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Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000
NCES: 2002131
May 2002

Conclusions

This report is based on data that were collected from elementary and secondary school principals and from elementary school arts specialists and classroom teachers during the 1999-2000 school year. At the time of the surveys, there were no national data sources that specifically addressed the condition of arts education in the nation's public schools. The study upon which this report was based aimed to fill this data gap by providing a national profile of arts education in public elementary and secondary schools in 1999-2000. Information was collected from school principals on a wide variety of topics related to how the arts were delivered in the nation's regular public schools, such as the availability and characteristics of instructional programs in music, visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre; staffing; space for arts instruction; and funding sources. Other topics included supplemental programs and activities in the arts, administrative support, and the perceived status of the arts among school staff and parents. Information was gathered in the teacher surveys on the educational backgrounds of music specialists, visual arts specialists, and self-contained classroom teachers at the elementary level, their professional development activities, their work environments, their views on the resources made available to them, and their instructional practices. This chapter summarizes findings across this broad array of topics, highlights noteworthy comparisons, and draws some general conclusions.

Arts Instruction in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

Arts instruction is carried out differently within elementary and secondary schools. At the secondary level, arts instruction is provided primarily through elective courses and is often taught by multiple specialists in each of the four arts subjects. In contrast, at the elementary level, arts instruction is usually limited to music and visual arts and is part of a standard curriculum in which all students participate (Carey et al. 1995). It is for these reasons that distinct surveys were sent to elementary and secondary school principals. Further, given these fundamental differences in the ways in which the arts are delivered at the elementary and secondary levels, comparisons across education levels are not appropriate.

Elementary Schools

Findings from the elementary school survey indicate that music and visual arts instruction were available in most of the nation's regular elementary schools (94 percent and 87 percent, respectively). Dance and drama/theatre instruction were less commonly available at the elementary level (20 percent and 14 percent, respectively). Of those schools offering instruction in arts subjects, dedicated rooms with special equipment were used for music by 67 percent of schools, for visual arts by 56 percent, for dance by 14 percent, and for drama/theatre by 13 percent of schools.

Overall, 72 percent of elementary schools that offered music instruction and 55 percent of elementary schools that offered visual arts instruction employed full-time specialists to teach these subjects. Full-time specialists in dance were employed by 24 percent of elementary schools that offered this subject, and full-time specialists in drama/theatre were employed by 16 percent of elementary schools that offered it. Dance was more likely than music to be taught by artists-inresidence, while drama/theatre was more likely than both music and visual arts to be taught by artists-in-residence (15 percent of schools for dance and drama/theatre, 3 percent for music, and 6 percent for visual arts). Also, dance and drama/theatre were both more likely than music and visual arts to be taught by other faculty or volunteers (20 percent for dance, 17 percent for drama/theatre, 4 percent for music, and 6 percent for visual arts) in elementary schools.

As for space, elementary schools were more likely to have a dedicated room with special equipment for teaching music (67 percent) than visual arts (56 percent), dance (14 percent), and drama/ theatre (13 percent). Elementary schools were equally likely to have a district curriculum guide in music as in visual arts (81 percent versus 78 percent). They were less likely to have guides in dance (49 percent) or drama/theatre (36 percent). During the 1998-99 school year, 77 percent of all regular public elementary schools sponsored field trips to arts performances and 65 percent sponsored field trips to art galleries or museums. Thirty-eight percent sponsored visiting artists, 22 percent sponsored artists-in-residence, and 51 percent of public elementary schools sponsored after-school activities in the arts during the 1998-99 school year.

Secondary Schools

Among secondary schools, survey results indicate that 90 percent offered music instruction during the regular school day in 1999-2000, and 93 percent offered visual arts instruction. Fourteen percent of secondary schools offered instruction in dance, and 48 percent offered instruction in drama/theatre during the regular school day in 1999-2000. In 1999-2000, 91 percent of public secondary schools that offered music instruction had dedicated music rooms with special equipment for teaching the subject, and 87 percent of those with visual arts instruction had dedicated art rooms with special equipment. Of the schools that offered dance, 41 percent provided dedicated dance spaces with special equipment, and of those that offered drama/theatre, 53 percent provided dedicated theatre spaces with special equipment.

Most public secondary schools that offered music, visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre employed full-time specialists to teach these subjects, with 91 percent having one or more full-time music specialists, 94 percent having one or more fulltime visual arts specialists, 77 percent having one or more full-time dance specialists, and 84 percent having one or more full-time drama/theatre specialists. Secondary schools were more likely to have two or more full-time teachers who taught courses in music than in visual arts (53 percent versus 32 percent), although it should be noted that some of the full-time teachers included in these percentages might have taught music courses (e.g., band) and yet not be music specialists. Secondary schools were more likely to have curriculum guides in music and visual arts than in dance and drama/theatre (86 and 87 percent versus 68 and 75 percent, respectively). During the 1998- 99 school year, field trips to arts performances were sponsored by 69 percent of all regular public secondary schools, and 68 percent sponsored field trips to art galleries or museums. Thirty four percent of secondary schools sponsored visiting artists, 18 percent sponsored artists-in residence, and 73 percent sponsored after-school activities in the arts during the 1998-99 school year.

