On Monday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education, released the findings of the first nationwide arts survey in a decade that comprehensively documents the state of arts education in U.S. public schools.
At the announcement, Secretary Arne Duncan pointed to the importance of the report because it allows us to compare changes in arts education over time, and it’s the first survey that enables us to get a clear sense of how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has affected arts education.
“It’s a good news, bad news story,” according to Secretary Duncan. On the one hand, there have not been significant national declines in the availability of music and visual arts instruction in elementary and secondary schools. However, for theater and dance in elementary schools, the percentages of schools making these art forms available went from 20 percent 10 years ago to only 4 and 3 percent, respectively, in the 2009-10 school year. In addition, at more than 40 percent of secondary schools, coursework in arts was not required for graduation in the 2009-10 school year.
Most troubling is an “equity gap” between the availability of arts instruction as well as the richness of course offerings for students in low-poverty schools compared to those in high-poverty schools, leading students who are economically disadvantaged to not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students.
The Department of Education is tackling this equity gap by allowing states flexibility under NCLB, and through a competitive priority for the arts and humanities in the Promise Neighborhood competition.
“A well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students’ success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode,” Secretary Duncan concluded at the announcement.
Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10 is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences.