April, 2009

Mike Lawson • Archives • March 27, 2009

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Findings of GAO Music and Arts Education Study
Senators Chris Dodd (D- CT) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study addressing access to music and arts education for public school students as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Dodd and Alexander called for the study in response to reports that the testing requirements of NCLB were forcing some schools, particularly those that serve low-income and minority students, to narrow their curriculum and restrict access to music and arts education.

The study, entitled “Access to Arts Education,” outlined the following conclusions: The study identified a decrease in instruction time for arts education with “statistically significant” differences across school characteristics (low-income, minority, urban/rural). Specifically, teachers at schools identified as needing improvement and those with higher percentages of minority students, were more likely to report a reduction in time spent on the arts.

Teachers at elementary schools with high percentages of low-income or minority students reported larger arts instruction time reductions than teachers in schools with low percentages of low-income or minority students.

Of 32 states that awarded arts education grants (in school years 2001-2002 and 2006-2007), 37 percent had funding decreases and 15 percent had funding increases. Arts education officials attributed this to decreased budgets and competing demands on instruction time.

The GAO study recommended that the Department of Education, in its planned study of NCLB implementation, include questions that would help clarify why instruction time in music and arts education has decreased for some students. The study also indicated that from the perspective of the GAO, research on the effect of arts education on student success is inconclusive. However, the GAO’s referenced research was published in 2000 and fails to take into account current and ongoing research, both qualitative and quantitative, that provides contemporary knowledge about the role and impact of arts education.

To read more about the study, visit www.gao.gov.

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