A new interactive dashboard allows you to take a closer look at the availability of arts education in California's middle and high schools. And the results? Well, let’s say there is still a lot of work to be done.
Most California schools do not meet the state's minimum arts requirements. Chances are your school is on the list. (But perhaps not forever: we have some ideas for you. Read on…)
The occasional sketch or music experience does not make the grade. If kids at your school get just a smattering of arts education, take a gulp and look at what is really required.
It is not just drawing or music. California law specifies that the arts should include instruction (grades 1-6) or courses (grades 7-12) in four disciplines: dance, drama and theatre, music, and visual arts. That’s right. All of these.
Most California students get some arts instruction. But few have access to all four required arts disciplines. It was not always this way.
California collects data about the courses that students take, including courses in the arts, through the CALPADS system. What do the numbers look like? Take a look:
How well is your school doing? You don't have to wonder: Check here.
If your school is one of the ¾ that doesn't have a full course offering in the arts, you might be wondering what to do about it. Hint: It does not happen overnight. It takes persistence, planning and a common understanding in your community that the arts are essential for every child in every school.
The California Alliance for Arts Education (artsed411.org) is a great resource for information about advocacy efforts for arts education in California. [Editor's note: Carol once served on the board.] In 2018, this organization committed its support to the Arts for Every Student Incentive Grant Program (SB 933). The measure would create a competitive state grant program to encourage and maintain the delivery of high-quality visual and performing arts education programs and to provide a jump start for school districts lacking the capacity to provide access to arts for every pupil. You can find background information in this fact sheet .
Because local school district budgets are crucial for arts education, community commitment is vital. It starts with parents, teachers, administrators and school boards understanding the importance of the arts to learning. You can start at your own school!
Your school board is where decisions are made about whether and how to spend resources on the arts. Are they committed? Ask them. Here are examples of action steps:
Money. You can find support for the arts through community organizations, partnerships, and other strategies. But until there is sufficient funding for schools in California, the arts, along with many other programs, will continue to struggle.
Some school communities have voted to support the arts and have made dramatic improvements in delivering arts to all students. San Francisco is a good example. But statewide, funding still is skimpy and that has a profound impact on what your school district can provide.
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