Observations From Administrators

Stephen Gonzales, district arts coordinator, Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colorado

Teaching and learning related to the arts takes a variety of forms, says Stephen Gonzales. These include:

  • classroom projects using arts materials that are not necessarily related to arts curriculum goals,
  • arts-related enrichment such as trips to the symphony,
  • using the arts as a conduit for learning in other subject areas, and
  • using a teacher certified in an art form such as music or dance to deliver a curriculum based on local or other standards for the art form.

Arts education has a positive impact on children’s performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP), says Gonzales. Children with exposure to the arts “are more enlightened or prepared to learn, or have more tools to learn,” he adds.

About the value of the arts in education, Gonzales says:

“That’s who we are as human beings. ... We are the arts. [The arts are] an excellent chronological history from the beginning of time to today. We’re expressive. We have feelings, we have conceptualization in our minds — all of those things are the arts. So, in education, art becomes a very important and vital component because that’s how kids learn.”

Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger, principal, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana:

“The arts ... have not only given a spirit and a life to our programs that to me makes it magical, [but also, in subjects such as] language arts, math, science, and social studies, we find that kids are taught better when they’re taught through the arts.”

Martha Rodriguez-Torres, principal, P.S. 156, The Waverly School of the Arts, Brooklyn, New York:

“By putting the arts in, the children were able to have success in something that was fun for them. ... We added a writing component so the children could begin to write about the arts. ... Then they started thinking about it and doing all kinds of other things through the whole curriculum. And it has had a great impact on them.”

Sandra McGary-Ervin, principal, Harmony Leland Elementary School, Mableton, Georgia:

“Our transiency rate was 33 percent. ... Now it’s down to 14 percent. I’m building a stable community. So I’m watching the arts change my entire school climate. The confidence level and self-esteem of the children ... transfers over to the regular classroom.”