Differences by School Characteristics

Findings of the elementary and secondary surveys reveal that how the arts were taught in 1999-2000 varied to some extent by school characteristics such as enrollment size, locale, region, percentage minority enrollment, and poverty concentration. In general, large schools, schools in the Northeast (especially at the secondary level), schools with low minority enrollments, and schools with low poverty concentrations tended for some indicators to show more activity in arts education.

School enrollment size. Large elementary schools (600 students or more) were more likely than small elementary schools (less than 300 students) to employ full-time music specialists (80 percent versus 57 percent) and visual arts specialists (70 percent versus 45 percent), have dedicated rooms with special equipment for teaching visual arts (67 percent versus 41 percent), sponsor field trips to art performances (86 versus 67 percent), provide after-school activities in the arts (65 percent versus and 40 percent), and have a district level coordinator in the arts (65 percent versus 42 percent).

Large secondary schools (1,000 or more students) were more likely than small secondary schools (less than 400 students) to provide instruction in music (95 percent versus 84 percent), visual arts (98 percent versus 85 percent), dance (32 percent versus 5 percent), and drama/theatre (75 percent versus 30 percent). Also, large secondary schools were more likely to offer more than six courses in music (48 percent versus 9 percent) and visual arts (39 percent versus 7 percent), sponsor field trips to art galleries or museums (82 percent versus 64 percent), sponsor after-school activities in the arts (83 percent versus 64 percent), and have a district-level coordinator in the arts (53 percent versus 39 percent).

Region. At the elementary school level, schools in the West differed from those in other regions on a variety of items. For example, schools in the West were less likely than schools in the Northeast and Central regions to employ full-time specialists to teach music (57 percent versus 76 and 80 percent), and to have a district curriculum guide for music (71 percent versus 91 and 88 percent). In addition, schools in the West were less likely than all other regions to employ fulltime specialists to teach visual arts (26 percent versus 55 to 76 percent), have a district curriculum guide for visual arts (62 percent versus 83 to 89 percent), and have arts specialists on site-based management teams (36 percent versus 63 to 76 percent).

At the secondary school level, schools in the Northeast were notably different from other regions with respect to some aspects of their arts education programs. Specifically, schools in the Northeast were more likely than schools in the other regions to offer more than six visual arts courses during the 1998-99 school year (34 percent versus 8 to 19 percent), have two or more full-time teachers who taught visual arts courses during the 1998-99 school year (50 percent versus 25 to 33 percent), sponsor artists-in-residence (33 percent versus 14 to 16 percent), include the arts in their schools' mission statements (79 percent versus 58 to 60 percent), and have school improvement initiatives related to arts education (72 percent versus 38 to 50 percent).

Percentage minority enrollment and poverty concentration. Although the percentages of elementary schools offering instruction in music and visual arts did not vary by minority enrollment or poverty concentration in 1999, elementary schools did vary by percentages of minority enrollment and poverty concentration with respect to several features of their arts education programs. Schools with the lowest minority enrollment (5 percent or less) were more likely than those with the highest minority enrollment (more than 50 percent) to have a dedicated room with special equipment for music instruction (71 percent versus 53 percent) and a district curriculum guide for music (87 percent versus 71 percent). Schools with the lowest poverty concentration (less than 35 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) were more likely than those with the highest poverty concentration (75 percent or more) to have a dedicated room with special equipment for music instruction (70 percent versus 51 percent) and visual arts instruction (65 percent versus 42 percent); a district curriculum guide for music (88 percent versus 73 percent) and visual arts (84 percent versus 70 percent); and input from arts specialists on staff hiring (43 percent versus 21 percent), the curriculum (75 percent versus 50 percent), and the allocation of arts funds (62 percent versus 40 percent).

There was not a great deal of variation at the secondary level by percentage minority enrollment and poverty concentration. Secondary schools with the lowest minority enrollment were more likely than schools with the highest minority enrollment to receive outside funding for their music programs (56 percent versus 33 percent) and to have two or more full-time teachers who taught courses in visual arts (54 percent versus 23 percent). Schools with the lowest poverty concentration were more likely than those with the highest poverty concentration to receive outside funding for their music programs (54 percent versus 23 percent), and to have a dedicated space with special equipment for visual arts. There was no variation by either minority enrollment or poverty concentration with respect to the availability of music and visual arts instruction.

