By Eleanor H. Oakley
President and CEO
In December 2015, the US Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind as the signature piece of national education legislation. This bipartisan measure re-authorizes the nation’s longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. The new law includes the arts alongside math and language arts in its definition of a "well-rounded education."
On our Arts Advocacy web page, we have added a link to the Arts Education Navigator (created by Americans for the Arts), along with other advocacy events and voting information. If you care deeply about arts education, try out this tool. It is a great place to find information and offers paths to understanding and promoting arts education where you live and work. The following is a sample of what you will find.
- Arts education during K-12 years shows results: those with more arts education participation stay in school and succeed in school, work; and life.
- When surveyed, 72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring but 85 percent of these employers can’t find the creative applicants they seek. Fifty-four percent of employers agree that a college degree in the arts in the most significant indicator of creativity in a job candidate.
- Diminished funding, demands on school time from testing and other priorities, and—too often—a basic lack of understanding about what arts learning does for our K-12 students all combined to bring fewer arts classes to our students over the last ten years.
- Only four percent of high schools offer courses in the dramatic arts; only 54 percent require creative writing classes; 7 percent require a class in studio art; and only 17 percent require a music class.
- Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education. The arts are motivating: low socioeconomic status students with a high participation in the arts have a drop-out rate of 4 percent, compared to a dropout rate of 22 percent for their peers with low participation in the arts.
- The more years of arts that students take, the higher their SAT scores on average—true even across the range of socioeconomic status.
- Low-income students highly engaged in the arts are more likely than their peers with low arts involvement to obtain gainful employment, complete college and volunteer in their communities.
There are many K-12 education stakeholders looking for improvements and solutions. Join us in telling them that the arts have always been a large part of the success we all want for our students.