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Most Mich. Schools Teach Art, But Some Lack Certified Specialists

The vast majority of Michigan schools offer at least some arts instruction, a new study suggests, but more than one-third have no certified specialists in music or visual arts, the two most popular offerings.

And 12 percent of the high schools surveyed do not offer even the one required credit in the arts needed to graduate under state guidelines.

Average annual spending on curricular support for arts education averages $4.39 per pupil in high school and just $1.67 in elementary school, according to the study, billed as a "landmark survey" for the state.

The report, commissioned by the nonprofit Michigan Youth Arts, is intended to provide baseline data that will lay a foundation for efforts to ramp up arts education in the state. And while the picture surely varies from state to state, my guess is a similar story may be told about plenty of other places.

For a national perspective, check out this EdWeek story about federally-collected data that came out last spring. It contained some similar findings, including that most schools offer some arts education. One especially troubling finding in the report from the National Center for Education Statistics was disparities in access to arts education for impoverished students. (To my knowledge, the Michigan report does not include access data by economic level.)

The study from Michigan is based on data from 826 schools that replied to an online questionnaire, a 20 percent response rate. That total represents nearly 466,000 students, or 30 percent of Michigan's total K-12 population.

Here's some of the basic data.

Percent of schools offering at least one arts course:
• Elementary (94 percent)
• Middle (92 percent)
• High (93 percent)

Most of those offerings were in either music or the visual arts. For example, dance class was available in just 10 percent of high schools, and 6 percent of middle or elementary schools. Theater was available in 43 percent of high schools, 24 percent of middle, and 6 percent of elementary schools. (These data are fairly consistent with the recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics.)

The Michigan study also finds that more than one-third of schools have not aligned their curriculum with the state's arts education standards, adopted in 1998. Also, 35 percent of schools do not grant honors art courses equal weight with other courses when calculating student GPAs.

The report includes an "arts education index" that rates each participating school based on 24 components, from course offerings to student participation and facilities and resources. On the 0 to 100 scale, the highest score achieved was 83, with an average score of 33 across participating schools.

One goal of the new report, beyond generally improving arts education in the state, is to identify exemplary schools in the arts to "discover what makes their programs thrive and create a network to share their knowledge with other schools."

In addition, the report includes a variety of policy recommendations, including:

• Requiring schools to report annually on access to arts courses, the level of student participation, and other data;

• Defining state standards of teacher licensure for all arts disciplines;

• Developing strategies to ensure all schools provide at least some arts access; and

• Increasing professional development in arts education for school administrators.

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