One-of-a-Kind State Survey Finds Most N.J. Students Are Taking Art

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — June 15, 2016 2 min read
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In New Jersey public schools, nearly all elementary school and middle school students and half of high school students took an arts class in 2014-15, according to the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership’s its Arts Education Report Card.

New Jersey is the first state to produce such a comprehensive report on how many students are participating in various arts classes, according to Narric Rome, the vice president for government affairs and arts education at Americans for the Arts. Rome said in an email that most states don’t collect information on how many students have access to arts education, let alone how many actually participate in the classes that are offered.

The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership has collected increasing amounts of data about arts education in the state since 2007, collected through a survey of arts educators and through the state’s report card for schools. This year’s survey added participation rates in middle school.

The report found that 50 percent of high school students, 96 percent of elementary students, and 89 percent of middle students actively participate in the arts, which include visual art, music, theater, and dance.

Some 89 percent of schools offered both music and visual art class—an increase from the previous year’s report.

The chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, Robert Morrison, said in a press release that the goal is to eventually make sure all New Jersey students have access to arts education. “While these numbers are very encouraging there is still more work to be done to bring the arts to every student in our state,” he said.

Though New Jersey high schoolers are significantly less likely to take arts than younger students, the report notes an 11 percent increase high school arts participation since 2013.

Music and visual arts classes are significantly more common than dance or theater classes, especially at the elementary school level. Some charts from the report card that show the relative commonness of the subjects:

The report also examines how access to classes compares to participation in classes. For instance, 99 percent of middle schoolers have access to an arts class at their school; 89 percent actually take one of the classes they have access to.

More individual districts, especially in cities, have been paying attention to which students have access to and participate in arts education: Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles are among the cities that have surveyed schools to determine which offer arts programs with the aim of increasing equity.

Charts via New Jersey Arts Education Partnership

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