published Friday, December 16th, 2011

Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga wants arts boost in Hamilton County schools

Teacher Carla Guerra checks on first grade students in as they work on an assignment in art class at the Battle Elementary on Thursday. Seated in front of her are Kedrick Green-Conner, left, and Mason Houston.
Teacher Carla Guerra checks on first grade students in as they work on an assignment in art class at the Battle Elementary on Thursday. Seated in front of her are Kedrick Green-Conner, left, and Mason Houston.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Elementary positions funded by Hamilton County

• Barger Academy

• Battle Academy

• Brown Academy

• Normal Park Museum Magnet

Elementary positions funded by PTA

• Thrasher Elementary

• Nolan Elementary

• Lookout Mountain Elementary

• Big Ridge Elementary

Source: Allied Arts

Should every elementary school have art teachers?

Elementary schools that don't integrate painting, dancing and acting into their curriculums are setting students up for faulty imaginations and lower test scores, arts activists say.

Of 44 elementary schools in Hamilton County, only eight have full-time visual arts teachers, and four of those are funded by parent-teacher associations. They get $100 for supplies from the school and typically pay $500 to $1,000 out of their own pockets for paintbrushes, canvases, paint and materials, supporters say.

"We are the only major system in the state of Tennessee that doesn't have a certified art teacher in every elementary school," said Karla Riddle, director of innovative programs for Hamilton County Schools. "When they say you have to lose a position, the first they look at is art."

Officials with cultural development group Allied Arts said an investment of nearly $300,000 is needed to reverse a trend of uneven and underfunded art education.

The group is pushing to launch a program to train teachers how to use the arts to drive home tough concepts in English, math or science. The program is modeled after one begun in Dallas a decade ago.

"Right now, we give students a lot of information and not a lot of depth," said Rodney Van Valkenburg, director of art education at Allied Arts. "With arts integration, you are touching on a lot of different subjects through an art form."

Research makes a strong case for using art in the classroom.

More than 62 studies show art helps learning in subject areas stick. It also has a positive outcome on habits of mind, self-motivation and social skills such as tolerance and empathy, according to a report by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

The report quotes other studies showing that low-income students who participate in arts activities more than nine hours a week are four times more likely to achieve better in school, three times more likely to have better school attendance, and take part more in student government and math and science fairs.

  • photo
    Elijah Gutierrez and other Battle Elementary first-graders work on an assignment in Carla Guerra's art class at the school Thursday.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Big thought

In Dallas, the Big Thought program pays $15 per student for art education through community and government partnerships. The program started in 13 elementary schools and took five years to grow to scale. Now it sends trained art advisers to every elementary school in Dallas to help teachers incorporate the arts in classes, said Gigi Antoni, president and CEO of Big Thought.

"We realized that affluent people were getting access [to art] but the poor and minorities weren't," she said. "It was the same people going to the same things. It's an equality issue."

Dan Bowers, president of Allied Arts, said the same is true here, but he believes the money and will are there to change that.

Organizations such as the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera worry that, as their patrons get older, they aren't luring a younger, new audience, Bowers said.

"Money is put into random acts of improvement, right now," he said. "The money is there [to start a program like the Big Thought] in the pockets of local businesses, in the pockets of local government. We can shuffle it from programs that are already funded. It's a systems approach. Once the investment is made you can look at synergy."

  • photo
    Aryauna Campbell, left, Jessie Hunnicutt and other Battle Elementary first graders work on an assignment in Carla Guerra's art class at the school Thursday.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Painting planets

Antoni was brought in by the Imagine 2020 Cultural Initiative to speak about making arts education in schools a national model to Allied Arts board members, the University of Chattanooga Foundation, the local Rotary and school board members.

For instance, lessons on the solar system could use paintings to portray the planets. Dancers could teach about spatial relationships. Actors could reenact the journeys to the moon.

But implementation would take a commitment from the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Dallas, which didn't have a school art program for 30 years, now requires each elementary student get 90 minutes of art instruction, Antoni said. Facing a $40 million deficit last year, Dallas schools got rid of low-performing teachers but held on to art teachers, she said.

Nearly five years ago, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that called for all elementary schools to teach the visual arts and music.

But it was just an "unfunded mandate," Van Valkenburg said.

