South Arts Releases Reports Analyzing Access to and Quality of Arts Education in the South

South Arts has released the results of multi-year research investigating arts education in the South. The reports, Arts Education in the South Phase I: Public School Data and Principals’ Perspectives and Arts Education in the South Phase II: Profiles of Quality, look at access to and quality of arts education in K-12 public schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee through a set of quantitative and qualitative research. The reports were commissioned by South Arts with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and nine participating state arts agencies. The first phase of the research was compiled with data collected from 4,400 principals (29.3% of those in the region). The second phase of the research includes nine case studies of model programs conducted by the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The quantitative survey encompassed six major areas of inquiry: access to arts education, adherence of arts education to standards, arts instructor qualifications, resources and partners for arts education, principals’ perspectives on arts education, and general school data.

The data for responding schools is broken down to show results as an overview of the entire region, as well as by state and by school level. Among the report’s key findings are that, in general, the South as a region offers less access to visual arts and music than the national average: 71% of responding schools offer visual arts and 80% offer music, compared with national averages exceeding 83% and 91% respectively. Access to theatre at 22% is close to the national average, and dance exceeds the national average with 22% in the South compared to less than 10%. Results for individual states within the region, however, are highly variable.

The survey also asked participants to identify funding sources for their arts education programs. The most common sources include the district (42%), the PTA/PTO (31%), the school budget (28%), and arts fund raisers (26%); 13% reported receiving funding from their state arts agency.

Principals also identified major obstacles to providing arts education, including budget constraints (73%), competing priorities (53%), time in the school day (45%), and insufficient personnel (35%). They reported several major factors that could be helpful to arts education, including increased funding for community and state arts organizations that fund arts education (53%), increased availability of arts supplies or equipment (38%), additional certified specialists for teaching the arts (31%), more flexibility in scheduling (25%), and increased facilities and classroom space (22%).

The qualitative research, conducted by the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts at University of Tennessee Chattanooga, examined the traits of quality arts education in nine strong school programs. The study revealed four primary themes prevalent throughout these schools.

  • The importance of relationships: All of the stakeholders in arts education (students, parents, teachers, and administrators) repeatedly identified a sense of community, feelings of acceptance and accomplishment, and pride in their programs.
  • A shared vision of the arts: Successful programs also shared a sense of a unified mission throughout the district supported by strong leadership. The specific visions varied from district to district, but permeated the schools.
  • The arts are core curriculum: In these districts, arts are planned according to state and national standards and not isolated from the rest of a school’s curriculum. In programs that considered the arts as core, arts instruction did not serve as an extracurricular option, and was perceived as an important part of the whole curriculum.
  • Students are inducted into the working world of artists: These model districts also went beyond allowing students to make art: they allowed them opportunities to be artists through advanced social content and context.

Read more and get the reports.