Arts Teachers in Public Elementary Schools

As a complement to the elementary school survey, the elementary school music specialist, visual arts specialist, and self-contained classroom teacher surveys provided data on a broad range of topics regarding how the arts were taught in the nation's public elementary schools in 1999-2000. Topics included the educational backgrounds (e.g., degrees, certification, years of experience) of music specialists, visual arts specialists, and classroom teachers; participation in professional development activities; teaching load; teaching practices; collaboration and integration of the arts into other areas of the curriculum; and teacher involvement in arts-related activities outside of school. Classroom teachers were included in the survey to compare the qualifications and teaching responsibilities of arts specialists to those of nonarts teachers and to determine the extent to which classroom teachers were incorporating the arts into their instruction and participating in professional development relevant to arts instruction.

Virtually all teachers surveyed had a bachelor's degree in 1999-2000 (99.9 percent), and close to half of all music specialists, visual arts specialists, and classroom teachers held a master's degree (45 percent, 39 percent, and 43 percent, respectively). Most teachers were certified in the field of their main teaching assignment. Most music specialists (91 percent) were certified to teach music, and 90 percent of the teachers that were certified to teach music had regular, standard, or professional certification. Similarly, 89 percent of visual arts specialists were certified to teach art, of which 89 percent indicated that they had a regular, standard, or professional certification. One hundred percent of regular classroom teachers had a general elementary education certificate, of which 93 percent held a regular, standard, or professional certificate. As for professional development, music specialists (49 to 72 percent) and visual arts specialists (56 to 79 percent) were more likely to have participated in arts-related professional development in the last 12 months than were regular classroom teachers (27 to 46 percent). The three arts-related professional development activities asked about were applied study in an arts area, developing knowledge about an arts subject area, and connecting arts learning with other subject areas. On the other hand, classroom teachers (84 to 90 percent) were more likely than music specialists (65 to 78 percent) and visual arts specialists (64 to 81 percent) to have participated in professional development designed for all teachers. The four general professional development activities asked about were new methods of teaching, incorporating state or district standards into instruction, student performance assessment, and integrating education technologies into instruction. It should be noted, however, that many arts specialists participated in general teacher professional development activities, and many classroom teachers participated in activities related to arts education.

Music and visual arts specialists provided information on their teaching load during the 1999-2000 school year. About half of all music and visual arts specialists taught at one school (44 and 51 percent), about a third taught at two schools (30 and 33 percent), and the remainder taught at three or more schools. Music specialists taught on average six classes during a typical school day and visual arts specialists taught five on average. During a typical school week in 1999- 2000, visual arts specialists had an average of 4.2 hours each week designated for planning and preparation during regular school hours (i.e., when students were in attendance). Music specialists and classroom teachers had slightly less time designated for these purposes (3.6 and 3.4 hours, respectively).

Both music and visual arts specialists reported that the facilities provided to them by their schools were moderately or completely adequate for supporting their instruction. However, about half of the specialists indicated that the time for individual or collaborative planning was minimally or not at all adequate. Furthermore, 68 percent of classroom teachers indicated that they participated in common planning periods with other classroom teachers at least once a month, compared with 7 percent of music specialists and 10 percent of visual arts specialists. Also, music and visual arts specialists were less likely than classroom teachers to participate at least once each month in site-based management teams (18 and 23 percent versus 40 percent), or in the preparation of individual educational plans for students with special needs (5 and 9 percent versus 27 percent). The majority of music and visual arts specialists reported that the arts curriculum they teach from was based on a local or district curriculum guide that was aligned with their states' standards or the National Standards for Arts Education (79 and 73 percent). Forty-seven percent of music specialists and 77 percent of visual arts specialists reported that their instructional programs were integrated with other academic subjects. Also, nearly all classroom teachers reported that they included arts instruction in some aspect of their instructional programs, and the majority indicated that the arts they taught were integrated into other curriculum areas as part of thematic units of instruction. While the majority of arts specialists indicated that they did conduct some formal assessments to determine student progress and achievement, this was primarily in the form of observation and performance assessment, with limited use of written responses to questions, portfolio collections, or developed rubrics.

Arts Education: 1999-2000

This national profile of arts education provided information regarding the state of arts education programs in public elementary and secondary schools, with particular emphasis on arts education at the elementary school level. Overall, the findings suggest that arts education (and especially music and visual arts) was an integral part of many elementary and secondary public schools in 1999- 2000. Future researchers may want to explore the teaching of arts at the secondary school level, specifically focusing on the educational backgrounds, teaching practices, and working conditions of arts specialists in secondary schools. Also, future studies should track the status of arts education at both school levels over time.

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