We would like our public schools to produce well-rounded students who not only understand academics, but also have an appreciation for the arts.
When we evaluate their performance, though, it’s strictly on students’ academic performance in core subject areas: Reading, mathematics, writing and science.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to argue with the DeKalb District 428 school board’s decision to de-emphasize student elective classes in favor of more time for math instruction.
The plan, which was approved by school board members Tuesday and takes effect in the 2014-15 school year, will eliminate one of students’ two elective classes. Instead, students will receive double the current math instruction, 88 minutes a day.
The move also will allow the cash-strapped district to eliminate three teaching positions.
District officials already have decided to increase students’ instruction time in language arts to 88 minutes a day, and say they have seen a decrease in the number of students who require remedial literacy classes as high school freshmen.
Standardized test results from the Illinois State Board of Education show DeKalb-area students have room for improvement in math, but it is in reading where more middle-schoolers are falling short more often. For example, last year 18 percent of seventh-graders at Huntley Middle School failed to meet math standards, but 32 percent failed to meet reading standards.
But no one tested the students on whether they could tell a treble clef from a bass clef, or tell you what cubism is.
It would be one thing if the district were eliminating elective classes altogether – something that some school districts have done when confronted with financial crises – but that is not the case.
Students are losing access to some elective classes, however, it bears noting that there are opportunities for them to learn about these subjects through other means in the community. Although many children take art, dance, or music lessons for recreation, schools remain the only place most people learn about important areas such as math and reading.
If the new schedule at District 428 middle schools results in better education for students in core subject areas and a slight decrease in expenses in District 428, it’s a prudent move.