Merger cut arts

Before Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools merged in 1997, city schools had visual arts teachers in elementary schools but the county schools only had a few. After the merger, visual arts fell off and an arts-related central office position was cut.

  • photo
    Kayla Posey and other Battle Elementary first graders work on an assignment in Carla Guerra's art class at the school Thursday.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Elementary students still get 40 minutes of music instruction each week. High school students must have an art credit to graduate, but the visual-arts options are slim, Van Valkenburg said.

"It's a real challenge because there is no curriculum to build on," he said. "They have never even picked up a paint brush before."

He said 78 percent of Hamilton County students will graduate without having a professionally led visual arts experience.

Science focus

Riddle oversees magnet schools and supervised the visual arts program under former Superintendent Jim Scales.

"Parents say, 'What can we do?'" Riddle said. "Funding is a huge, huge issue. It's not a real priority. A lot is being driven by the federal government, a focus on science, engineering, math and technology. [The arts] have never been much of a topic."

Still, teachers are hungry to find a way to plug their students into the arts.

Last year, Allied Arts provided tickets for all elementary school teachers and students to attend a production of "The Nutcracker." For third-graders, tickets were provided for a symphony experience.

Ninety-eight percent of schools participated, Van Valkenburg said.

Barger Academy students have a dance class. They lit up when they got to see "The Nutcracker" performed professionally, Barger visual arts teacher Stacey Alverson said.

  • photo
    Teacher Carla Guerra talks to Battle Elementary first grade students before they work on an assignment in art class at the school Thursday.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"I think it is something to look forward to [for the students]. It's a part of their school day, but it's rich with history and tradition and cultural studies and story," she said. "There are memories made."

Van Valkenburg said other schools have part-time art teachers but are fighting to incorporate art in classwork. All teachers at East Ridge Elementary and Ooltewah Elementary have been trained in arts integration.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said he likes the concept of arts integration, but it could be tough to get a program up and running across elementary schools.

"There are people who don't think the arts needs to be in schools," Evatt said. "Art has its place. ... To give the child a well rounded education, they need to be exposed to everything."

He said the only way to make a significant investment is to review priorities in next year's budget to see where money to support an arts program could be found.

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about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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328Kwebsite said...

Another excellent piece from Joan Garrett. I would have liked to read more about how the part-time teachers were being funded. Also, I would have liked to hear about what goals Art teachers expect students to achieve within certain age ranges and grade levels. Painting a color wheel at 17 years old isn't much of an education. What goals should we have put in place for our students?

Meanwhile, it's sad to say that attention towards Math, Science and Engineering are somehow sapping our arts efforts because we have not seen any success in those areas. We have little or no substantive effort towards "STEM" schools beyond the idea that local Republicans want Bill Gates' attention and foundation funding. It's not like we're acing Math, either.

How many teenage kids do you think are complaining about not getting Calculus before graduating high school? No Calculus, no money. Without Calculus all of the good paying jobs will be closed to college students. No Calculus, no science track; no science track, no science track paycheck.

When the kids don't graduate high school with exposure to Calculus, then all of this "STEM" school talk is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Just look at the undergraduate catalog requirements for any public school in Tennessee. You can't get a two year degree in science from a Board of Regents college without Calculus.

Can't we prepare our kids for leadership in today's economy?

Calculus prep doesn't require a "Name" school or Ivy League logos.

I would have also liked to see a breakdown of what Math classes students in our area are taking, and how well they are doing. For example, we hear about state tests; we all know those are so easy that they are not an indicator of our students' capabilities. How many of our kids are taking all of what kinds of maths? Algebra I and II, Trig, Geometry, Calculus: how do these Math class efforts really break down?

All of our subjects need more attention. We should extend the school year for all students not actively working on a farm in the summer. If we added in a summer semester we could cover arts programs, PE, Accounting and Economics. We could make intelligent use of our students' time in school.

Oh, wait: "Slaves learned to read." I forgot. We don't care about education and funding.

Too bad the Chattanooga Hamilton County Public Library ("The Public Library") has been so abused that it can't help local education efforts either; we're stripping content and furniture out of there to make room for some next Mayor's BS.

B+ for Joan Garrett.

F- to local politicians, particularly Republicans, for failing to take care of our community's educational needs. Please revise and resubmit to meet the course standards, Politico.

December 16, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

You want to build a good high school football program? Summer semester. Explain that to the local rednecks and maybe they'll stop complaining and start funding education.

