Letter: Be bold, provide more music and arts in schools

Posted 7/29/21

As the 2021/2022 school year approaches, I sincerely hope the Bristol Warren school district will consider the bold move to greatly expand music, visual arts, and other fine arts programs and to …

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Letter: Be bold, provide more music and arts in schools

Posted

As the 2021/2022 school year approaches, I sincerely hope the Bristol Warren school district will consider the bold move to greatly expand music, visual arts, and other fine arts programs and to embed them into every Bristol/Warren student’s normal daytime curriculum throughout the school year. The incoming ESSER funds now give you the opportunity to try something that has been proven to have a major positive effect on children of all ages.

Now is the time to do this. Know that the Rhode Island Music Educators Association (RIMEA) and the other Arts Education agencies in our state are willing and ready to assist. Frankly, doing more of the same, such as expanding literacy and math coaches, adding math and literacy “seat time” requirements, remedial summer work, and others, though millions have been spent on these, has not had the effect needed.

I was saddened to hear that the arts enrichment summer program was cut by the school committee because they wanted to focus ESSER funds on language arts and math. My question is this: “Why can’t students have a strong math and language arts curriculum AND a strong arts curriculum?”

Why not be bold? Do something that, at the least, will ensure Bristol/Warren’s children will experience the joy, beauty, creativity, and artistic skill building that they deserve to have every single day. Please take a good look at the Boston study, and the huge amount of other research, showing the benefits of expanded daytime curricular arts programming. This study reviewed more than a decade of data and came to the conclusion that “arts education engages students, builds community, expresses our shared humanity and experience, and contributes to joyful learning environments” (John Hilliard, Boston Globe, May 10, 2021). 

Considering that our students have dealt with the stresses of a global pandemic, I feel it is imperative that we not only deal with the learning loss in language arts and math, but also address the learning loss in the arts.

Why music? In addition to being an important academic subject in its own right, research continues to show that schools with comprehensive music education programs provide numerous positive effects to students beyond music, including increased attendance, family engagement, academic achievement and career preparedness.

As a music teacher of 20 years, I know the impact that music has on students. They all can say that music class has made their lives better. As a parent of three Bristol Warren students, I see the benefits from having music and arts classes. My son, an incoming seventh-grader at KMS, said music is his absolute favorite subject, and I have seen first-hand the dedication of his music teachers.

RIMEA stands ready with resources, expertise and guidance to support the efforts of teachers, administrators and state leaders. A comprehensive education must include music for every child to prepare them for a successful fulfilling life, today and into their future.

Shannan Davis
Warren

Ms. Davis is a member of the Rhode Island Music Educators Association Music Advocacy Task Force.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.