Today I sent this email to the members of the Ohio State Board of Education respectfully requesting that they refrain from eliminating the requirement that school districts have licensed professionals teaching the arts and physical education, better known as the “5 of 8” rule. I urge all Ohioans to do the same (all email addresses conveniently listed at the bottom of the post).
Dear Members of the Ohio State Board of Education,
I am writing to urge you to reject the proposed change to eliminate the “5 of 8” Rule from Ohio Administrative Code and retain the existing language which states:
“A minimum of five full-time equivalent educational service personnel shall be employed district-wide for each one thousand students in the regular student population as defined in section 3317.023 of the Revised Code. Educational service personnel shall be assigned to at least five of the eight following areas: counselor, library media specialist, school nurse, visiting teacher, social worker and elementary art, music and physical education. Educational service personnel assigned to elementary art, music and physical education shall hold the special teaching certificate or multi-age license in the subject to which they are assigned. School districts receiving the school nurse wellness coordinator factor and school district health professional factor funds pursuant to section 3306.06 of the Revised Code shall give preference to hiring licensed school nurses.”
You have been elected to defend the right of all of Ohio’s children to have a well-rounded and meaningful PK-12 educational experience. You even have stated that “the main theme of the [School Board’s] vision is for all students to graduate from the PK-12 education system with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to be well prepared for success.”
With the added promise of ensuring that students have the highest-quality educators to guide them in their learning, how can you justify allowing school districts to choose whether or not they wish to have credentialed educators in the arts and physical education? These academic content areas are critical to developing “the whole child”, a promise you also make in your vision statement.
While the core “tested” areas are set up to promote a high degree of competition, the arts and physical education curricula promote the highest levels of collaboration combined with creative divergent thinking.
When a student is faced with a blank canvas, they must find a creative solution to produce a finished product in a way that cannot be replicated in any other area. Under the guidance of a trained education specialist, children are guided to make independent choices to produce a work of art without the aid of a formula or answer key. Young children have the opportunity to craft a unique piece of art while engaging in a scientific process of trial and error to arrive at a masterpiece that gives them both the immediate satisfaction of having created an independent and unique product that reveals their individual thinking process and the ability to self-critique their work and discover ways in which they can improve moving forward. A child can’t follow a formula from a book to fine-tune his brushstrokes, he must engage in the physical act of experimentation and failure repeatedly to find his unique solution.
In the musical arts, not only do children get to experiment with their individual talents, they also must learn how to collaborate with large groups of other children to create a collective work of art. The children of Ohio deserve to have trained education specialists — music teachers — to guide them through this unique problem-solving process which also requires experimentation, failure, and a unique blend of individual and collaborative behavior. The degree of whole group collaboration required in the instrumental and vocal arts requires an education specialist who can help children learn to balance their individual talents with the need to work as a collaborative team to produce the final product.
In physical education classes, students not only get to engage in the physical exercise that they need, the physical activities engage their brains in areas that the other academic areas don’t address. While it is important for children to develop good physical habits at an early age, the physical exercise also allows time for their growing brains time to process the information that they are taking in at an ever-increasing rate in their other classes. This “down time” has been shown to improve problem-solving abilities as the information is processed in the brain and new connections are made while other parts of the brain and the body are engaged in a different use. How many of you have ever had a light bulb go on while on a jog or in the shower when you were thinking about other things? That’s how the brain works! In addition to these benefits, physical education classes, like the musical arts, require children to develop their interpersonal skills as they work to solve a problem through teamwork (e.g., “How will we win this game?”).
The State Board of Education stands expressly independent from the Ohio General Assembly. As a member of the State Board, your direct concern should be for the boys and girls of Ohio; you should stand as a wall between whatever laws are passed by the legislators and the need for a high-quality education for every child regardless of their Zip Code.
The perceived need to change this rule has come about because school districts are concerned about how they will fund all of the new state mandates being thrust upon them from our elected legislators. While this concern is indeed your concern, too, the reaction to allow schools the flexibility to eliminate educational specialists that help to develop creative and collaborative problem-solvers is the wrong reaction. Instead, the State School Board should be infuriated that the General Assembly is not providing schools with adequate resources to enact its clear vision of preparing every child for a successful future.
Instead of repealing the requirement for schools to hire these vital educational specialists, the State School Board should be trumpeting the need for schools to maintain these crucial individuals and the irreplaceable opportunities they provide our children and upholding the high standard that Ohioans have demanded for decades. If funding is a concern, then you should be advocating for the members of the General Assembly to fix that problem so that Ohio’s school districts are not faced with the horrifying dilemma of deciding which children will get less of an education than their peers.
At the same time, you should be encouraging local school boards and superintendents to engage their elected officials in Columbus to increase funding to schools to cover all new state mandates so that these unique, brain-building experiences aren’t sacrificed and replaced by a rote, sedentary learning environment.
You are on my State Board of Education to advocate for all of Ohio’s children. I expect you to take a stand.
I expect you to KEEP the “5 of 8” Rule.
Copy and paste these addresses to send them your own email: