Curriculum

Arts Education Building Steam in L.A. Area Schools

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — June 12, 2007 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Midway through a 10-year initiative to restore arts education in Los Angeles-area schools, the program has expanded to 27 districts serving some 450,000 public school students.

At a time when regular offerings of art, music, dance, and theater have generally declined around the country, one-third of the 80 districts in Los Angeles County have agreed to provide such programs, and many have hired arts administrators and educators to carry them out.

Through Arts for All, the county’s blueprint for strengthening its arts programs in grades K-12, more schools are providing regular, separate arts lessons, hiring artists in residence, acquiring more instruments, hiring arts staff, and hosting community arts activities.

“It’s a great accomplishment when you think that when we started in 2002, just one district in the county had adopted a long-range plan for arts education,” said Ayanna Hudson Higgins, the arts education director for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, which administers the program.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest with 700,000 students, adopted its own 10-year plan before the Arts for All initiative. “Now, we have many districts that have made a conscious decision to create and actually implement a plan for arts education,” Ms. Higgins said.

‘A Good Sign’

As urban districts are pushing the arts and other curricular areas to the margins of the school day in order to devote more instructional time to mathematics, reading, and science, arts education advocates say the drive in Los Angeles County is encouraging.

“It’s very thoughtful in its design, in that it makes it concrete and gets a sustained commitment from districts for financing and policy that support the program,” said Richard J. Deasy, the director of the Arts Education Partnership in Washington. The group of 100 education and arts organizations, foundations, businesses, and government agencies works to ensure a place for the arts in state school reform efforts.

“To see this activity in California, given the funding situation, and in its largest metropolitan area, and some other signs in the state that the arts and arts education are being taken seriously is a good sign,” he said.

Representatives of Arts for All helped lobby last year for more state funding for arts education as well. The campaign paid off when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, included $105 million in ongoing funding and a one-time $500 million allocation in the current fiscal year budget for school arts programs throughout California.

Mr. Deasy said the Arts for All program follows many of the features that have been found to be effective in providing a solid arts foundation and using the arts to improve student learning overall.

A 1999 report by the partnership, for example, found that districts with strong arts education programs had devised a school board policy providing for strong arts instruction, hired a district-level coordinator of such programs, and lined up local and private resources to underwrite it.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted the Arts for All plan in 2002 to address the decline in arts education in the county’s 80 school districts, primarily as a result of budget cuts.

Representatives of the entertainment industry and arts and education organizations pooled resources to help districts jumpstart the venture and provide professional development. Participating districts agree to adopt policies that strengthen arts education, craft an implementation plan and timeline, and devote 5 percent of the education budget and employ at least one certified arts teacher for every 400 students.

Five districts signed on during the 2003-04 school year. Thirteen others did so in subsequent years. Nine more announced last month that they would join the initiative in the 2007-08 school year.

‘Fundamental’ Offerings

For students in the Compton district, where 95 percent of the 30,000 students qualify for the federal free- or reduced-price lunch program, and nearly all are from minority groups, a resurgence in arts instruction has taken place since the district signed on to Arts for All three years ago, according to Lanette White. The arts coordinator was hired last year to oversee arts education programs in the district’s 40 schools.

Each of the district’s three high schools now has a band director, schools have textbooks for arts-related classes, and throughout the district arts are at the least a weekly part of the curriculum.

“Before, opportunities for doing art and music were much more sporadic, mostly parent-generated, and offered as after-school programs,” said Ms. White. “For a Title I district and a program improvement district to commit this kind of time to arts education shows that we believe that it is fundamental and necessary for our kids to develop academically.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2007 edition of Education Week as Arts Education Building Steam in L.A. Area Schools

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Teachers' Use of Standards-Aligned Curricula Slowed During the Pandemic
More math teachers are using standards-aligned materials than English/language arts teachers, according to RAND survey results.
4 min read
Illustration of a grading rubric.
priyanka gupta/iStock/Getty
Curriculum Teacher Fired for Lesson on White Privilege Loses Appeal
Matthew Hawn told students, "white privilege is a fact," and was accused by administrators of breaking the state's teacher code of ethics.
4 min read
David Cox, former Director of Sullivan County Schools, left, testifies during a public hearing for former social studies teacher, Matthew Hawn.
A hearing for former Sullivan County teacher, Matthew Hawn.
Caitlin Penna for Education Week
Curriculum Holocaust Books Must Be Countered With ‘Opposing’ Views, Texas School Administrator Says
Teachers were told they're required to offer alternative information for debated and controversial topics. The district later apologized.
Brian Niemietz, New York Daily News
2 min read
A book about David Boder's recordings of concentration camp survivors sits next to one of his wire recorders on display at the University of Akron's Center for History of Psychology on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Akron, Ohio.
A book about David Boder's recordings of concentration camp survivors sits next to one of his wire recorders on display at the University of Akron's Center for History of Psychology on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Akron, Ohio.
Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal via AP
Curriculum From Our Research Center Privacy, Porn, and Parents in the Room: Sex Education's Pandemic Challenges
After more than a year of instructional shifts and social isolation, students need sex education that is media-savvy and relationship-wise.
7 min read
Conceptual image of students feeling isolated, but also trying to connect.
Mary Haasdyk for Education Week