continued from page 19 d. Clearly there is a problem with testing in Tennessee. It isn’t because of our students or our educators. It is a flawed testing system. Teacher Evaluation based on results from test scores must be re-evaluated and discontinued at least until we get the testing component correct. That is common sense. Art and Music Art and music programs are likely to be among the first victims of budget cuts in financially-stretched school districts already fighting to meet other academic demands, and they are rarely restored. The College Board, found that students who take four years of arts and music classes while in high school score 95 points better on their SAT exams than students who took only a half year or less (scores averaged 1061 among students in arts educations compared to 966 for students without arts education). It is important for policymakers to understand that art, music, and literature improve problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. President John F. Kennedy reminded us: “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” President Ronald Reagan added when speaking about the humanities in 1987: “The humanities teach us who we are and what we can be,” he said. “They lie at the very core of the culture of which we’re a part, and they provide the foundation from which we may reach out to other cultures. The arts are among our nation’s finest creations and the reflection of freedom’s light.” Education must nurture the whole child, and arts are vital in this endeavor. It is vital for our children to have critical and hands-on engagement with art, music, and literature, all of which help foster our basic humanity — creativity, critical thinking, and empathy for others. Cultivating these values, are the deeper purposes of education. We must not lose sight of this. Just Read Tennessee Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has accurately called “literacy attainment the equity issue of our time.” Tennessee has started to address this issue during her term as Commissioner through Read to be Ready, and that effort must be continued. The Tennessee Department of Education’s own statistics reveal that “Overall, less than half of our third and fourth graders are reading on grade level based on state tests, and more rigorous national assessments suggest that only one-third of our fourth graders are proficient – an unacceptable outcome in a state that has prided itself on being the fastest improving in the nation.” Achievement gaps are also striking: “only one-third of economically disadvantaged students and just one in every five of our students with disabilities achieve proficiency by the end of third grade. English learners are not advancing as quickly their native-speaking peers.