Op-Ed: Making A Difference Through The Arts

arts-final1By NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña

The arts can have an incredible impact on our kids’ lives, which is why when I became Chancellor, one of my goals was to ensure that every child in our City, regardless of their zip code or home language, has the opportunity to learn about and pursue the arts in a meaningful way. As a matter of fact, this week, we released our Annual Arts Report, which shows the incredible progress we’ve made in providing dance, music, theatre, and visual arts teachers and programs across our City’s schools.

Having access to a quality arts education and a committed arts teacher is critical to our students’ success, which is why I am excited to announce that we have the most licensed arts teachers in 11 years and have substantially increased arts programming for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Instrumental to this effort is the Arts Matter program, an initiative that partners nearby schools – mostly located in high-needs communities – to share one or two full-time arts teachers. This program provides ongoing professional development and one-on-one discipline-specific mentoring by experienced teachers as well as arts materials. This initiative stems from the administration’s additional $23 million annual investment in arts education.

As a result, New York City now has a record number of full-time certified arts teachers, a total of 2,757 in all pre-K-12 schools. Moreover, spending in the arts increased to $399 million in the 2015-16 school year from $367 million in the year prior. Investments in the arts will improve academic outcomes for tens of thousands of our students. Also, the arts play a pivotal role in deepening the understanding and appreciation of other cultures and customs.

High-quality arts education teaches our students important skills and aligns to what they are learning in other classrooms: for example, performing a monologue can be the perfect exercise to help a student learning English to understand the complexities of language and communication and build poise and self-confidence. A great music program can encourage students to come to school, develop lifelong passions and hobbies, or simply encourage students to make new friends.

As most principals and teachers will tell you, when I visit a school, I want to see classrooms full of students learning with joy and curiosity. I want to see imaginations soar. I want to see students rehearse a traditional dance number for an upcoming show, or listen to lively debate about pop art, surrealism, and impressionism; and see evidence of painting, drawing, photography and creative writing. As the world becomes more connected, a great education has to prepare students to think outside of the box and the arts is an essential ingredient.

I am proud to see our City making great strides in expanding access to the arts as part of our commitment to equity and excellence for all students. These investments will continue to provide hands-on learning that will teach our kids camaraderie, how to revise, edit, rehearse, and think critically— all skills that will help them thrive in school and in life.

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