An amazing collaboration in the state of Maine occurred when the Maine Arts Commission enlisted Noel Paul Stookey (the famed singer-songwriter) of Peter, Paul, and Mary to champion the statewide arts education census. Along with Mr. Stookey, partners including the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Principals’ Association, teacher leaders from the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the music and visual art professional organizations, a student advocacy group, New England Institute for Teacher Education, and the Maine Alliance for Arts Education committed to collect the data.

The year-long effort achieved a stunning 95% response rate—making it the highest voluntary response rate on record nationally for a survey of this type. The voluntary statewide survey data represents 97% of the 183,995 PK-12 Maine students. Comparisons were made with a census completed in 2009. This survey revealed a surprising amount of consistency in school offerings over the past seven years as well as large gaps in the equity of the resources available to students across the state.

The summary report on the survey’s results, including five recommended goals across four key areas to strengthen arts education in Maine, is now available to the public (PDF).

“Local and national data shows that high quality arts education, taught by certified teachers and teaching artists, positively impacts student learning and school quality,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “Now our job is to ensure that all students in Maine have access to these beneficial programs and instruction.”

Maine ranks among the top six states in the nation with regard to comprehensive arts education policies, according to a 2014 report from the Arts Education Partnership, but the state does not require measurement in subject areas not mandated by the federal government. Responding principals noted that an important outcome of the census would be to advocate for assessment polices for arts education in order to gather Maine-centric, rather than national, data points that demonstrate the impact of arts education on student performance.

The census data shows, among other things:

  • Music and visual arts education for Maine students remains strong, although not consistent from region to region: 71% of all schools report music classes and 68% report visual arts classes during the school day;
  • Media arts, theater, and dance instruction in schools lags far behind, with only 15% of schools reporting media art classes, 12% reporting drama classes, and 5% dance classes. Even fewer of these schools offer instruction in these areas by a certified teacher;
  • 28% of Maine’s schools report arts integration in other curricular content areas, 30% offer after school arts programs, and 29% report gifted and/or talented programs;
  • 52% of all principals report no arts-related field trips and 46% report no arts in co-curricular activity, such as concerts or community events;
  • 27% of principals report programming in their schools through a relationship with one or more local or regional arts organizations and 15% indicate utilizing community-based artists in their arts education offerings.

The census data is being shared with educators across the state, including teachers at regional workshops and conferences, and community arts organizations meetings. The recommendations are being shared with each of the state’s superintendent regions, working toward each region achieving progress toward goals to strengthen arts education by 2025. Additional desired results, identified on the basis the census findings and to be achieved by 2025, include:

  • 100% of Maine’s schools will have staff taught arts instruction during the school day;
  • 60% of Maine’s schools will have relationships with arts and cultural resources—an increase of 33%;
  • Arts education data will be regularly updated;
  • 75% of Maine’s schools will be utilizing the Maine Arts Commission’s resources.

The census required responses from principals, who, in addition to surveying their schools’ offerings, also noted the following challenges in providing high quality arts instruction: budget constraints; lack of time in the school day; and competing priorities. The principals’ recommendations for how to achieve better equity in arts education for Maine’s students included increased funding for organizations that support school arts education programs; an increase in the funding for and availability of school art supplies and equipment; and more professional development opportunities for teachers in the arts.

The 2016 Arts Education Census is an important outcome of the Commission’s five-year cultural plan adopted in 2015: Fortifying Maine’s Creativity & Culture: A Five-Year Cultural Plan 2015-2020. It was funded in part by a generous grant from Jane’s Trust and additional support from the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Department of Education. For information regarding the census and cultural plan, as well as funding programs and services, please visit