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State of the Arts: One Million Public School Students Participate in Arts Education


Posted On June 8, 2016

96% of Elementary School, 89% Middle School and 50% of High School Students are actively participating in the arts.

Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education

Released on www.artsednj.org

More than one million students participated in public school arts education programs during the most recent school year according to data released by the New Jersey Department of Education and analyzed by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. There is an increase in high school arts participation for the third straight year with significant increases in dance and theater enrollment. For the first time, middle school data reveals 89% of all students participating in one or more art form while 94% of elementary students engage in arts learning.

These findings are based on the arts educator assignment data for all schools and the high school arts participation data from the New Jersey School Performance Reports just released by the New Jersey State Department of Education. The findings for the 2014/2015 school year are accessible through the Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education created by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership found at http://www.artsednj.org/reports-and-data/interactive-school-performance-dashboard/

According to the new state data, 96% of schools in New Jersey reported offering arts education programs that provide access to more than 1.3 million students (98% of all students) with more than 1 million students participating in one or more arts areas during the school day representing 81% of all students in New Jersey schools. Student participation in high school arts programs increased to just under 50% of all students.

“New Jersey continues to provide innovative policies and pioneering initiatives for arts education by offering detailed information about the status and condition of arts education in every school across our state, commented Robert Morrison, Chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. “While these numbers are very encouraging there is still more work to be done to bring the arts to every student in our state. We appreciate the New Jersey Department of Education’s support for including the arts in the School Performance Reports, recognizing the important role they play in the educational development of all our students.”

According to Morrison, the findings also reveal that Music and Visual Art are nearly universally available (90% of schools reaching 92% of students for Music and 90% of schools reaching 91% of students for Visual Art). While dance and theater have shown enrollment gains, the lack of access to these art forms at the elementary level creates a significant barrier to participation for students during middle school and high school

Among the other key findings for all schools:

The percentage of schools providing Dance and Theater continues to lag (2.6% and 4.5% respectively) although enrollment gains were seen in both.

83% of schools reported the presence of both Music and Visual Art providing access to 89% of all students (both increases).

Key Findings for High Schools:

A total of 49.9% of high school students were enrolled in one or more arts disciplines during the 2014/2015 school year (representing 204,974 unique students). This represents an 11% growth in arts enrollment since 2013.

Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 31.1% (128,293 students) followed by music at 17.9% (72,823 students), theater at 3.9% (16,995 students) and dance at 2.3% (8,369 students).

The increases in enrollment were across the board with Theater increasing by 11.3%, Visual Art by 9%, Music by 6.7% and Dance by 3.4%.

There are 7,033 professional arts educators providing arts instruction in New Jersey high schools (including 3,562 in music, 3,086 in Visual Arts, 63 in Theater and 112 in Dance with 162 in Vocational Education. 85% of all arts teachers are assigned to one school.

Two out of every three high schools (66%) reported an increase in arts enrollment.

Key Findings for Middle Schools:

While 99% of middle school students had access to one or more arts offering during the school day – a total of 89.9% of middle school students actually participated in arts courses during the 2014/2015 school year (representing 339,425 unique students).

Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 71.1% (281,465 students) followed by music at 66% (255,372 students), theater at 3.9% (13,749 students) and dance at 1.6% (7,202 students). Among middle schools, 93% of students had access to both music and visual art.

Key Findings for Elementary Schools:

96% of elementary students had access to one or more arts offering during the school day or more than 520,000 students. Based on the structure of elementary schools the presence of an arts teacher indicates students in the school participate in the arts specialty area of the teacher. Music is accessible to 91% of elementary students in 86% of elementary schools. Visual art is accessible to 88% of elementary students in 85% of elementary schools. Both music and visual art are accessible by 83% of elementary students in 78% of schools.

The picture for dance and theater is very different. Only 1.7% of elementary students have access to dance while less than 1% have access to theater during the school day.

The information does not address the quality of the programs, elementary school participation or the impact of scheduling changes created by recent educational reform initiatives or new statewide assessments. All of these areas require further research.

The Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education allow citizens to interact with the information, explore student enrollment and levels of participation for each of the four arts disciplines (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) for all middle and high schools as well as the presence of arts programs for every school. The data may be viewed by school, district, county or state totals. Schools and communities will also be able to compare their results to the averages for the entire state.

The call for including arts education as part of annual school reporting dates back to 2007 when the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership released the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Arts Education Census Report, Within Our Power. Among the report’s many recommendations was that schools should “publicly report on an annual basis information regarding access to, level of participation in visual and performing arts education, and that this information be included as part of a state accountability system.”

New Jersey has long had some of the strongest requirements for arts education in the nation. Since 1996, the visual and performing arts (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) have been a part of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and are part of the state’s graduation requirements. Additionally, New Jersey was the first state to conduct a mandated study to document access, participation and quality of arts education.

In support of these requirements, research regarding the educational benefits of the arts for all New Jersey students (not just the gifted and talented) is compelling. Various studies have identified links between involvement in the visual and performing arts and improved attendance, school engagement, increased academic performance, decreased drop out and discipline rates and higher levels of college attendance — areas of improvement vital to student success. Just as important, the arts develop important life skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.

A recent study found New Jersey high schools with more arts education have a greater percentage of students who were highly proficient in language arts on the High School Proficiency Assessment test. High schools with more arts education have a higher percentage of students planning to enroll in a four-year college.

For more information about the School Performance Reports and information regarding arts education visit http://www.artsednj.org