On Wednesday, the NY Times City Room blog featured this post about arts education in NYC schools. Although there were more arts offerings last year than the year before, arts education made up an even smaller portion of schools’ budgets.
The Department of Education’s annual report on arts in schools focuses mainly on numbers – the percentage of schools that offer programs in the arts by discipline, the number of full-time certified arts teachers in schools, the percentage of students in high school who participate in elective arts courses, etc – while rarely accounting for quality of arts programming. Assessing quality is certainly more challenging than assessing quantity, but it’s a critical step for understanding what changes need to be implemented in order to improve and expand arts education.
The report does mention the importance of professional development to ensure quality arts teachers, but what about evaluating both content and structure of programs offered in music, theater, dance, and visual art? And how about surveying students to better understand which programs are most effective? (The semester-long dance class offered at my high school was a cross between an aerobic workout and cheerleading – even students without any dance background agreed on this). All of this falls under the category of “Next Steps” in the report, and it looks like a “quality rubric” is being field-tested by NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy. Let’s hope that it’s an effective tool that will be fully implemented soon.