Afriend asked me serve as one of three committee members reviewing her Master’s Degree project at Weber State University. The other two members hold Ph.D.’s, making me feel like a pair of sneakers at a formal black-tie affair.
But it did firm up my disagreement with the growing cry forming over student testing and teacher evaluation (and pay) based on test results. While I have no problem with the concept that educators should be held accountable for their classroom performance, testing is not only one-dimensional but can dismiss student traits which businesses seek.
The Weber State student’s project revolves around the status of arts in our public schools. Some people, many parents included, probably see the arts as a frill in an economy where industry salivates over math and science graduates. In fact, we are frequently told that Americans fall short in producing engineers and scientists; we never hear a complaint that our country is in dire need of dancers, artists, and writers.
The No Child Left Behind mandate helped place math and science in the spotlight. Though it did classify arts as a core area, the testing components were more easily focused on math and science, making arts a stepchild.
The problem, of course, is that it is rather simple to test math and science skills and rather difficult to measure arts skills on a standardized test. Math and science contain absolutes; the evaluation of a great painting or a novel results in many differing opinions.
Performance, choreography, composition, painting, sculpture Р all are difficult to test, yet studies show them linked to creativity, imagination and innovation. Ironically, these are the top qualities employers sought in a Business Week magazine survey.
When it comes to school districts facing budget cuts, it’s much easier to justify reducing the number of school plays or band trips rather the hammering the chemistry lab. (And how about cutting the football program? Oh, that’s a whole different column!) Yet at the same time, parents ask schools to meet the needs of individual students. You can’t have it both ways.
For more information check out the Oct.11 edition of Davis Clipper.