Horne decries 'testing culture'
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - Decrying the effects of the "testing culture," state school
superintendent Tom Horne wants more emphasis on social studies and the arts.
Horne, in his first State of Education speech, slated for later today, says
schools should resist the urge to concentrate solely on the areas where the
state is testing students. The superintendent says he recognizes budget
constraints facing schools but the response by many districts that cut arts
"A student who has not been taught the deeper forms of beauty has not received
an education," Horne says in his prepared text.
"And numerous studies have shown that students involved in the arts actually
perform better in other academic subjects."
Horne says that is borne out by the success of the Opening Minds Through the
Arts program run in the Tucson Unified School District with a grant from the
U.S. Department of Education.
Horne says he intends to find another $1 million in federal aid to create pilot
programs throughout the state to replicate that project. And he intends to seek
money from private businesses and foundations to permit even more schools to
The promise to create what Horne calls "content-rich curriculum" is part of the
superintendent's three-point plan for the coming year. He also has set goals to
improve schools and teacher training. But it is in the area of curriculum that
Horne provides the most specifics.
"One unfortunate, unintended consequence of the testing culture has been that
some schools focus on the subject tested - reading, writing and mathematics - to
the exclusion of the other vital subjects (of) science, social studies and the
arts," Horne says. Reading, writing and math are the three areas where students
are tested by the state to determine proficiency.
Horne says a good background knowledge in science and social studies is
essential to good reading skills; the same is true of the arts.
Horne says the Tucson program integrates music, dance and drama into the
classrooms of five elementary schools. He notes that kindergartners work with a
string or woodwind trio while first-graders write their own opera.
Second-graders are involved with dance, third-graders get recorders and
fourth-graders learn violin.
According to Horne, a federally funded study showed that students receiving the
arts education outscored similar students who were not getting those programs.
He specifically notes that Hispanic students receiving the arts education scored
55 percent higher than Latinos not in the program.
Expanding this Opening Minds through the Arts program to pilot schools
throughout the state, Horne says, would enable his office to study why it aids
academic achievement, especially for Hispanic students.