A report this week by the U.S. Department of Education paints a dreary picture of arts education in the nation.
A casualty of budget cuts and an increased emphasis on math and reading, the report noted that fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes. Although music classes in most elementary and secondary schools remain constant, they have declined at the country's poorest schools.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decried the situation saying, "It is deeply troubling that all students do not have access to arts education today."
He noted that children who come from disadvantaged families are most impacted by these cuts because their parents cannot afford private music or art lessons. In addition, involvement in the arts may provide motivation to attend school and excel in other areas.
This is doubly disturbing in light of a new National Endowment for the Arts Research report. It indicated that although high school students on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder tend to not do as well in school as children from more comfortable families, those who participate in the arts achieve as well or better than their wealthier counterparts. They have higher than average grade point averages, are more active in school activities, and enrolled in four-year colleges at higher rates than their peers who did not participate in the arts.
A report on the CBS Evening News Tuesday reinforced these findings. Band Director Alvin Davis at Miramar High School is Florida's Teacher of the Year. For four years in a row, 100 percent of his band students have gone on to college; just 10 years ago, the school was listed as failing. Alvin Davis is proof that one music teacher inspiring his students can make a difference.
There are other reasons why arts education is important.
Be sure to tell your school district that arts education must be preserved!
Follow Meryl Ain, Ed.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrMerylAin