GAO: Loss of Arts Education Higher in Some Kinds of Schools

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 27, 2009 1 min read
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Most elementary teachers report that instruction time for arts education stayed about the same between the school years of 2004-05 and 2006-07, according to a report released today by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Still, teachers at schools with higher percentages of minorities and that have been identified as needing improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act were more likely to report a decrease in time spent on arts education in their schools. Four percent of elementary teachers surveyed said arts education increased at their schools, and 7 percent reported a decline.

In some ways, it’s surprising that more teachers didn’t report a decrease in the time of instruction spent on the arts given what I’ve read elsewhere about how schools have adjusted their curricula to meet the accountability provisions of NCLB. I’m thinking particularly about an essay, “Why Arts Education is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best,” that I just read in edutopia. Here’s an excerpt:

It has become a mantra in education that No Child Left Behind, with its pressure to raise test scores, has reduced classroom time devoted to the arts (and science, social studies, and everything else besides reading and math). Evidence supports this contention—we'll get to the statistics in a minute—but the reality is more complex. Arts education has been slipping for more than three decades, the result of tight budgets, an ever-growing list of state mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum, and a public sense that the arts are lovely but not essential.

The findings from the GAO report indicate that the “mantra” may apply mostly to some kinds of schools, those that register as less academically successful under the No Child Left Behind Act.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.