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Why Art is Taking Precedence in Huntsville, AL Schools

With growing evidence that the arts help improve math, reading, and social skills in the classroom, it has come to Alabama’s attention that it’s time to further develop their educational programs. In recent news, it’s been reported that the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) and the Alabama Department of Education have joined in an initiative to start creating a comprehensive plan to make arts education a higher priority in the educational experience of Alabama students.

Art Classroom in Huntsville AL
by Wellspring Community School

A New Emphasis on Arts Education

Traditionally, the acquisition of math and reading skills has been the top priority when it came to improving the thinking and social skills of students in the educational system. Now, increasing evidence is emerging that the arts also contribute to advancing both thinking and social skills. Now, an initiative is underway to provide students with creative problem-solving skills and workforce skills through the arts. The two agencies have collaborated to develop a leadership team that consists of artists, educators, business leaders, community arts leaders, and public officials from across the state of Alabama.

The leadership team met for the first time on September 5th in Montgomery. This meeting was the first in a series of meetings designed to develop a “thinking out-of-the-box” approach to empowering schools, educators, and students by providing more varied and successful experiences in the arts.

Again, with evidence continuing to accumulate that the arts indeed do improve both social and thinking skills, this team will work to move arts education into a more prominent place in the educational system. The arts will move from the periphery to a more central place in the system — a place that math and reading have more exclusively occupied in the past.

Children Artwork Huntsville AL
by Sarah Greenman

Support From the State Superintendent of Education

Tommy Bice, Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education put it succinctly when he stated that, “the arts provide a vehicle through which to learn almost any subject currently taught in public schools today, but regretfully, arts education is one of the first programs to be lost when budgets are limited.”

Moving forward, Bice asserts that, “it is imperative that we create priorities for the arts in our total school system, for it is through this creative learning experience that so many of our students find their voice — in its broadest sense.”

Al Head is the executive director of the Alabama State Council of the Arts. He praised Tommy Bice for his visionary statements. The ASCA executive director went on to assert that this was the very first time that such a broad-based effort had been made in the state of Alabama to demonstrate how the power of the arts can in fact improve the quality of education for Alabama students. He went on to complement the comprehensive nature of the leadership team when he said, “the involvement of traditional schools, the business community, local arts organizations, and government agencies that make policy is unique to this endeavor.”

A Timetable For Progress

As the leadership team continues its series of meetings, the initiative’s coordinators, Diana Green of ASCA and Sara Wright of the Department of Education, believe that the first recommendations will be made in the winter of 2013-14. They further suggest that more comprehensive goals, strategies, and objectives will emerge over the following year and a half. A heightened respect for arts education will undoubtedly become a matter of policy for school districts statewide, including those serving the greater Huntsville area.

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