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Because the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act focuses on annual tests in reading and math, almost half the nation's school districts significantly decreased daily class time on certain subjects -- art being one of them. Still, some schools haven't allowed NCLB to determine their academic focus.
For 30 years, the Racine Unified School District in Racine, Wis., has upheld education through the arts. In its art curriculum, "students learn to make, see and feel and understand works of art from cultural and historical perspectives," according to the district's Web site.
Art is required for K-6 students and is an elective for seventh- through 12th-graders. In addition, student artwork is exhibited at the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts and Racine Art Museum.
And in San Ramon, Calif., Quail Run Elementary School started its art program in 2008.
"Philosophically, we really believe in educating the whole child, and we feel like art is a great way to keep core curricular areas," said Carol Loflin, principal of Quail Run Elementary. "We find that integrating the art into our instruction really helps kids achieve."
At Quail Run, art isn't simply about drawing and painting -- it is incorporated into history, math, science and English lessons, Loflin said.
"We all have different learning styles," she said. "For some kids who are real visual learners, being able to see and create helps them to understand."
For example, the students were studying the solar system, so the science teacher had them use pastels to draw the different planets.
"They're actually more engaged and are developing their own understanding," Loflin said. "We find that instead of just sitting and listening to somebody talk, if you're really actively engaged in the learning, you tend to retain that information better -- and research shows that."
*This story is from Converge magazine's Winter 2009 issue.
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