NCES Survey Shows Decline in Arts Education in US Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, has released the results of seven arts-in-education surveys. The Congressionally-mandated surveys were designed to take stock of the arts education in the public K-12 schools around the nation over the 2009-2010 school year, and compare those results with the surveys conducted during the 1999-2000 school year. The data collected encompasses elementary schools, and middle schools and the respective teachers, and music and arts specialists.

The survey found that during the 2009-2010 school year, music education was offered in 94% of elementary schools, and 83% of elementary schools nationwide offered some kind of arts instruction as well. Fewer schools offered any kind of dance or drama classes, with only 4% of elementary schools offering dance and even fewer, 3%, offering drama. The numbers represent a 20% decline since 1999-2000 school year.

In the middle school, the results were similar. While 91% of middle schools offered music and 89% had classes in visual arts, fewer middle schools offered dance. Any kind of dance instruction was only offered at 18% of middle schools. There was also a decline in these numbers from the 1999-2000 survey, but not as steep as in elementary schools.

In a statement accompanying the report, President’s committee on the Arts and Humanities, said that it was satisfied with the overall numbers of arts/music offerings in American schools, but expressed concern at the small number of schools who still offer classes in dance and theater.

“It is gratifying that, even in times of narrowing curriculum and economic hardships over the last decade, schools still see a strong value in access to arts education and continue to prioritize making it available to their students,” the White House advisory panel said today.

At the same time, the committee highlighted “disturbing” data on the “persistence of the gap” in access to arts instruction between high- and low-poverty schools.