Thursday, March 12, 2009

SB 1 question: What will an arts program review be, anyway?

Here's an important comment we received on an earlier post:
Can someone please define for me what a "program review" for the arts would entail. I'm an art teacher of grades 4th-8th (currently 2 tested grades in A&H 5th & 8th). In a discussion about our Arts & Humanities rotation schedule for next year...I said that we need to make sure that all students are provided equal opportunity in the arts administrator said to me, "Well you know that A&H is no longer going to be part of the assessment" as if it doesn't matter now because its not going to be tested. Does this mean that the Arts will no longer be a vital part of our KY students' educational requirements? Tell me it isn't so! Will the arts teachers layoffs in KY be the next headlines?
Right now, there are two versions of the bill, one approved by the Senate and another approved by the House. The Senate version calls for:
An annual evaluation by the district of each school's arts and humanities offerings for students. The evaluation shall include the number and variety of arts and humanities courses offered and how arts and humanities are incorporated into the curriculum in other classes...Findings from the assessments under this subsection shall be submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education. The department may contract with appropriate organizations to audit district assessments under this subsection.
The House version is more detailed. It starts with two definitions:
"Program review" means a systematic method of analyzing components of an instructional program including instructional practices, aligned and enacted curriculum, student work samples, formative and summative assessments, professional development and support services, and administrative support and monitoring.
"Program audit" means a form of program review that is a systematic method of analyzing components of an instructional program and areas for improvement that is conducted as a result of a program review that indicates a more in-depth process of analysis and assistance is needed.
Then the House version adds the following specifics about the art reviews:
1. The Kentucky Department of Education shall provide guidelines for arts and humanities programs and for integration of these within the curriculum to all schools.
2. The Kentucky Board of Education shall establish criteria to use in the program review and audit processes, and the procedures recommended for local district and department program reviews and program audits as defined [earlier]. The department shall distribute the criteria and procedures for program reviews and audits to all schools and teacher preparation programs.
3. Each local district shall do an annual program review and the Department of Education shall conduct a program review of every school's program within a two year period. The frequency of program audits shall be determined by the Department of Education in compliance with the requirements established by the state board.
4. Each school-based decision making council shall analyze the findings from program reviews for its school and determine how it will address program recommendations to improve the program for students.
As you can see, the House version is much more specific and provides reviews by the state as well as by the district.

In both House and Senate, leaders say very clearly that their goal is to get more and better teaching in the arts, focused more on student performance and less on the kinds of core content information that has been the focus with our pencil and paper tests. They also say that any school that tries dropping the arts will be breaking the law and will face consequences from the program reviews.

I think it can work if they commit to the state part of the reviews, including both the House language and regular funding for KDE to make it happen. What I wrote earlier about program reviews for writing portfolios fits here, too:
If I believe there will be financial support and political will behind the reviews, I'll count that as a credible proposal--but that "if" is as wide as the Pacific Ocean."
(To see the two versions of the bill, go here. The link that says SCS will let you download the Senate Committee Substitute approve on that side, and the one that says HCS will give you the House version. )

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