Georgia now has its first STEAM-certified school, and it's right here in metro Atlanta.
On Tuesday, Henderson Mill Elementary School in DeKalb County received that official recognition from the state. The certification means it meets all requirements for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and it also offers a strong arts curriculum.
STEAM certification is just one way state Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods has been trying to expose more students to classes like choir and theater. Last month he won an award from the National Art Education Association.
Woods spoke with WABE's Amy Kiley about his work. Interview highlights:
- Local Control: Woods said arts education isn’t a line item in the state budget. He added that the state doesn’t mandate schools teach specific arts classes because Georgians value local control; however, Woods said the state supports and encourages schools that want to offer arts classes.
- Funding Decreases: Education budgets are tight, so many schools have focused on subjects in state exams, Woods said. That has meant less funding for classes like visual arts, theater and band. He said he tries to persuade schools to reserve at least some money to keep these classes available. Compared to the rest of the state, Woods said, Atlanta-area districts have a relatively strong arts focus.
- Critics: Woods said people who want to eliminate fine arts classes in schools should think twice. He said students develop critical thinking skills, imagination and creativity in classes like theater and dance. He also said incorporating the arts into core classes could assist with the learning of those subjects.
- Plans: Woods said the state plans to invite in arts educators to get input on curriculum guidelines. He said the state also is working on potential grants for schools that want to offer students more arts education choices.
- Economics: Woods pointed to Georgia’s booming music industry and noted it’s an example of how the state’s artistic vitality is good for the economy. More than just finances, he added, Georgia’s creative community is a sign the state is a vibrant and successful place to live.