questions to ask
These 15 questions are available as a PDF to help start a conversation with your community leaders.
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The first step to supporting arts education is understanding your school and/or district’s strengths and weaknesses.
Here are 15 questions to ask yourself and your education leaders to determine where your school and district currently stand with arts education. These questions address some of the indicators of a high quality arts program.
For each question posed, we provide at least one suggested Benchmark to aim for.
Does your district implement either your state’s instructional standards or the national standards for arts education?
Benchmark: Standards define what students should know and be able to do in any given academic discipline and are the basis for high quality arts instruction.
Does your school or district have a designated minimum amount of time for instruction in the arts?
Benchmark: One class per week should be the least amount of time—one class per day is ideal.
Is there a high school arts requirement for graduation?
Benchmark: Many colleges require at least a year of arts study for admission, so make sure that your kids are college-ready by having this requirement in place.
Does your school district have an instructional leader in the arts, such as an arts coordinator? Does s/he need community support to expand or improve the arts program?
Benchmark: If there is no arts coordinator, often the director of curriculum and instruction can serve in this role.
Does your school district have a written arts education policy approved by the school board?
Benchmark: A district policy can protect the arts program in times of budget reductions and administrative changes. If you don’t have a policy, here are some examples.
Does your school or district have a written plan for the arts program?
Benchmark (if yes): ensure that all arts disciplines are included (music, visual arts, theater, dance, and media arts) and that all children in the district are covered by the plan—not just some grade levels at some of the schools.
Benchmark (if no): Work with a team of teachers, principals, and community members to put together a plan. Here are some examples.
Does your district pay for arts teachers’ salaries and instructional supplies, materials, and equipment?
Benchmark: A good goal to aim for is utilizing five percent of the district’s general budget to cover these instructional costs. Think creatively to utilize other existing funding options, such as: PTA funds, Title I funds for arts integration, Title II funds for professional development, Title III funds for arts-based ESL strategies, Titles I & III for parent involvement programs, grant funds, categorical funds, school site-based funds, community partnerships, etc.
Are school district administrators supportive of the arts program?
Bechmark: Support could include any or all of the following indicators: allocation of funding, creation of partnerships with community arts organizations, participation in curriculum development, providing equipment and materials, providing instructional time, providing professional development opportunities, and support for assessment of arts instruction.
Does your school or district have a sufficient number of arts teachers?
Benchmark: A good goals for teachers per students is a ratio of 1:400.
Are certified arts teachers the ones delivering the arts instruction?
Benchmark: While certified teachers should be the primary source of instruction, other sources of instruction can include arts integration taught by generalist teachers, or artistic residencies taught by professional artists and/or volunteers. A well rounded program will include a combination of all instructional strategies.
Are professional artists involved?
Benchmark: Professional artists can bring the arts alive during performances and demonstrations at the school. Meaningful partnerships can also evolve between schools and artists through the design of long-term teaching residencies for artists and co-planning between teachers and artists.
Does the arts instruction focus on more than just performing?
Benchmark: A good program will have students not only learning to perform the work of others (such as learning to play Mozart or paint like Picasso), but will also teach students to respond to work (such as appreciation and history classes) and to use self expression to create their own original works of art.
Are there separate arts facilities?
Benchmark: Schools should have dedicated space for arts instruction, such as music rooms, an auditorium, a visual art studio, and a dance studio.
Does your school or district have the appropriate resources for arts education?
Benchmarks: Necessary supplies and equipment could include: prints, artifacts, books, videos, slides of art work, computer programs, textbooks, sheet music, art supplies like paint or clay, musical instruments, curriculum units, lesson plans, and resources for field trips or school programs presented by outside organizations.
Is your community involved in arts education?
Benchmark: The community can and should provide additional resources and support to schools in terms of: facilities, volunteers, instructional support, funding, professional development opportunities, field trips, and/or any of the resources listed in the question above.
If you find the answer is 'no' to several of these questions, work with your principal, teachers, other parents, community members, and the school board to plan for improvement.