Health Teaching Wreaks Havoc With The Arts

A new directive from Sacramento is requiring that all pupils from grades 7-12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education. See the California Healthy Youth Act, for details.

Sounds like a good idea? Sure. Probably. After all, the total tuition time may only be about 11 hours. But here’s the downside.

Additional classes have to be added to the curriculum. To fill those classes students need to be pulled from other electives. That means courses like AVID and the arts get hammered. Let’s add some stats to this.

A musical example
Suppose a middle school band director teaches about 230 kids each week – 6 periods a day. He is teaching raw beginners to read music and play simple tunes in Beginning Band. The best of these move into Advanced Band and Jazz Band the following year. Now, take 80 kids out of the beginning band program to teach HIV prevention. This immediately reduces the population of kids who will be good enough for the following year’s Advanced and Jazz band. In fact, one of those bands will probably have to be dropped. Yet it was the pride of the school and always performed at school wide and festive events.

The results are yet more dire, since the high school band to which the advanced musicians will go completely depends on the middle school for its new band members. (High school does not teach beginners.) Now the high school band program is compromised and cannot get enough musicians to sustain its traditionally excellent program. The band becomes a shadow of its former excellence.

All because the junior high school kids needed 11 hours of sex education.

The same with drama
Here is a drama teacher who for many years taught five Beginner classes and one Advanced drama class. On average one fifth of the kids in beginning drama move into advanced drama the following year. These advanced kids then move to high school and become the core of the high school program.

Now comes the state mandated health program and the middle school administrator pulls out 70 kids from the drama program. Note – this is exactly what will happen come this fall when schools will return from summer break. The drama teacher no longer has a full time drama program and for the first time ever is required to teach Speech (for instance). Her beginning classes drop from 5 to 3 for a total of about 105 students. The math applies: about one fifth of these beginners will qualify for advanced drama – a class of about 21 students. This is a drastic reduction from the usual 35 students with whom the teacher may stage about 6 shows in a year. This smaller number moves up to high school, only to weaken that theatre program.

Of course, it is not just the band or drama program that gets hit, but almost any elective program. Some have already had to close. And for what? – For 11 hours of state mandated health tuition.

Academic dilution
Hundreds, maybe thousands of students, simply do not get a second elective. Instead they go on the wheel. The wheel consists of four, nine-week courses ranging from speech, home economics, Mandarin, forensics, marine biology, exploring medical careers, etc.  One may argue that kids should rightly be exposed to a greater variety of academic subjects. The trouble is that these are junior high kids, many of whom still read poorly and struggle with math and history. The diversification introduced by the wheel may prove to be a drastic dilution of learning.

The Anaheim Union High School District has approved the policy of Equal Rights in Arts Learning – which you may read here on this blog. The Board has no sooner signed up to the highest ideals for arts education than they immediately undercut it and deprive hundreds of kids of an arts education, cutting deeply into well established and successful arts programs.

Finding other solutions
There are other way to comply with the California Healthy Youth Act by means of after school classes, or Saturday School. Apparently there are limitations on who may teach the health classes; and those teachers do not necessarily want to teach on Saturday, in spite of the fact they they would get paid. Districts have flexibility in how the health program may be taught.

As a voice representing the community in Anaheim we recognize the value of teaching the Healthy Youth program but not at the expense of so much damage to arts programs.



Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning

(This is the adopted policy of the Anaheim Arts Council: May 2107)

CREATE CA defines EQUITY in Arts Education* as the right of every student to engage and succeed in powerful, high quality, standards-based arts learning Pre-K12. All students from every race, culture, language background, geographic region, and socio-economic level must have the opportunity to fully develop their own artistic, cultural, and linguistic heritage while expanding opportunities to study and explore artistic expressions across different cultures and time periods.

*We define arts education to include courses of study and interdisciplinary learning in dance, music, theatre, and visual and media arts, aligned with the State Standards and reflecting the provisions of the California State Education Code.

1. The right to equitable access to PreK-12 free, coherent, and sequential standards-based arts learning that is part of the core curriculum and that provides both integrated and discrete visual and performing arts learning opportunities; and the right to equitable outcomes as a result of this access, without distinction on account of race, culture, language, religion, national origin, geographical location, or legal status.

“I have the right to participate and succeed in high-quality courses in all the arts disciplines as part of my basic education, regardless of my background, culture, language or place of residence.”

2. The right to special protection for every student’s artistic and aesthetic development. The right to protection from policies and practices that exclude or preclude certain students or populations from equitable access to and success in powerful and coherent arts learning PreK-12.

I have the same right to fully develop my creative potential at every grade level and not be excluded for any reason.”

3. The right to arts learning that is culturally and linguistically responsive and relevant, with attention to those populations that have traditionally been excluded or precluded, such as English Learners, students of color, foster youth, homeless youth, students in poverty, migrant students, and special needs students.

“I have the right to engage in arts education that reflects, respects and builds on my culture, language and background.”

4. The right to arts learning programs in every school, district, and community that are funded and supported with the necessary resources, including qualified administrators, teachers, teaching artists, and other staff, adequate materials, and appropriate facilities to support powerful culturally and linguistically responsive arts learning.

“I have the right to receive the resources I need to be successful in my arts studies in dance, music, theatre, media and visual arts, including the proper supplies and facilities, and especially qualified teachers and curriculum that honor all cultures and languages.”

5. The right to educators, leaders, and parents/community who are knowledgeable about the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of arts learning for individual students, families/communities, the nation, and global society.

“I have the right to be supported by leaders in my community and school who understand the benefits of an arts education to prepare me for college, career and life.”

6. The right to be brought up in school and community environments that value and protect the arts and equity as essential to the full development of every student, and that demonstrate those values/beliefs in their public policies and practices.

“I have the right to learn and practice the arts in a positive environment where everyone understands and acts on the knowledge that I am engaging in valuable and important work.”

Reproduced from Create California

NOTE: This Declaration was also approved by a 5-0 vote of the board of the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) in May 2107. We wish them every success as they try to make the policy effective in the face of falling enrollment and other pressures.