NYC Arts Education Lacking In Poor Neighborhoods

mark tuminello arts educationNew York City has a well-earned reputation for being a home for the arts. Thousands of artists live there, the city boasts the world’s largest performing arts center, and citizens are hungry for music, visual art, film, performing arts, etc. Considering all of this, I was surprised to read an article in The Atlantic about the serious lack of arts education in public schools in the city. In fact, the city’s comptroller just announced that New York received a failing grade in terms of providing access to arts for students.

The recently released State of the Arts report finds that low-income schools are severely lacking access to arts education, refreshing the discussion of the benefits of arts education on overall learning. Mastering soft skills in the arts is generally seen as a way to be better prepared for a career these days. So much of the economy is now a ‘creative economy,’ and this kind of economy demands original thinking. It may be that New York is only setting up wealthy students with these kinds of skills. Some have argued that lower-income students need the most exposure to creative subjects.

Data that was analyzed to create the rating includes how many full or part time certified arts teachers employed, if there were any formal partnerships with cultural or arts organizations, and if there was a space dedicated specifically for arts. Mapping out the schools that don’t have much to show in any of these categories basically runs right along income trends, with over four hundred middle schools and high schools in the city falling short of the legal minimum (yes, the minimum is mandated by state law). 42% of the failing schools are in the south Bronx and central Brooklyn.

The Center for Arts Education, led by executive director Eric Pryor, notes that this is the result of a number of factors. Local politics have hurt arts programming in schools. Giuliani established the Project Arts program, which allocated money for arts partnerships and programming. Bloomberg’s approach was different, giving principals automony to allocate their own funds. During this time, struggling schools gutted arts projects. Money was still coming to the school as a result of Project Arts, but schools could spend it on whatever the principals saw fit.

No Child Left Behind also had an impact. Standards-based teaching became a priority for schools, with test results being monitored closely in order to rate a school’s worth. Testing rarely included anything concerning the arts. In this way, arts education was slashed along with physical education and foreign language education.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

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