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Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, over forty percent of school districts nationwide have directed funding or class time away from the arts and other subjects in order to increase their focus on reading and mathematics, according to a report from the Center on Education Policy. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Roderick R. Paige and others have argued that reading and math skills must be established before students can succeed in other areas. But opinions differ regarding the narrowing of the curriculum as well as the importance of the arts.
A recent report from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Commission on the Whole Child expresses concern with this trend, citing the important role a diverse curriculum plays in sustained academic achievement. This stat of the week looks at a subset of statesthose that require all students to take a college-preparatory curriculumto see whether they include the arts in their college-prep credit requirements.
According to the EPE Research Center’s Quality Counts 2007, nine states require or will soon require all students to take a college-prep program to earn a standard diploma. Seven of those states include coursework in the arts as part of their college-prep program. Arkansas, Kentucky, New York, and Michigan require students to complete classes in visual arts, performing arts, applied arts, or music, although Michigan allows students to opt out. Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas include fine arts as one option to fulfill a certain number of elective coursework hours. While the bulk of college-prep prerequisites lie in reading, math, and writing coursework, most of these states appear to consider exposure to the arts an important component of college readiness.
Some evidence also suggests that the business community places value on the creativity and innovation of employees. In a study of workforce readiness from the corporate perspective, over a third of employers ranked creativity and innovation among the top ten attributes they consider important for high school graduates. While there are many ways to develop such skills, study in the arts provides one such resource.
For more state-by-state information related to college-preparatory program requirements to earn a high school diploma, please refer to Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career, a special report of Education Week and the EPE Research Center.