A Month to Support the Arts in Our Schools

Music in Our Schools Tour

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Walt Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

Cross-posted from the OII blog.

The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.

There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.

Music with a message

What began as a single, one-day event in one state 40 years ago is now Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM). This year’s theme, “Music Makes Me ______,” invites students to complete that thought on social media with the hashtag #MIOSM2014. Check out the MIOSM website for a number of ways to get in harmony with the celebration, including the Concert for Music In Our Schools Month, featuring videos of school music groups nationwide performing.

Danielle Bradbery

Danielle Bradbery is excited about bringing her message about the lifelong skills gained through music education to kids her age on the Music In Our Schools Tour. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

To begin the month, the Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery, the Season 4 winner of The Voice, will recognize five schools, stretching from Albuquerque, N.M., to Charlotte, N.C., for excellence in music education and the support of their communities. Sponsored by Give a Note Foundation, a part of the National Association for Music Education, and Disney Performing Arts, the tour begins on March 2 at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and concludes March 8 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where Bradbery will perform at Festival Disney, a national competitive music festival where top school bands, instrumental and vocal ensembles compete with other schools from across the country.

Bradbery learned the value of persistence and hard work through music education and wants to share that along with her songs and vocal talent with other students on the tour. “This is a great way to reach kids my age and show them that the skills they learn in music can help them to be successful in life,” she said. Click here to follow the tour and see photos.

Honoring artistic achievements and creativity

For students of dance, March is when the National Dance Education Organization celebrates the artistic and academic achievements of exceptional students through the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NAHSDA), which recognizes students who display outstanding artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement in studying dance. Students who are members of NHSDA have an opportunity to be nominated for one of the highest honor programs for dance in the U.S., the NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award.


Youth Art Month flags on display at the 2013 National Art Education Association conference. (Photo courtesy of the National Art Education Association)

Youth Art Month (YAM) focuses on the value of visual art and art education for all children, with the theme of “Start With Art, Learn for Life.” State affiliates of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) help with support of YAM programs throughout the month, and NAEA members locally sponsor art exhibits and other activities to direct attention to benefits of visual arts learning and to increase community understanding and support of their schools’ arts education programs. NAEA state affiliates also participate in the annual YAM flag design program. Each state selects a student-designed flag that becomes part of an awards ceremony at the NAEA national conference and a gallery of student art from across the country, the Youth Art Month Museum, located in the exhibit hall of the conference.

Putting a focus on professional growth

Like all academic areas, students of the arts are successful because of teachers who are highly skilled, knowledgeable of developments in their fields, and motivated. For theatre and visual art educators especially, March is a time to gain new insights and up their game through professional development.

The American Alliance for Theatre Education (AATE) facilitates 13 Regional Mini-Conferences, beginning on March 1 in North Carolina, and concluding on March 29 in New Jersey, Texas, and Washington State. The gatherings offer educators, along with artists and scholars, opportunities to network, exchange ideas, and learn new curriculum and instructional strategies from one another and professional development experts.


Student art works on display at the 2013 National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference from NAEA state affiliates’ Youth Art Month celebrations. (Photo courtesy of the National Art Education Association)

Student art works on display at the 2013 National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference from NAEA state affiliates’ Youth Art Month celebrations. (Photo courtesy of the National Art Education Association)

At the end of the month, more than 6,000 NAEA members from throughout the U.S. and representing more than 30 other countries gather for SPARK! — the association’s annual conference. As the title suggests, this year’s conference explores ways to fuse innovative teaching in the visual arts with emerging technologies. Conferees select from more than 1,000 participatory workshops, panels, and seminars and learn from world-acclaimed educators, artists, researchers, and scholars.

It’s your turn to get involved

Arts-rich schools benefit everyone. Research increasingly shows that arts education heightens engagement for all students and can increase motivation and persistence for those most at risk of failing or dropping out of school. Learning in the arts also uniquely equips students with the skills in creativity and divergent thinking as well as problem-solving and teamwork that they need to be college and career ready. The Arts Education Partnership, with support from ED and the National Endowment for the Arts, has publications and a research clearinghouse, ArtsEdSearch, to help you learn more about why the arts in our schools are worth honoring for a month.

Take advantage of Arts in Schools Month to learn more about arts education, connect with teachers of the arts to show support for their efforts, and do what you can to help achieve the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and editor of the OII home page.


  1. I live and work and sent my children to school in the top school district (by State measures) in Florida, a position they have held for five consecutive years. Yes, there is too much testing and pressure on teachers to prove their worth- blame it on legislators, not educators. Regardless, even through the difficult financial times of recent years, no arts programs were eliminated in the district. Aside from the inherent benefits of art and music education, it was a smart move for other reasons, including helping student engagement and, ironically, managing class size restrictions on “core” classes. There were some negative effects (less frequent class meetings in K-5 and larger classes 6-12). I believe arts education is one of the “hidden ingredients” in continued student success. March is a good time to celebrate and support art and music in schools- so are the other months!

  2. Secretary Duncan and other ED leaders regularly speak to the importance of a well-rounded education for all students that includes the arts. In his April 2012 remarks (http://go.usa.gov/K4uF) referenced in the blog, Secretary Duncan particularly addressed the gap in opportunities to access arts learning for students in high-needs schools, calling it an equity and civil rights issue. More recently, Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton cited the research evidence that clearly shows that arts-rich schools help students to do better overall. “So we shouldn’t have to argue for long about whether or not the arts belong in our schools and whether time and resources ought to be allocated,” he observed. It’s a “flawed hypothesis” — that “the way to get our kids to do better in reading, writing and math is just to do more reading, writing and math” — that’s preventing many students from having arts learning opportunities in schools. “We have to dispel that myth,” he concluded. Honoring the importance of the arts for all students in all schools through efforts like Arts in the Schools Month is intended to help dispel that myth. — Doug Herbert, Office of Innovation and Improvement

  3. So……. every reason for us to use the few minutes we have to further our students knowledge, interest, and participation in the arts to the best of our abilities and never forget how we influence the students much much more than classroom teachers.

  4. Music makes me….wish that my students could have enough arts classes in a week to be truly worthwhile, that ALL students could have the arts in their schools – how many schools have cut out their arts programs due to test prep and less funding/funding being diverted to Race to the Top compliance, the cost of which far exceeds your grants? – that the music and art classes they *do* have weren’t already tainted by having become standards-based but were taught primarily to help kids experience the sheer joy of self-expression.

    This article is hypocritical in the extreme, coming from USDE.

  5. It would be wonderful to take this month and support the arts in public education, but the reality is there is no art in education. The arts and other electives have been replaced with more testing. This is the month to prepare for the big standardized test.

Comments are closed.