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December 13, 2011
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The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released Arts Education In Public Elementary and Secondary Schools1999-2000 and 2009-10, a report detailing the status of arts education in K-12 schools, the third study of its kind. This report builds on topics covered in the two prior reports: extent to which students received instruction in the arts, facilities and resources available for arts education, and preparation and instruction practices of art specialists and non-classroom teachers. The study also added new categories that were not discussed in the prior reports: the availability of curriculum-based art education activities outside of regular school hours and the presence of school-community partnerships in the arts. A total of 3,400 school participated in the current survey, including both district and charter schools.
The report compares the 1999-2000 school year data to the current data, in other words, pre-recession data versus post-recession data. In secondary schools, the only arts subject to increase in availability was music, with 91 percent of public schools offering courses in 2008-2009 (only 90 percent did so in 1999-2000.) Availability of courses in visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre all decreased from the 1999-2000 school year. In elementary schools, the numbers are worse. Schools offering music courses remained steady at 94 percent, the same as 1999-2000 school year. However, schools offering visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre courses all decreased, with dance availability dropping 17 percentage points and drama/theatre dropping 16 percentage points from the 1999-2000 school year.*
In Ohio, State Superintendent Stan Heffner is worried about the future of arts education in public schools. Due to budget restraints, many school districts have cut back or altogether eliminated arts education. Cleveland Superintendent Eric Gordon recently announced that balancing his district’s budget will mean cutting programs. He is shortening the K-8 school day by 50 minutes and trimming gym, art, and music classes. These subjects won’t be eliminated completely, but course offerings will be scaled back and instructors will be assigned to more than one school.
*Many schools did note that, due to the number of classes specifically devoted to these subjects decreasing, many core subjects began to incorporate music, visual arts, dance, or drama/theatre into their teaching.