Op-Ed: Arts Matter By Chancellor Carmen Fariña

December 17, 2015

Manny_Vega_ArtworkBy NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña   

The power of dance, music, theater, and visual arts can impact our kids tremendously. As a teacher I saw this firsthand in the classroom when I incorporated the arts into my lessons – students beamed and were instantly engaged. Especially in New York City, one of the arts capitals of the world, our kids deserve a first-class arts education. When I became Chancellor, one of my goals was to ensure that every child in our City, regardless of their zip code, has the opportunity to learn about and pursue the arts in a meaningful way.

Having access to quality arts education and a committed arts teacher is critical to our students’ success, which is why today I am excited to announce that we have the most licensed arts teachers in our schools in a decade.

In particular, Middle and High School Arts Matter is a new initiative that has supported the hiring of new full-time arts teachers in 113 middle and high schools across the City. This exciting initiative stems from the administration’s additional $23 million annual investment in arts education. 74 of the Arts Matter schools had no arts teacher prior to the 2014-15 school year, and none of the Arts Matter schools had more than one arts teacher. 22,000 students are receiving arts instruction in new classes taught by Arts Matter teachers.

A great education has to prepare students for life and providing them with real-world, critical-thinking skills – and this just can’t be done without the arts. High-quality arts education teaches our students important skills and aligns to what they are learning in other classrooms: for example, a theater class can be just what an English Language Learner needs to help him or her understand the complexities of language and communication. A great arts program can encourage students to stay in school, improve their confidence, or simply help students new to this country make friends.

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So, as most principals will tell you, the first thing I want to see when I visit a school is whether the arts are integrated into the DNA of the school. I want to see all students bursting with joy and curiosity. I want to see imaginations soar. I want to be greeted by the school’s chorus or band; see students discussing pop art, surrealism, and impressionism; and see evidence of painting, drawing, and creative writing exhibited on bulletin boards.

The investments we are announcing today will provide hands-on learning that will teach our kids camaraderie, how to revise, edit, rehearse, and think critically— all skills that will help them thrive in school and in life.

What do you think about Arts Matters?

Photo credit: Vega fro East Harlem.

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