aboutTo fix our schools, we’re looking at the wrong statistics. Instead of looking at test scores, we should be looking at the free breakfast and lunch program statistics. Today was the first day of my residency at an elementary school in New York State, and I noticed that there were many more children eating in the breakfast program than last year. I was told that the number of free-breakfast children had doubled since last year.

It’s the economy, stupid! Let’s not delude ourselves: Good jobs, good health care, and good food will help students perform better in school. How can we expect teachers and their impoverished students to raise achievements while states slash social services?

As for school enrichment — which is what I do, teaching curriculum through creative movement and dance — not long ago there was a budget for me to teach ten arts-in-ed sessions with each class. Now, only four.

As I was folding the scarves and fabrics right before lunch, the new school custodian peeked out from behind the stage curtain where he had been sweeping. “I just want to thank you for what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re teaching them how to use their imaginations. You don’t see that much in school these days.”

I was delighted. Just that morning, I had told the children that the words I was reading from the story would go into their ears and come out their bodies. “What part of your body could you use if you didn’t know what to do?” I had asked, hoping someone would say, “Our eyes,” which we use to get ideas from each other. But a little girl had answered, “Our imaginations!”

She’s only in the first grade. How can we help her keep that perspective as she climbs the educational ladder?