A group of educators and parents intends to present next spring its recommended changes for Fine Arts learning standards within Missouri’s K-12 public schools. The focus is on expectations for coursework in theatre, music, dance and media arts. During a meeting between work group members and the Missouri Board of Education, the question was raised about the value level of Fine Arts in Missouri schools. Rolla High School art teacher Connie Shoemaker says Fine Arts should be a priority like core subjects.

What is the value of Fine Arts in Missouri schools?

“I could not imagine a math teacher teaching a class to high schoolers and having a six-year gap from the last time that they had a math class and did math,” Shoemaker says. “I will get students that have had art in elementary school and don’t take it again, but they have it as a requirement to graduate.”

An Arts Education Partnership study says school attendance rates are significantly higher on days with scheduled art classes than on days without. It also finds that weekly theater and dance lessons significantly improve speaking and listening skills for English language learners.

“There have been so many studies that have shown that Arts keep kids in school. They motivate students. They make them want to learn,” she says.

Since there are differing views on the subject being considered a core study, Shoemaker says there’s a struggle to get adequate funding and enough teachers involved in Fine Arts education.

Board member Donald Claycomb suggests involving community education to show others the importance of Fine Arts.

“It would give you an opportunity to build support within the community because they would understand what you’re doing,” Claycomb says. “It could mean extra income for a teacher.”

Missouri Board of Education member Peter Herschend says he’s a believer in the significance of the Arts but says the subject has an uphill battle.

“You won’t get there until there’s a statewide acceptance and understanding that Fine Arts are as important and as valuable as reading,” Herschend says. “That ain’t gonna happen.”

What would be the cost to apply the standards? It would depend on the level in which school districts choose to use the standards.

Board Vice President Victor Lenz says if you look at the value, you won’t worry about the cost.

“Look at all the studies – what students who are involved in the Arts do when they get into the testing that we look at all the time in the other subject areas,” Lenz says. “It’s just critical that they do integrate and that they are part of our everyday education.”

Public comment about the standards is open through the end of January.

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