Friday, February 27, 2009

Outside the Bubble

I often hear or read that the unintended (but not unexpected) side effect of No Child Left Behind with its focus on standardized testing in the core subjects is that arts education goes by the wayside. In an effort to boost test scores, schools and teachers focus on what's being tested. That makes of sense to me and it probably shouldn't surprise people that it's done. But by focusing so exclusively on these core subjects, the schools are really missing out.

Take the Corbett Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. They've instituted a hugely intensive interdisciplinary music program in the school. They're writing operas in the fifth grade instead of practicing multiple choice tests all day. And you know what? Their test scores are going up. Even compared to schools in the area with similar demographics, Corbett is making big strides. The variable is the focus on arts in the curriculum.

And that's just in the classroom. As the New York Times reported earlier this week, a study in the Journal of Pediatrics linked good classroom behavior with increased recess time. Kids who got at least 15 minutes of recess were able to focus much better in class the rest of the day. Kind of the stitch in time philosophy.

With all of our focus on making sure that kids know which bubbles to fill in on a scantron sheet, we may be missing out on some very useful learning opportunities that still go back to that bottom line of student achievement. We just need to remember to think outside the bubble.

EXTRA: Starting next week, Teachable Moment will move to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. I have some other writing projects that I'm working on and mornings seem to be the only time I can get them done. So starting next week I'll try to make up with extra quality what is lacking in quanitity. Thanks for reading.

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