Arts Education being taken out of Schools

The Good and Bad News About Arts Education in U.S. Schools

The U.S. Department of Education painted a somewhat bleak picture of the state of arts education in America’s schools this week. According to new findings – the – fewer elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than during a decade ago. More than 1.3 million elementary students fail today to get any music instruction — and the same is true for about 800, 000 secondary school students. And nearly four million elementary school students do not get any visual arts instruction at school.

On the brighter side, said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, there has not been a “dramatic narrowing” of the arts curriculum, despite some troubling patterns, and that dance and drama are still widely offered at the middle and high school level.

“It’s a good news, bad news story, ” according to Duncan but cautioned that “a well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students’ success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode.”

Deep budget cuts – which haven’t reached their bottom – and the decade-long focus on reading and math have clearly taken their toll on the availability of arts instruction. Duncan said the report is the first survey that enables policymakers to get a clear sense of how the No Child Left Behind law has affected arts education.

The most troubling finding in the report is the “equity gap” between the availability of arts instruction for students in more affluent schools compared to those in high-poverty schools. Economically-disadvantaged students simply do not have the same access to the diverse learning experiences – including arts – of affluent students.

“The arts opportunity gap is widest for children in high-poverty schools, ” Duncan said. “This is absolutely an equity issue and a civil rights issue- just as is access to AP courses and other educational opportunities.”

The DOE’s report come on the heels of athat specifically tracked the impact arts has on economically disadvantaged students. These students who have access to arts in or out of school tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement, according to the report. Specifically, low-income students who had arts-rich experiences in high school were ten percent more likely to complete, for example, a high school calculus course than similar students who had less exposure to the arts.

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