Gaining The Arts Advantage:
Lessons From School Districts That Value Arts Education"
a study published by the President's Committee
on the Arts and the Humanities and Arts Education Partnership (1997)
Highlighted are the findings of this study, conducted in 1997,which examined
"efforts in public school districts - urban,suburban, and rural - throughout the
United States to make the arts an essential part of the general education of all
Listed below are some factors that are found to contribute to a successful,
district-wide arts program.
* "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."
"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 influence
creates a degree of consensus among the school board, the
school superintendent, and major influential segments of
the general community that the arts are an essential part of
* "School Districts with strong arts education programs
generally have boards of education that provide a supportive
policy framework and environment for the arts."
* "Superintendents who regularly articulate a vision for arts
education are critically important to its successful
implementation and stability."
* "There is enough continuity in the school and community
leadership to implement comprehensive arts education."
"Many districts examined in this study have board
members, superintendents, and/or district arts coordinators
who have served in their districts for a decade or
more...Stability in these formal leadership positions is
important in pursuing a set of educational goals, while
strong community traditions that embrace the arts are
important factors in shaping a consensus supporting arts
* "District arts coordinators facilitate program
implementation throughout a school system and maintain
an environment of support for arts education."
"Effective coordinators play a number of crucial roles
and provide several vital services:
- They are often the staff member most actively
engaged with influential segments of the community...
- Board members credit arts coordinators with keeping
"the arts on the table" during budget sessions.
- They negotiate between board and central office
policies and school-level decision making, an increasingly
critical role as districts move towards site-based
- They often participate with school-level leadership
in the screening and hiring of teachers.
- Teachers in turn cite the role of district coordinator
in facilitating communication among individual schools
and in fostering the climate of support for arts education in
the community and district."
* "School prinicpals who collectively support the policy of
arts education for all students often are instrumental in the
policy's successful district-wide implementation."
"For a district as a whole to sustain the successful
implementation of arts education for its students, a
sufficient number of these building-level leaders must
personally value the arts or be persuaded by other pragmatic
considerations to make them an important aspect of the
school. In view of the national trend to site-based
management, this factor is critical."
* "Effective teachers of the arts are allowed to - indeed are
encouraged to - continue to learn and grow in mastery of
their art form as well as in their teaching competence."
"Whatever their medium or metier, teachers who also
pursue their artistic life repeatedly told researchers for this
study that the value placed on the professional quality of their
art by administrators stimulates and refreshes their
commitment both to their art and to teaching. Administrators,
in turn, pointed out that the best teachers stay actively engaged
in their art form through performances in district and community
* "School leaders in districts with strong, system-wide arts
education seize opportunities to make their programs
known throughout the community in order to secure support
and funding for them." "Exhibition spaces and performance
venues in the schools are made available to students, faculty,
and community artists. Free tickets are provided to students,
staff, and faculty for attendance at community arts events. One
district provided free piano lessons to all district staff. Others
create week-long festivals of the arts engaging the school
and community organizations." "Principals told researchers
that parents who never come to school for parent-teacher
conferences will come to see their child perform, creating
opportunities for building relationships important to the school
and district."
* "Strong arts programs in the elementary school years are
the foundation for strong system-wide programs."
"Elementary programs establish a foundation in the arts
for all students, not just for those in specialized programs or
those who choose an arts course of study in the high school.
Moreover, in some art forms such as instrumental music, a
long period of time is needed for students to achieve even
a basic level of proficiency. If such instruction is not begun
in elementary grades, a district will not have quality
programs at the secondary level."
* "School leaders in these districts provide specialized arts
programs as part of their broad strategy for securing and
sustaining community support for the district's overall
educational goals." "Districts examined in this study offered
a wide range of specialized programs for students of the arts,
including magnet schools, Advanced Placement programs, and
summer and weekend programs.....Students studying the
arts in these specialized programs expressed to interviewers
their intense pride in and commitment to their work."
* "Many districts in this study employ state or national
policies and programs to advance arts education." "Policies,
mandates, and funding from the state or national levels, will
not of themselves forge the community/school consensus
required for district-wide arts education. But committed leaders...
marshalled such forces to strengthen the consensus...."
* "School leaders in this study advise the adoption of a
comprehensive vision and plan for arts education but recommend
its incremental implementation."
* "School districts that succeed in advancing arts education
promote reflective practices at all levels of the schools to improve
quality." "A few districts...used portfolio review for evaluations of
principals and teachers as well as students. Others encourage
teachers to set themselves a challenge within their art form that
will be addressed and assessed throughout the year - composing
new music for a choral group, for instance."
"...A level of agreement among formal and informal
leadership in the community and school on the importance
of arts education is essential. Implementing and sustaining
that agreement requires a sufficient presence of the critical
success factors to achieve a level of quality that keeps the
consensus intact..."
For more information on this study, including case studies of the schools examined, visit the website:
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