This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.
Out of the 50 states, Georgia provides the least amount of funding for the arts. But with the new education act, Every Student Succeeds, and a series of other factors, Jessica Booth has high hopes for arts education in the state.
The Georgia Department of Education named Jessica Booth its Fine Arts Program Manager in 2015. Booth, an artist and former educator, was the fine arts coordinator of Atlanta Public Schools for the 2014-2015 school year. She spent 17 years in Fulton Country Schools as a teacher and an administrator.
Booth’s position is new to her but also new to the state of Georgia. There had not been representation of the arts at the Georgia Department of Education for the past 20 years.
“When No Child Left Behind came out, there was a greater emphasis on testing, and the person in this position retired and it was never filled after that,” said Booth in an interview with WABE's Lois Reitzes. “So we went through a period in education where we focused on testing and a lot of subjects that were tested, which de-emphasized the arts and arts education.”
Since June, Booth has sorted her tasks into five categories: adapting STEM certifications for STEAM; preparing for the standard precisions review for arts, which happens every six to seven years and updates the state standards for the subject area; developing an art teacher certification process; creating resources for art teachers; and writing curricula for the Georgia Virtual School, which increases arts opportunities for school districts that have little to no access to arts education.
From the 2014-2015 to the 2015-2016 school year, there has been a 42 percent increase in the number of students taking fine arts classes online. “And that sounds fabulous, but we still have very few classes online,” said Booth.
Booth said there is a lot to be hopeful for in arts education in Georgia.“It’s the current collision of the movie industry coming to Georgia, the governor is very supportive ... the superintendent being very interested in whole child learning and arts integration, the bringing back of this position -- they’re are all coming together at the same time as our federal laws are changing," she said.
This story is part of American Graduate, Let's Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.