Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Arts in Boston Public Schools

Not surprisingly, a new report has found that arts education varies widely within Boston Public Schools. The report from the Boston Foundation concluded that BPS should “expand equity and access to arts education across all [schools], prioritizing the initial expansion of sequential and consistent arts instruction for all students, from Kindergarten through Grade 8.”

The report found that 70% of students in the district receive some sort of daily arts education, including art integrated into the core curriculum. It looks like West Roxbury/Jamaica Plain/Roslindale fall just under the district average.

Eleven percent of schools reported that their students receive no arts education. Students in K-5 and K-8 schools get the most exposure to the arts (e.g., dance, music, drama, folk arts, media arts and visual arts), followed by middle and high schools. Here is the percentage of BPS students who receive of weekly arts education:
  • K-8: 81%
  • K-5: 75%
  • 6-8: 48%
I guess that’s one more in the plus category for trying to get into a K-8 school (as much as I loved many of the K-5 schools I visited). The report also found that smaller schools had a greater percentage of students regularly taking arts classes, compared with larger schools. But these larger schools offered more variety.

Making Music Matters gets a shout-out in the report (p. 20). It’s a partnership between the Ohrenberger, Beethoven, Mozart, and Washington Irving schools that teaches students the violin, clarinet, flute, or trumpet beginning in third grade.

The first page of the appendix has an alphabetical list of individual schools and the type and frequency of arts instruction offered. They’re not listed by zone, so you kind of have to wade through it. The Haynes EEC fares really well, with all of their students receiving twice-weekly arts instruction.

This was very informative, but I worry that these numbers might change drastically in the coming year(s). Arts education always seems to be one of the things schools threaten to cut when the economy gets rough. As an example, listen to WBUR’s story on Belmont’s proposal to eliminate all after-school programs, including performing arts and non-varsity sports.

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