Teachers unhappy with delay in Missouri fine arts test

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Gov. Bob Holden's cost-cutting decision to delay the launch of a statewide fine arts test has some teachers feeling snubbed.

Among the $400 million in cuts ordered by Holden was $3.1 million from the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education. About $900,000 of that came from putting off the new fine arts test for one year.

Starting in spring 2002, school districts were to be required to test all fifth-graders in fine arts. Currently, the Missouri requires assessment tests of various grades in five subjects: math, communication arts, science, social studies and health-physical education.

Missouri is only one of five states that either test for fine arts or plan to do so. The others are Illinois, Maine, Utah and Kentucky.

Last year, many arts teachers applauded the new exam, saying it would give their field more credibility and respect.

Aurelia Hartenberger, music director for the Mehlville School District, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she's worried that the policy decision could hurt arts education on the local level.

"My biggest concern is this policy decision will be imitated by the individual school districts," said Hartenberger, who also heads the Missouri Music Educators Association. "It sends the message to the schools to cut the arts at the local level."

Teachers have spent the past two years preparing for the fine arts test. They have designed their classes around the state's art standards, bought new teaching materials and attended workshops, Hartenberger said.

Missouri's test requires students to watch a video, then answer multiple-choice and written questions. For instance, they might be asked about similarities between the two works of art, or pieces of music.

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