receive funds from the $265 million pot of money allocated under "A Well-Rounded Education" on the proposed FY11 budget.
The consensus recommendations presented on Thursday ask the U.S. Department of Education to amend this approach to promote collaboration, not competition, among the disciplines. Also important is a dedication to educator-developed standards of quality and accountability for all disciplines, not just language arts and math.
Forcing the disciplines to compete for funding runs the risk of perpetuating the status quo—a lopsided curriculum that offers no quarter for creativity or students like Keegan Robinson.