Archive for Thursday, March 4, 2004

School district leaving no electives behind

March 4, 2004

When looking at the No Child Left Behind Act, it's easy to come away with the opinion that elective or fine arts classes would be set aside for more classes in basic subjects such as math and reading.

Indeed, many educators and administrators across the country held the same criticism that fine arts programs would be left behind when the federal education law was introduced in 2002.

The first shot was fired last week when administrators in the De Soto School District proposed cutting fifth-grade band to allow students more time for basic studies. The board has yet to vote on the proposal.

However, the De Soto proposal is not a commonplace reaction for school districts in Kansas, said Diane DeBacker, Kansas Department of Education director of school improvement and accreditation.

"I think that was the fear, that schools and districts would become very narrow in their focus," DeBacker said. "We certainly do not recommend that from a state level. We haven't seen much of that, but what we have seen is more about enrichment activities."

The enrichment activities DeBacker referred to are additional classes in the core subjects emphasized by the No Child Left Behind Act. Tutorials after school and similar programs are popping up across the state, she said.

In Basehor-Linwood, the school district has set up courses for basic comprehension and test taking skills for students struggling on state assessment tests, the barometer used to measure a school district's compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.

The standards courses will begin next year and will focus on remedial skills.

Bill Hatfield, Basehor-Linwood School District assistant superintendent, said the school district would not eliminate fine arts or elective programs to make room for more remedial courses. The school district places a high emphasis on a well rounded education, he added.

He points to a recent Basehor-Linwood School Board decision as evidence. Recently, the board decided to pursue moving all-sixth grade students to their own school rather than pursue other options, one of which was moving elective classes out of their current classrooms. Pursuing this option would have meant some elective teachers would have traveled classroom-to-classroom, carrying their supplies on a cart.

This option is not educationally sound, school board members said.

"What I would say unequivocally is, obviously we've got to make accreditation and assessment scores, but this district has made very strong ties to language arts and the fine arts," Hatfield said. "We have no intention to diminish those things."

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