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Department of Education’s Progress Reports for Schools

Testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Education
Delivered by Arthur Greenberg, The Center for Arts Education
Re: Oversight: Examining the Department of Education’s New Progress Reports for Schools
December 10, 2007
Good Morning. Thank you Chairman Jackson and members of the committee on Education for the opportunity to testify today on the Department of Education’s new Progress Reports for Schools. I am Arthur Greenberg, Board member of the Center for Arts Education and a former superintendent of Community School District 25 in Queens for over eight years.
 
The Center for Arts Education is committed to restoring, stimulating, and sustaining quality arts education as an essential part of every child’s education. Since its founding in 1996, CAE has awarded nearly $40 million in private and public funding to support arts education partnerships and programs. In addition, CAE is dedicated to influencing educational and fiscal policies that will support arts education in all of the city’s public schools.
 
School Progress Reports only offer an incomplete picture of what is happening in our public schools. In fact, 85 percent of a school's grade comes from results on the state’s math and English/language arts exams. The other 15 percent of a school’s grade was based on attendance and school “learning environment” surveys, with questions on the arts having a negligible impact on a school’s grade.
 
Tracking overall performance of a school, based overwhelmingly on standardized test scores, fails to measure a school’s ability to provide a well-rounded education that includes the arts.
 
Over more than 10 years, CAE has witnessed the power of arts education in engaging students in learning and providing alternative avenues for achievement. Research proves learning in the arts enhances learning in other subject areas and contributes to a student's overall development, provides students with opportunities to work collaboratively, develop creative and critical thinking skills, and develop innovative solutions—all 21st century skills that employers in New York City and around the world want. 
 
While students may have more access to arts education now than they did 25 years ago, there is still a long way to go. According to the DOE’s 2006-2007 parent survey, 32 percent of parents indicated that their child did not participate in any arts during the school day. A 2006 DOE study found that hundreds of schools did not have a single certified arts teacher. Other studies have indicated that, even in schools where arts are offered, only a fraction of the students receive the instruction.
 
New York State has a minimum set of state requirements that, if adhered to, would be an improvement on the current instruction in the arts. In response, the city has launched ArtsCount, and promises to issue an annual “Arts in Schools Report” in January. We are concerned though that since it will be reported separately from the progress reports principals will not be held to the same level of accountability.
 
The DOE has also eliminated Project ARTS’ categorical funding for the arts. Principals and teachers are feeling pressured to sacrifice instruction that does not directly relate to standardized test results. Not only will failing schools reduce access for children to art, music, drama, and theater, among other disciplines, but C or B schools will scale back these elements of a well-rounded education to increase standardized test scores, ensure bonuses, and win administrators’ praise.
 
As a matter of equity and access, we ask the City and the Council to ensure that all our public schools at least meet the state requirements. We also urge the council members to engage in building demand and support for arts education in their schools and to hold both principals and the DOE accountable for making sure that arts access is available to every student across the city.
Thank you.
  
Dr. Arthur Greenberg is an accomplished educator and administrator having enjoyed an extensive career in the New York City Public School system serving as teacher, principal, and superintendent. Dr. Greenberg was handpicked by former Schools Chancellor Dr. Rudy Crew to oversee and mentor the city’s 32 community superintendents and push them to vigorously enforce standards for their principals. He is the winner of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education for Achievements in Arts Education and Community College Development for his successful integration of arts education into the district’s curriculum, resulting in higher academic achievement among the district’s diverse student population.
 
A lifelong resident of New York City, Dr. Greenberg earned his doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master’s degree in English education from New York University, a master’s of science and professional diploma (administration and supervision) from Pace University, and a bachelor’s of business administration degree from City College of New York.