The Rhode Island Department of Education released its new proposal for preparation-based graduation requirements for public comment on March 7, which would increase the number of requirements to graduate from high school in the state. Since then, state arts associations have opposed the proposal, saying it deprioritizes arts education and places the subject in an even more precarious position within school systems.
In an email to the Herald, Victor Morente, director of communications for RIDE, explained that the purpose of the new requirements is to ensure K-12 students are better prepared for admission to state colleges. . “The goals of this effort are to prepare all of our graduates to create their own future by ensuring they participate in the course experiences that will prepare them for careers and college,” he wrote.
Under the proposal, students would be required to take two credits of laboratory science and world languages, in addition to the currently required courses in English and math. The new rules would also require additional credit of college preparatory courses and necessary skills in civics, computer science and financial literacy. Finally, the proposal counts for three more free credits, which “are presumed to include, but (are) not limited to arts, computer science, physical education and health,” it reads.
The requirements also introduce the concept of “flexible credits”, which allow students to fit, at a minimum, two subjects into a single credit. The addition aims “to increase relevant real-world learning for students,” according to the text of the proposal.
But the lack of dedicated artistic requirements in the new rules caused groups such as the Rhode Island Music Education Association and the Rhode Island Art Education Association to oppose the plan. Activists for arts education in the state say adding requirements that don’t include arts classes will reduce students’ available time for the arts.
While Morente pointed out that the arts continue to be defined as a “core content area” in the revised proposal, a “stand-alone arts credit requirement is not currently a college-wide graduation requirement. state,” he wrote.
In March, RIMEA launched a petition demanding that RIDE “prioritize arts education in its review of new state graduation requirements.” The petition, which has more than 5,000 signatures at press time, calls for new RIDE rules to include a minimum requirement of full credit for art lessons and a clear definition of “artistic skill.” In addition, the petition calls for the abolition of flex credits.
In a Providence Journal op-ed, David Neves, RIMEA’s Advocacy Co-Chair, wrote that by allowing students to take classes in which art is only one component, as opposed to those where students engage directly in the artistic process, flex credits may discourage courses that specifically focus on artistic practice.
Emma Hookway, president of RIMEA, told the Herald that there has been a long battle in the state to defend arts education. She said RIMEA also fought to include arts education in RIDE’s 2018 Basic Education Plan. The BEP is “the overarching set of regulations for Rhode Island’s public education system.” , according to the RIDE website.
Hookway said the new proposal dismisses the importance of arts education and creates conditions that promote inequality across the state. She added that the proposal will allow schools, even those with “appropriately funded (arts) programs,” to cut the subject of their investments and programs. “Music is considered an easy thing to cut because it’s not testable, it’s not on the SATs,” she said.
Susan Kolenda, President of the RIAEA, echoed Hookway’s view on the importance of art, particularly because the arts provide a platform for students to express abilities different from those assessed by tests. standardized. “While standardized testing is beneficial in one way,” she said, the art “embraces the notion that students are different.”
For Hookway, art education should be a crucial part of any student’s education as it is an essential part of humanity. “Music itself has been an integral part of every culture in the world since time immemorial…so we know it’s an integral part of civilization,” she said, adding that the devaluation of music in education would lead to the loss of some of the country’s wealth. Culture.
Morente wrote that “RIDE is not offering any cuts or changes to arts education” through the new proposal, adding that the department hopes “to see the arts increase in our high schools through the creation of the flexible credit that supports interdisciplinary academic experiences aligned with the passions of our children.
RIDE believes that “every young person should have the opportunity to choose college and career after graduating from high school,” Morente wrote.
But Hookway said the proposal reduces the ability of students to pursue a college education and a career in the arts. “What does it do to a ninth grader who has now found this passion that he wants to dedicate his life to and we have this power that tells him it’s not worth it? How much does it would he run over someone?” she said.
Hookway added that she worries that a lack of music prioritization for K-12 students will impact art at the college level. “We now have kids who are not prepared to take a music program in universities,” she said, adding that fewer students enrolling in undergraduate arts would hurt those programs.
Kolenda pointed out that learning the arts provides skills that are crucial for any career path. According to RIAEA research, “students who complete a combination of arts programs demonstrate improved reading and math skills (and) they show a greater capacity for higher thinking skills such as analyzing and problem solving. problems,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of exposing students to art, Hookway said. “There’s this palpable energy that flows from musician to musician as they play together,” she said. “Especially in these post-COVID-19 years…students are hungry for ‘connection.’
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RIDE will continue to hear public comment on the new graduation requirements until May 10, Morente wrote. The proposal “became the most commented on set of regulations in the history of K-12 education in Rhode Island,” according to the RIDE website.
“The arts community as a whole… has really come together to reiterate the importance of art in education,” Kolenda said.