Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Education

Participation in arts education has declined steadily since
the 1980s—long before our current recession and before NCLB, according to this
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) report, and minority children have been
hit hardest: In 2008, only 26 percent of African American students reported
receiving any arts education (down from 51 percent in 1982); Hispanic
youngsters were at 28 percent (down from 47 percent in 1982). These figures
take on greater magnitude when linked to the growing body of research that
shows arts education as an effective pathway to deeper engagement and success
in school—and with higher levels of student achievement, positive social and
emotional development, and successful transition to adulthood. The most recent NAEP
arts assessment
(which assessed eighth graders in 2008) adds more depth to
these findings. While the NAEP saw no differences in opportunities for arts
instruction among racial groups, it did find that only 57 percent of schools
offered music instruction three times a week, and 47 percent offered visual
arts instruction with the same frequency. Neither methodology is perfect (the
NEA uses a retrospective student survey and the NAEP only gathered data on
school offerings—not on student participation). But both remind us of one key
point: Especially in our era of austerity and testing, arts education is at
risk and needs protecting.

Nick Rabkin and E.C. Hedberg, “Arts Education In
America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation
” (Washington, D.C.:
National Endowment for the Arts, February 2011).

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