School Based Arts Education

David Pontecorvo

Grantmakers interested in school-based arts education will be interested in two recent reports.

Gaining the Arts Advantage
Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education
Laura Longley, editor/writer
1999, President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 526, Washington, DC 20506, 202-682-5409.

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Arts Education Partnership have published a report entitled "Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education." The purpose of the two-year study, funded by GE Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Binney & Smith, was to identify the conditions and practices that create and sustain district-wide commitment to arts education for all students. More than 500 school districts were identified for possible inclusion in the study through a national nominating process, and some 300 responded. Reviewers selected ninety-one for inclusion based on their ongoing efforts and success at reaching all students and all schools with arts education (and based on their willingness to commit the necessary time and energy over the two years of the study). Case studies and profiles of these districts are included in the study and in a searchable database on the President's Commission website.

The study identified "critical success factors" present in most school districts that had been successful in sustaining district wide arts education. Among these factors, not surprisingly, were schools boards that "provide a supportive policy framework and environment for the arts," and superintendents who "regularly articulate a vision for arts education." The single most critical factor the school leaders repeatedly affirmed is "the active involvement of influential segments of the community in shaping and implementing the policies and programs of the district."

Arts Education in Action
The State Arts Agency Commitment
April 1999, 23 pages, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 1029 Vermont Avenue NW, Second floor, Washington, DC 20005, 202-347-6352.

Despite growing evidence of the benefits of arts education, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Arts Assessment Report Card found that a large percentage of students do not receive regular or comprehensive arts education. State arts agencies across the country are working to make arts education available to more students by supporting state and local curriculum development, providing instructional resources to teachers and creating lasting links between schools, artists and communities. A publication entitled "Arts Education in Action: The State Arts Agency Commitment" provides an overview of these state arts agency activities. Published jointly by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and the NEA, the twenty-two page booklet provides grantmaking statistics for all state arts agencies, as well as brief profiles of the programs of eleven state arts agencies.

Both these new resources will serve as practical tools for grantmakers and others seeking to articulate the intrinsic and education benefits of arts education, increase the visibility of successful programs and practices in their area, and make the case for increased arts education resources for schools, teachers, and arts organizations.