Or, we can all get jobs as politicians after becoming hairdressers. Then we can tell people about how "Slaves learned to read."

December 16, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

One way we could really step up our Math efforts without increasing costs much would be to allow students to take "Geometry" alongside one of their Algebra classes. This would allow teachers a reasonable chance to work in Calculus for the smarter students and more pre-Calculus classes for those who are behind our community's expectations for progress in Math.

Also, we should be prepared to use a summer semester as an opportunity to re-train students who are in danger of failing to perform at grade level. Really, it looks like 80% of our local students are not getting the educational value they deserve for their families' tax dollar.

For Arts expectations, I really would have wanted to read that local teachers had goals for 2D and 3D arts that could have been quickly and clearly articulated. Right-brain, holistic thinking is valuable in today's world of left-brained, simulated-linear-thinking computers. We didn't see that, above. Anatomy, History, Optics: all of those should have been tied in to visual arts education goals for our students. Literary readings on color theory: let us find a student who's read a book!

I doubt we'd find a school board member who's read or reviewed any of the textbooks in schools in this area. It's only their job to do that. We'd also like to see an article about when was the last time they opened a textbook and read from it. A report card for each school board member's readings would be nice. Be sure to list every title they've read from so that we can see if they even cover one semester's worth of textbooks per year. I doubt they've read anything at all.

School board members, you know we all give you an F.

"Slaves learned to read," but the Hamilton County School Board hasn't read anything all year, have they? Except maybe press releases and news articles about themselves: we're confident they read those.

They had plenty of time to posture before the cameras and tell us why others were wrong because they hadn't done their jobs: I bet they made no inspections or readings of anything academic all year. School Board participation in assigned tasks: zero.

What could be more damaging to a young person's education than to elect a bunch of illiterate chumps to control textbooks and government leadership of local public education?

Require school board members to disclose their readings of textbooks and inspections of classrooms and programs of study. So far, their only contribution to our community this year has been to embarrass us with their ignorant and inflammatory comments. They can put a stop to mine with any demonstration of basic professional capacity to do their assigned work.

When was the last time the School Board read a textbook?

December 16, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
Outsidevoice said...

The only thing "payingattention" is paying attention to is negative spin. Time to give a little watch to some positive things happening in our community.

December 16, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.
R said...

Unfortunately, Payingattention has their facts wrong. Most of Allied Arts' employee costs are covered through an endowment and certainly not through taxpayer dollars. There are 5 Allied Arts employees. All funding from the City of Chattanooga to Allied Arts goes to programs not salaries. Allied Arts received no funding from the County government this year. Allied Arts is pleased to help leverage an National Endowment for the Arts grant to support a public art project on West Main Street otherwise Allied Arts does not not currently fund Public Art projects, but we encourage them. Allied Arts is pleased to work with the City's Department of Education, Arts, but there are not any members of the Crutchfield family on the Board.

Allied Arts believes that the comparatively small investment the government makes to Allied Arts reaps great benefits to improve the quality of life for our citizens and strenghtens our community.

December 16, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.
01centare said...

This is great!! Children's natural creative abilities should be encouraged. I'd like to see students also studying music and learning to play a musical instrument in the earlier grades. Reading musical scales and counting whole notes, half notes, quarter notes etc. helps concentration and also helps prepare the brain for the maths. Children need to be allowed to express themselves and become interactive. Unfortunately, over the years children as young as 3 and 4 years of age in headstart are taught to sit and listen, and be punished if they don't. By third grade their little brains have almost totally shut down.

December 16, 2011 at 6:33 p.m.
01centare said...

R said... Unfortunately, Payingattention has their facts wrong. Most of Allied Arts' employee costs are covered through an endowment and certainly not through taxpayer dollars

No one pays attention to paying attention any longer. If you've noticed she can't create a sentence without something about someone misuing her tax dollars. Well it's OUR tax dollars too. It's become like a sick addiction for her.

December 16, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
shawntheweaver said...

The good thing about this is that the furniture needed for these programs are often already found in the schools and they will only need to worry about the curriculum and having the manpower to teach the classes, as well as perhaps the materials needed by the students. Art is important to a child’s development, and schools should learn to recognize that.

Shawn -

May 9, 2012 at 3:59 a.m.
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