Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/news/4770.php

Horne decries 'testing culture'
 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 money is

"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 participate.

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.

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