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Arts Education Status Report Released:  Equity Gaps Remain

April 4, 2012 -- Washington, DC

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of the Fast Response Statistical Survey's (FRSS) Report on Arts Education, based on data gathered in the 2009-2010 school year. The arts education community has long called for federal data collection to be more comprehensive in scope and depth and that data be collected more frequently. While the FRSS report does not provide a complete picture of the status of arts education, it does provide some valuable new information and an opportunity to provoke a public conversation about arts education. The report presents national data in two areas:

  • The availability of music, visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre instruction in public elementary and public secondary schools, the frequency of instruction, and the availability of arts specialists to teach the subject;
  • The teaching load of music and visual arts specialists in public elementary and secondary schools, and the ways in which classroom generalists and other subject-area educators teach arts education as part of their instructional program.

Here are a few key report findings:

  • The vast majority of our nation's public elementary and secondary schools - more than 90% - offer music and visual arts instruction. At the elementary level, that includes a majority of students receiving such instruction at least once a week by a certified art or music teacher. This is a strong testament to effective advocacy for arts education programs across the country during the onset of the recession and in the wake of reading and math accountability demands on public schools.

  • Although music and visual art are widely available in some form, six percent of the nation's public elementary schools offer no specific instruction in music, and 17 percent offer no specific instruction in the visual arts. Nine percent of public secondary schools reported that they did not offer music, and 11 percent did not offer the visual arts. Only 15 percent of elementary schools offered music instruction at least three times per week, and eight percent offered visual arts instruction at least three times per week.

  • Dance and drama/theatre are available at a much lower level of accessibility. Only three percent of public elementary schools offer dance instruction and only four percent offer drama/theatre instruction. The numbers in public secondary schools are higher with 12 percent offering dance instruction, and 45 percent offering drama/theatre instruction.

  • It is clear that there are critical equity gaps in student access to quality arts education in all arts disciplines. These gaps must be addressed if students are to have access to a complete education. The FRSS report shows that the percentage of schools offering arts education declines as the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch increases. In other words, schools with a higher concentration of students in poverty are less likely to offer arts education. This is sobering news, just as a separate new report from the National Endowment for the Arts underscores the significant academic, workforce, and civic engagement gains associated with high levels of arts exposure for youth of lower socioeconomic status.

The arts education community has been working to create a toolkit to help the broader arts community understand and communicate about the Snapshot FRSS results, and these tools will be available online soon. In the meantime, find the full report online and view the Performing Arts Alliance's Arts Education Tools & Resources webpage to learn what kind of steps you can take to advance the status of arts education in public schools.

The Performing Arts Alliance is a national network of more than 27,000 organizational and individual members comprising the professional, nonprofit performing arts and presenting fields. Membership in the Performing Arts Alliance is a member service of American Composers Forum, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chorus America, Dance/USA, Fractured Atlas, League of American Orchestras, National Alliance for Musical Theatre, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, National Performance Network, New Music USA, OPERA America, and Theatre Communications Group.

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