Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education


Research Abstract
Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education

The Study's Findings - Purpose and process: The purpose of this study is to identify the conditions and practices that create and sustain district-wide commitment to arts education for all students.

Why district-wide? Quality arts instruction can be found in schools throughout the . Often, however, these programs reach only segments of the student population. This study examines efforts in public school districts - urban, suburban, and rural - throughout the to make the arts an essential part of the general education of all students.

All of the districts discussed here have been recognized at the national, state, and/or local levels for the outstanding quality of specific aspects of their instructional programs in dance, music, theater, visual arts, or other art forms. There are lessons to be learned from each of them.

But what are the factors that make it possible for a district to reach the entire student population, to treat the arts as a subject comparable to math, science, or social studies? To probe this question in depth and to add to the information gathered from documents and phone interviews, researchers visited eight demographically and geographically different school districts.

A central finding: A central finding emerges. School leaders repeatedly affirm: The single most critical factor in sustaining arts education in their schools is the active involvement of influential segments of the community in shaping and implementing the policies and programs of the district.

The real and metaphorical walls of the school district become permeable. A kaleidoscope of small communities composed of individuals and groups from the broader community actively engage with one another in arts and arts education activities inside and outside of the schools. Their interactions deepen their appreciation for and understanding of the arts and strengthen their bonds. They form networks that actively promote the importance of arts education in the general education of all students and in the social, civic and cultural lives of the broad community. Their influence creates a degree of consensus among the shool board, the school superintendent, and major influential segments of the general community that the arts are an essential part of learning. They work to sustain that consensus using a repertoire of strategies, resources, and skills that can be seen in the case studies and profiles in this report.

The local context and critical success factors: The specific characteristics of these networks and the consensus that is reached vary in response to local contexts. Vancouver, Washington, differs in specific detail from Miami, Florida, as will be seen in the case studies. And while a degree of consensus is the sine qua non if the arts are to be part of the education of all students, other factors must be in place to create and sustain the quality and scope of the district's arts education.

These factors can be stated generally, but the critical lessons again lie in the way they play out in concrete situations.

Not all are present in every district, but a sufficient number of the following factors must be at work to sustain arts education in the school system.

How to measure commitment to arts education.
Critical success factors for achieving district-wide arts education.
Factor: The community.
Factor: the school board.
Factor: the superintendent.
Factor: Continuity.
Factor: The district arts coordinator.
Factor: A cadre of principals.
Factor: the teacher as artist.
Factor: Parent/public relations.
Factor: An elementary foundation.
Factor: Opportunities for higher levels of achievement.
Factor: National, state, and other outside factors.
Factor: Planning.
Factor: Continuous improvement.

School District case studies and profiles: lessons from school districts that value arts education.
CSD #25, Queens, NY.
Greenville County SC.
Las Cruces, NM.
Miami-Dade County, FL.
Milwaukee, WI.
Redondo Beach, CA.
Vancouver, WA.
Wyoming, OH.
Anchorage, AK.
Ann Arbor, MI.
Arlington, VA.
Atlanta, GA.
Beaufort County, SC.
Boise, ID.
Burlington, WI.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC.
Charlottesville, VA.
Chelmsford, MA.
Chittenden South, VT.
Cleveland, OH.
Clovis, CA.
Coeur D'Alene 271, ID.
Columbus, NE.
CSD #3, New York, NY.
East Stroudsburg, PA.
El Dorado #15, AR.
Elmira, NY.
Fairfax County, VA.
Fremont County 14, WY.
Fulton County, GA.
Glen Ridge, NJ.
Hamilton, OH.
Hattiesburg, MS.
Henrico County, VA. 
Hillsborough County, FL.
Howard County, MD.
Independence, MO.
Iowa City, IA.
Jamestown, NY.
Jefferson County, KY.
Kenmore - Town of Tonawanda, NY.
Kettle Moraine, Wales, WI.
Kingsport, TN.
Kyrene 28, Temple, AZ.
Larimer County-Thompson R-2J, CO.
Lawndale, CA.
Lewisburg, PA.
Lexington, MA.
Lima, OH.
Liverpool, NY.
Maine Township 207, Park Ridge, IL.
Masconomet, MA.
Memphis, TN.
Minot, ND.
Missoula County, MT.
Montello, WI.
MSAD #28, Camden-Rockport, ME.
MSAD #40, Waldoboro, ME.
Norman, OK.
North Allegheny, Pittsburgh, PA.
Oak Park 97, IL.
Ohio County, WV.
Olathe 233, KS.
Orland 135, Orland Park, IL.
Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, NJ.
Peoria 11, AZ.
Port Washington, NY.
Puyallup, WA.
Randolph County, WV.
Robbinsdale, MN.
Rochester, NH.
Rockcastle County, KY.
Saint Paul 625, MN.
Salina 304, KS.
San Jose, CA.
Santa Barbara County, CA.
Selma, AL.
Seminole County, FL.
Sioux Valley, SD.
Southwest Allen County, IN.
Spring Branch, Houston, TX.
Starkville, MS.
Summit RE-1, Frisco, CO.
Township 113, Deerfield and Highland Park, IL.
Urbana 116, IL.
Volusia County, FL.
Waukesha, WI.
Wayland, MA.
Westbrook, ME.
Wichita 259, KS.
Williamsport, PA.


Longley, Laura
88 p.
Thursday, December 31, 1998

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 526
DC, 20506