By: Richard Kessler
Buyer beware: this is not a brief blog…
There were three press articles that covered this report:
Here is the press release issued by the NYCDOE
Okay, what are the key points that made it to the press release?
Among the main findings:
- Forty-five percent of elementary schools offered all four art disciplines (visual arts, music, dance, and theater) in 2007-2008, up from 38 percent in 2006-2007.
- Thirty-three percent of middle schools offered all four art disciplines (visual arts, music, dance, and theater), up from 17 percent in 2006-2007; and student participation increased in all four disciplines.
- A greater percentage of high school students are participating in arts instruction by discipline.
- The report also shows that despite budget constraints, school leaders reported hiring an additional 152 certified arts teachers. Spending levels remained essentially unchanged.
Okay, what didn’t make it to the press release and what warrants further examination in the report?The number of schools without any arts teachers jumped from approximately 20% to almost 30%. (There are almost 1500 schools in the system–you can do the math.)
Spending on arts supplies went down by 63% (a reduction in almost $7 million). That’s a whole lot of supplies.
Spending on services of cultural organizations went down by over $500,000. If you factor in that cultural organizations match the contributions of schools by two dollars for every one dollar a school spends, you’re looking at total reduction in $1.5 million related to services provided by outside organizations. This is particularly important when you consider the dearth of certified arts teachers.
Even after what many believe to be the largest budget increase in the history of New York City public schools, from approximately $12 billion in 2003 to almost $20 billion at present, you have only 8% of all elementary schools even in the position to provide the minimum State requirements, by offering all four art forms in all grades.
The report indicates that “per capita” spending rose from $308 to $311 per student. (Actually, last year’s report states the spending was at $312). Again, it sounds great, doesn’t it? Where else in the country are they spending $311 per student? If you consider that there are hundreds of schools without a certified arts teacher, how could the per capita spending be $311? Certainly, if you add up all spending attributable to arts education, and divide it by the number of students, you can calculate such a per capita figure. But this doesn’t really tell us much of the story, as to who is provided with what. What is the per capita spending in a school where the kids haven’t a single certified arts teacher and spending on cultural providers is being cut, versus spending at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School? This is an area that needs much greater attention.
It’s also interesting that both this year and last year’s report give the impression that all high school students receive the arts education required by the State of New York. This is because one cannot graduate without one year of arts education. That is, roughly speaking, the minimum requirement. However, if you consider graduation rates, as well as alternative pathways to high school diplomas, well, many high school students are not being provided with arts education. It is another area, a significant one, warranting a different methodology.
This is a particularly important area of concern. Upon analysis of last year’s report, we determined a clear statistical correlation between those who study the arts, and attendance and graduation rates. In a system struggling to raise graduation rates, it would appear that participation in high quality arts for all high school students on a regular basis would be an important approach to raising the graduation rates.
The report is hobbled by much of what ails many of the similar reports being released elsewhere: it is heavily weighted towards explicating what is “offered,” without going the next very hard mile to determine real rates of participation. As long as these reports tell us, in the main, what is “offered” but do not apply more sophisticated and costly methodologies to uncover participation to a much greater degree, a veil will remain over the data and its utility.
All in all, I would have to say this the report has a through the looking glass quality that doesn’t provide the real tools we need – namely a detailed understand of what each child receives and what it will take to get us to a well-rounded education that includes the arts for every child – while meeting the minimum requirements required by the State of New York.