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How States Handle Arts Education in Charter and Magnet Schools Varies Widely

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Arts education is an often-neglected but frequently critical component of what schools can provide to students, particularly those from underserved communities. And there's a diverse set of approaches states and school systems take when addressing theater, dance, music, and the visual arts in schools of choice such as charter schools and magnets.

That's one key takeaway from "The Arts in Schools of Choice," a policy brief from the Education Commission of the States released last week. The report concedes there's not a big research base to build on regarding the intersection of arts education and school choice. (The brief also covers policy for educational options such as open-enrollment and private schools.)

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One study found, for example, that charters tend to offer less in the way of arts education than other public and private schools—but the same can't be said in Chicago, where charter elementary schools do more specifically on music education than their counterparts. 

One big finding: ECS counted 30 states that don't exempt charters from requirements for teacher certification, graduation, assessments, and standards. And 14 of those states have arts education requirements. Here's a handy map from ECS illustrating just how much those requirements in those 14 states do (or do not) impact charters: 

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The brief, written by ECS Project Manager Mary Dell'Erba, also highlights notable policies and approaches to arts and school choice in several states and cities:

  • Baltimore City Public Schools plans to expand the Baltimore Arts Education Initiative so that all students have "equitable access" to the arts by 2022, according to Dell'Erba. 
  • California has created an arts education dashboard so that parents and others can compare access to arts education at both traditional public schools and charters. 
  • Connecticut has five magnet schools for the arts in the greater Hartford area alone, and 15 such schools outside Hartford. The state defines magnet schools as, among other things, offering unique and high-quality curriculum.
  • New Hampshire has open-enrollment schools that are permitted to limit enrollment to specific subject areas, including the arts. 

ECS highlighted findings of the Arts Education Partnership's work on school choice back in January as well as broader arts education policies in March

Read the full ECS report from last week below:

Photo courtesy of Getty. 


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