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Chicago Arts Survey Finds Revitalized Programs, Lingering Gaps

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An annual survey of arts programs in Chicago finds that schools throughout the city are offering more time in art and that more schools have strong programs than just four years ago. But 4 percent of the city's elementary schoolers don't have access to arts at all, and programs are still not distributed equitably throughout the city.

The city's school districts and the local nonprofit Ingenuity began surveying arts programs in 2013. That year, Chicago launched an Arts Education Plan that made arts a core subject and set the goal of requiring two hours of arts instruction per week in every elementary school—which would be facilitated by a newly extended school day. 

Each of the four years has seen an increase in arts programming, according to this year's report. There are more arts teachers than in previous years of the survey, and some 60 percent of the city's schools are now certified as "strong" or "excellent," the top ratings on the nonprofit's ranking system. The private sector reported more than $11 million in investments in arts in Chicago Public Schools. But some gaps remain: Still just 59 percent of schools offer two hours of arts instruction a week. 

The report comes along with an update to the city's ArtLook map, which shows programs in the schools by geography and by type.

Chicago Arts MapImage: ArtLook's map of schools in Chicago Public Schools with no arts instructors.

Chicago is one of a number of cities and states that are aiming to improve arts education programs by helping to show the public where such programs are and are not. Arts education programs in many cities and states had taken a hit when school budgets shrank earlier in the 2000s. Lower-income schools were often the hardest hit. 

Austin and Dallas are among the cities that have similar surveys. At the state level, California and New Jersey have also begun reporting on the location and quality of arts education programs. 

But despite the progress, many other cities have much less accessible information about their arts programs. And just because a school ticks a box— yes, we offer arts —doesn't mean the quality of programs is equal across schools. 

In Chicago, growth in arts programming is a bright spot in a district plagued by ongoing budget issues and political disputes. 


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