Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1995
NCES: 95082
October 1995


  • Music is offered in 97 percent of public elementary schools in the United States (Figure 1). About half (56 percent) of the elementary schools that offer music include general, instrumental, and vocal music in their instructional programs (Figure 2).
  • Almost three-quarters (70 percent) of public elementary schools that offer music reported that the subject is taught by certified music specialists only; 22 percent indicated that both specialists and classroom teachers provide instruction. Only 8 percent of elementary schools leave music instruction totally up to the classroom teachers (Figure 3).
  • Visual arts is offered in 85 percent of public elementary schools (Figure 1). Visual arts specialists only provide instruction in 43 percent of these schools, while both specialists and classroom teachers do so in 29 percent of the schools. In 28 percent of these schools, visual arts is taught by classroom teachers only (Figure 3).
  • Visual arts is taught solely by classroom teachers in 53 percent of elementary schools in the West, but only 7 percent of schools in the Northeast (Figure 4).
  • Less than half (43 percent) of public elementary schools offer any instruction in dance. Only 7 percent of schools enlist dance specialists to teach dance; otherwise, dance is taught by physical education teachers (Figure 6).
  • Very few public elementary schools (8 percent) offer drama/theatre as a separate subject taught by specialists. Fifty-six percent of elementary schools reported that teachers use dramatic activities, such as enacting stories or plays, to teach other subjects (Figure 7).
  • Nearly all public elementary schools (92 percent) provide creative writing instruction as part of the language arts curriculum, rather than offer separate programs in creative writing (Figure 8).

Arts Education in Public Secondary Schools

  • The majority of public secondary schools offer separate instruction in music (94 percent) and visual arts (89 percent). About half of secondary schools offer separate instruction in drama/theatre (54 percent) and creative writing (47 percent). Very few secondary schools (13 percent) offer classes in dance (Figure 9).
  • In schools that offer separate instruction in arts subjects, an average of 4.5 courses in music and 5 in visual arts are taught. Approximately 2 courses each are provided in drama/theatre, creative writing, and dance (Table 6).
  • Thirty-nine percent of all public secondary schools reported that their districts require credit specifically in the arts for graduation. Another 22 percent require credit in the arts as an option within a specified group of courses, such as arts or foreign language or computer science (Table 8).

Arts Education at Both Instructional Levels

  • Most public elementary and secondary schools that offer separate instruction in arts subjects have curriculum guidelines provided by their school districts (figures 10 and 11). However, only one-third of schools at both instructional levels reported that their districts had arts coordinators or curriculum specialists on staff (Table 7).
  • Slightly more than one-third of public elementary and secondary schools have had artists-in-residence during the past 5 years (Figure 13). These artists contributed to schools' arts programs primarily though providing knowledge about art forms to students through exhibition or instruction (Figure 14).
  • The most notable way that parents support their children's artistic efforts is through attendance at school arts events. Volunteering in various arts activities is the least likely avenue for parents to provide support for arts education programs (Table 12).


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey


No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.