Nearly all schools teach art, music

Music and visual art are nearly universally available in public schools, writes Robert Morrison, founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, in School Band & Orchestra Magazine.

The data hasn’t changed much since 1994 for music and visual art. Dance and theater instruction has declined in secondary schools and is rare in elementary schools.

Ninety-one percent of elementary schools employ specialist music teachers, according to a federal report.

Via Common Core.

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  1. My small-town 1-12 school had no art teacher and no regular music teacher. A parent was hired (very nominal wage) to prepare students for the Christmas and spring concerts. That entailed teaching the songs and rehearsing. However, any of my ES teachers would have been insulted at the idea that they did not include music and art in the regular curriculum. We learned art history and music appreciation through photographs, film strips, books and records (I started school in the early 50s), which were available in the classroom for extra, individual study and we were tested on the material. We learned about and listened to classical music, jazz, Dixieland etc. and we learned to sing patriotic and folk songs. Art projects were generally seasonally inspired, but we learned about art and architecture as part of our history classes.

    That contrasts with my kids’ ES-MS-HS experiences in affluent surburban schools. They had little or no art history or music appreciation; no classes in either, at MS or HS, and the ES music teachers did only instrumental performance). The focus of their art and music teachers was all on performance, which meant no music or art exposure for those kids not wanting to perform. I’d like to see schools teach music appreciation and art history as integral parts of the curriculum. However, I don’t see why kids wanting art lessons, music lessons, dance lessons or theater lessons have to do it as part of school – and I say the same for all sports. Kids wanting to participate can do it outside of school, and I speak as the parent of full-time elite athletes.

  2. I think that most school districts do offer some level of music and art instruction, but as budgets get cut and costs for running a school increase these programs are the first to be cut. This is unfortunately as the arts and music courses develop a portion of a child’s intelligence that is tied to problem solving and innovative thinking, which are highly desirable attributes for adults entering the work field.

  3. We still have a robust music program in our district.


    The parents of the music students are united and powerful and school board members are elected to their positions.

  4. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    This whole thing about arts & music disappearing is mostly a scare tactic used to garner support for local bond measures, or to incite parents against NCLB. GAO published a study in Feb. of 2009 hoping to find exactly that and dump on NCLB. Even they had to conclude that this is mostly a myth. (Didn’t stop them from keeping a misleading title on the report, but if one reads it there are barely any changes. )

    I’m glad the Morrison found the same thing. Chalk it up to NCLB scare mongering.

  5. I wouldn’t be as negative as Ze’ev W., but here’s my take: There was more money in the past (in my school days; pre-Prop. 13; pick your marker) to provide whatever programs were desired. But middle-class, empowered parents today are far more attentive and attuned to exactly what’s going on in their kids’ schools, and especially more adamant about wanting enrichments. My kids’ urban public schools scrounge and beg to offer some enrichments that were undreamed of in the amply funded suburban California schools of my childhood.

    On the other hand, foreign language was a given then, starting in elementary school; now it’s not universal till high school, except in immersion schools (a San Francisco strong point, also unheard of in my childhood).

    I play in an informal music ensemble with three friends, and we discovered that I was the only one who learned to read music in school. Why? I went to public school; they all went to parochial school, where there really WERE no arts back in the day. That was interesting.

  6. “But middle-class, empowered parents today are far more attentive and attuned to exactly what’s going on in their kids’ schools, and especially more adamant about wanting enrichments”

    Didn’t stop the district in which I live from eliminating art & music entirely from elementary schools when the budget started going into free-fall. Out where I live, the parochial schools all have art & music (as do the secular private ones) while the kids enrolled in the public schools either have their parents pay through the nose for private art & music classes after school or just do without 🙁

  7. Tamara Logan says:

    The bar is very low in this study in saying arts are ‘available’. That does not mean that every student receives some form of arts enrichment at a useful level.
    I am a board member of an elementary district in an affluent community. Without direct funding and volunteer work by our parents and community, we would have little to no arts in our schools. As it is, we must keep whittling away at the time and depth of the arts instruction, as our donations move more to funding a solid basic educational program.
    In districts with even lower funding, many of the children who need these opportunities the most are not being reached.