In spring 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released Arts Education in Public Elementary & Secondary Schools, a report examining the availability and characteristics of arts education programs from 2009-2010, and how these findings compare to those from 1999-2000.  This study focused on finding the extent to which students receive arts instruction, the conditions under which this instruction is being provided, and the profiles of the arts education instructors themselves.

Some key findings include:

  • While 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 three percent offer any specific dance instruction and only four percent offer any specific theatre instruction in elementary schools, down from 20 percent from 1999-2000.
  • In secondary schools, 12 percent offer dance and 45 percent offer theatre.

The most troubling result of this report is an “equity gap” between the availability of arts instruction and the richness of course offerings for students in low-poverty schools compared to those in high-poverty schools.  This equity gap leads students who are economically disadvantaged to not receive the enriched experiences of their counterpart affluent students.

Among its various conclusions and insights, one thing is clear from this report: access to arts education remains inconsistent and elusive to the majority of students across the nation.  Fight against this trend in your own community by being an advocate for arts education, and use our Advocacy Tools to launch your efforts.

Hear what the arts education community has to say about this report.  Commentaries include: