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The Nation’s Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts

June 2009

Authors: Shelley Keiper, Brent A. Sandene, Hilary R. Persky, and Ming Kuang

Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing.


Image of the cover of the NAEP Arts 2008 Report Card

Executive Summary

Racial/ethnic and gender gaps evident in both music and visual arts

Frequency of arts instruction remains steady

More students writing down music and writing about their artwork in arts classes

This report presents the results of the 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the arts, which was given to a nationally representative sample of 7,900 eighth-grade public and private school students. Approximately one-half of these students were assessed in music, and the other half were assessed in visual arts.

The music portion of the assessment measured students’ ability to respond to music in various ways. Students were asked to analyze and describe aspects of music they heard, critique instrumental and vocal performances, and demonstrate their knowledge of standard musical notation and music’s role in society. One question, for example, asked students to identify the instrument they heard in the beginning solo of “Rhapsody in Blue” that was played for them.

The average responding score for music was reported on a NAEP scale of 0 to 300. Scores ranged from 105 for the lowest-performing students to 194 for the highest-performing students.

The visual arts portion of the assessment included questions that measured students’ ability to respond to art as well as questions that measured their ability to create art. Responding questions asked students to analyze and describe works of art and design. For example, students were asked to describe specific differences in how certain parts of an artist’s self-portrait were drawn. The average responding score for visual arts was reported on a NAEP scale of 0 to 300 with scores ranging from 104 for the lowest-performing students to 193 for the highest-performing students.

Creating questions, on the other hand, required students to create works of art and design of their own. For example, students were asked to create a self-portrait that was scored for identifying detail, compositional elements, and use of materials. The average creating task score for visual arts was reported separately as the average percentage of the maximum possible score from 0 to 100 with a national average of 52. In general, students who performed well on the responding questions also performed well on the creating questions.

Racial/ethnic and gender gaps evident in both music and visual arts

Although the results for music and visual arts are reported separately and cannot be compared, some general patterns in differences between student groups were similar in the two disciplines.

  • Average responding scores in both music and visual arts were 22 to 32 points higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for Black and Hispanic students. The creating task scores in visual arts were also higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for their Black and Hispanic peers.
  • Average responding scores for female students were 10 points higher than for male students in music and 11 points higher in visual arts. Female students also outperformed male students in creating visual art.

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Frequency of arts instruction remains steady

In 2008, fifty-seven percent of eighth-graders attended schools where music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week, and 47 percent attended schools where visual arts instruction was offered at least as often. There were no statistically significant changes since 1997 in the percentages of students attending schools offering instruction in music or visual arts with varying frequency.

There were also no significant differences found between the percentages of students in different racial/ethnic or gender groups attending schools with varying opportunities for instruction in either music or visual arts in 2008.

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More students writing down music and writing about their artwork in arts classes

The percentage of eighth-grade students who reported being asked by their teacher to write down music in music class showed an increase from 26 percent in 1997 to 33 percent in 2008. However, the percentages of students who reported engaging in other activities such as listening to music, singing, playing instruments, working on group assignments, and making up their own music in 2008 were not found to be significantly different from the percentages of students in 1997.

The percentage of eighth-grade students who were asked by their teacher to write about their artwork in visual arts class increased from 21 percent in 1997 to 27 percent in 2008. The percentage of students whose teacher had them choose their own art project, on the other hand, decreased from 47 percent to 39 percent over the same period. Additionally, the percentage of students who reported visiting an art museum, gallery, or exhibit with their class decreased from 22 percent in 1997 to 16 percent in 2008. There were no significant changes for other activities such as painting or drawing, making things out of clay or other materials, or working in pairs or groups.

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Percentage of students at grade 8 who are asked to write down music at least once a month in music class: 1997 and 2008

Graphic depicting results, in 1997 the percentage was 26* and in 2008 the percentage was 33.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.

Percentage of students at grade 8 who are asked to write about their artwork at least once a month in art class: 1997 and 2008

Graphic depicting results, in 1997 the percentage was 21* and in 2008 the percentage was 27.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2008.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1997 and 2008 Arts Assessments.

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Examples of What Students Know and Can Do in the Arts

Music

71% correctly identified a symphony orchestra as the type of ensemble that played a piece
of music

52% were able to identify Africa as the region of origin for a musical excerpt and could describe a characteristic of the music's style

20% were able to identify the name of a piano dynamic marking and explain its meaning

Visual Arts

53% were able to describe specific differences in how certain parts of an artist's self-portrait were drawn

34% were able to describe two characteristics of the medium of charcoal as used in an artist's self-portrait

19% were able to connect the formal characteristics of an artist's self-portrait with what the artist was trying to communicate

 

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Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

NCES 2009-488  Ordering information


Suggested Citation
Keiper, S., Sandene, B.A., Persky, H.R., and Kuang, M. (2009). The Nation's Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts (NCES 2009–488). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see the results of the 2008 Arts assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 15 June 2009 (FW)

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education