Art, music haven’t vanished

Music and art haven’t disappeared from schools, despite the pressures of test-based accountability and fears of curriculum narrowing, according to a federal report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Music and visual arts instruction is widely available and has changed little over the past decade, the report concluded.

Music and visual-arts instruction are more widely available at high-poverty elementary schools, but less available at high-poverty secondary schools, notes Ed Week.

“When I look at the big picture, … I see a good-news, bad-news story,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in prepared remarks for the report’s release . . .

“The good news is that the last decade has not generally produced a dramatic narrowing of the curriculum in the arts,” he said. “But there is considerable bad news in today’s report, too—and especially for disadvantaged students.”

“Generally, what we really found is there is no consistent trend of decline in arts education in public schools,” said Jared Coopersmith, a project officer at the NCES.

“At-risk” students involved in the arts — in or out of school — do better in school, go farther in college and are more civics minded, according to a National Endowment for the Arts report.  “Access to the arts” included “coursework in music, dance, theater, or the visual arts; out-of-school arts lessons; or membership, participation, and leadership in arts organizations and activities, such as band or theater.”

However, the report didn’t answer the chicken/egg question:  Do the arts create achievers or attract them?

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  1. “Do the arts create achievers or attract them?”

    And they don’t make any difference between good art and music programs and bad art and music programs.

    You could say that my brother did reasonably well in high school because music gave him something to look forward to in school. You could say the same thing about sports. Students feel better if there is something they are good at. This is quite different than saying that these things cause better grades.

    The music-creates-good-students idea, as I mentioned before, probably has more to do with their private music lessons. It has to do with the fact that success is built on a lot of hard work and practice that may not be much fun, not simply whether the schools have a music program or not.

  2. It’s the old correlation-vs-causation issue: 8th-grade algebra (when it was honors only), Latin, other foreign languages, debate, music, arts, AP classes, upper-division math/science etc. Steve obviously has musicians and I had athletes, but the principle is the same: outside lessons/coaching and hours and years of practicing skills to mastery. This is an accepted principle in the arts and athletics, but the ed world refuses to acknowledge its value in academics.

  3. I find it interesting how some people love an emphasis on hard work and skills in sports, but get all sort of wishy-washy about those things in academics. Sports and music are apparently all about skills, whereas academics are all about thinking. Many educators talk about balance, but then complain loudly about standardized tests where students fail very simple skill problems. Where is the thinking that gets the job done? What sort of thinking makes it OK to do poorly on these tests? On top of that, everything changes in high school, where many subjects are all about knowledge and skills. In Spanish, my son is working hard on verb tenses. Math is all about new skills and doing problem sets. What’s so special or different about K-8?

  4. The Visual Arts and Music are just as important as Math, Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts. After all, what good is a PlayStation 3 if there are no movies, TV shows, music, and video games to play on it? The Arts and Science have always walked hand in hand. 🙂