Parents can see their children draw or paint Shaky at home, or watch them perform at school music concerts or dance recitals. They may not be able to compare their school’s arts program with other schools in the country.

As a professor of music education and researcher in arts education policies, it is clear that there are significant differences in access to and quality between states, districts, and schools within the same area.

I also see that the already fragile status of arts education in public schools is being threatened by disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Who Has The Shaky Opportunity To Learn Art And Music?

In 1830s Boston, music education was introduced to public schools. It began with singing instruction. Instrumental music followed later in the century. Arts programs are offered in K-12 schools today and include visual arts, music theater, dance, multimedia, or design.

An unconstitutionally mandated study of 2011 provides a snapshot on what is available for kids. In 2011, 94% of elementary schools in the United States reported offering music instruction. 83% provided visual arts instruction. Dance (3%) and theater (4%) were less common.

Data shows that at least at the high school, large schools and traditional public schools offer a greater number of arts courses than smaller schools or private charter schools.

However, disparities can emerge when one looks closer to home. Only 22% of high school students with high poverty concentrations offer five or more courses in visual arts, while 56% of those schools have low poverty concentrations. There is evidence that schools serving mostly white students have significantly greater music offerings than schools serving mostly students of color.

There are also differences in the qualifications of arts teachers in different schools. Utah is an example of this. Less than 10% of elementary students in Utah receive music instruction from qualified specialists. In my analysis of Michigan’s music education from 2017-2018, only two-thirds shaky had certified music teachers. This compares to almost 90% in suburban schools.

Instructional Shaky Cuts

These findings provide clues as to how arts are place in U.S. schools. The arts include in the federal No Child Left Behind Act 2001, but they weren’t consider when calculating annual testing or other sanctions for schools that were underperforming. Therefore, instruction time in the arts was reduce.

Two studies were conduct from 2007 to 2008. Schools found that they cut 145 minutes per week in non-tested subjects like lunch and recess. Visual art and music were reduce by an average of 57 min per week.

The landscape is varied because states set curricular requirements and other policies. For example, Arkansas requires that elementary school students learn 40 minutes per week in music and art, while Michigan does not have such a requirement. Only 32 states consider the arts to be a core subject.

A school superintendent’s priorities could also play a significant role in determining whether an arts program is strong or just an afterthought. A 2017 study that I conducted in Lansing, Michigan on arts education found that elementary schools only offered one music or art class every eight weeks. This was despite the fact that it was a small school district.

Arts Education Has Many Benefits

Arts education has shown to increase cognitive ability, academic achievement and creativity, as well as school engagement and soft skills, such compassion for others. Many of these studies, however, are correlational and not causal. This could be because students who are more educated and privileged may have chosen arts education.

Many schools have started to integrate arts and culture because of research showing the positive effects. This blends arts content with academic subjects. Students might be able to learn history through theater performances. Other policies include arts integration and artist residencies that aim to increase test scores, attendance, graduation rates, and other metrics.

Arts education advocates are not happy with this argument. They fear that arts education may seen as unnecessary. If it is justified only by its effect on math and reading achievement.

Recent advocacy for arts education has focused on equity and access to a rich, well-rounded curriculum. Large districts such as Houston, Seattle, Boston, and Boston have begun to reduce the disparities in arts education.