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Commissioner: Create an arts Regents exam

David Steiner, outgoing state education commissioner, speaks at

David Steiner, outgoing state education commissioner, speaks at Long Island Arts Alliance's arts education roundtable at Hofstra University. (April 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The state's Board of Regents should consider creating a Regents exam in art, which along with a curriculum could ensure a funding stream for the arts, outgoing state Education Commissioner David Steiner told art educators and supporters Friday at Hofstra University.

There is a mentality that "if we don't test it, we won't teach it," Steiner said in the keynote address at an education roundtable presented by the Long Island Arts Alliance, a network of nonprofit art organizations and educators. "We are passionate about putting an arts Regents together, not for the love of exams, but we know how the system works."

Steiner, a former director of arts education for the National Endowment for the Arts, said art and music have as much a place in public schools as English and math, and school districts should work to preserve that instruction and student development.

"We have to teach, to re-educate, what it means to be serious about the arts," said Steiner, whose two-year term is up at the end of the year.

Often, school districts facing turbulent economic times cut art and music offerings. Steiner said nonprofit arts organizations could foster relationships with schools, especially those in low-income areas.

He cautioned about seeking easy alternatives to education.

"The cheapest way to educate children is to plunk them down in front of a screen," Steiner said.

Long Island Regents board representative Roger Tilles, who introduced Steiner for the keynote address, said he supports an arts Regents exam and funding for public school art and music.

Education in the arts helps to make children successful, he said, telling those at the roundtable about his recent meeting with a choral group at Central Islip High School. He asked who among the students was going to graduate.

"Every hand went up," Tilles said. "I asked how many are going to college, and two-thirds of the hands went up. I asked them why and they said, 'Because we love music.' "

Tilles said the group's choral director makes sure the students pass their classes before they are allowed to participate in the chorus.

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