California Arts Education Data Project Provides Road Map for Districts

artsby Patricia Wayne 

All students in California deserve to have access to high quality arts education that will provide them with important skills they need to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. But up until now, we lacked the tools to show us where (and how) arts education is offered across the state.

Create CA, in partnership with the California Department of Education and the Arts Education Data Projecthave launched a first-of-its-kind suite of tools designed to help increase participation in arts education across California.

The tools include the California Arts Education Data Project, which analyzes and reports school-level data on arts education courses and middle and high school enrollment across the state. It is designed to enable leaders at the state, district and school level – as well as parents and advocates – to identify and address education inequities across the state.

Presented in a user-friendly, color-coded dashboard, the Project provides important information to education leaders, teachers and parents about levels of access to and enrollment in arts programming in schools. The dashboard allows users to review school-level, district, county and statewide data and presents the statewide averages as the baseline for comparison. It reports data from 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 from 3,719 schools, covering more than three million students from grades 6 through 12, which is roughly half of California’s student population. [For more on education in California’s public schools see also Arts Education Retakes the Stage, California Schools magazine, Spring 2016.]

A few of the research findings from the Data Project include:

  • Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 9.6 percent decline in the number of students without access to any arts instruction.
  • Although nearly 97 percent of students have access to some level of arts education, 26 percent of students have access to all four arts disciplines of dance, music, theatre and visual art as required by the state education code. Also, 86 percent of schools provide at least one arts discipline, but only 12 percent of schools offer the four required arts disciplines.
  • In total, 38 percent of students were enrolled in at least one arts discipline. Further disparities exist by discipline, with 17 percent of students enrolled in art, 14 percent in music, 5 percent in arts, media and entertainment, 4 percent in theatre and 2 percent in dance.
  • The greater the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, the lower the arts participation rate.

The Data Project also features a roadmap for school districts that guides leaders through the process of examining their data to better understand their unique circumstances and challenges. The roadmap contains resources and helpful guides to assist districts in assessing their programs and creating strategic arts plans. The Data Project also provides a communication toolkit that includes materials to share these new resources with local stakeholders.

We all know that quality arts education sparks creative thinking, and helps set up students for success in college, career and life. These important tools will provide a complete picture of where California’s schools currently stand, allowing leaders to ensure their schools can provide invaluable arts education to every child in California.

Patricia Wayne is a program director at Create CA