‘Arts in the Schools Month’ Shines Bright Spotlight on New Jersey as National Leader in Arts Education
March is widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” The U.S. Department of Education has proclaimed March as Arts in the Schools Month, an annual celebration showcasing the accomplishments of students in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts. All across New Jersey schools are hosting their spring musicals, state and county Youth Art Month exhibitions are displaying exceptional student work, spring instrumental and vocal concerts are being held and dance recitals are being performed.
For New Jersey schools, there is much to celebrate this year. According to the latest findings by Arts ED NJ, more than one million students engage in the arts in New Jersey schools each year, with arts participation rising from 66 percent of all students in 2006 to 80 percent in 2017 – an all-time high.
Moreover, 53 percent of high school students are now participating in the arts – up from 47 percent just four years ago.
New Jersey continues to build its well-earned reputation as a national leader in arts education, hitting records for participation in all disciplines, including Dance, Music, Theatre and Visual Art. New Jersey is now reaching the point of “universal access” to arts education, largely a result of our state’s thought leaders – school administrators, school board members and teachers – working in unison to ensure all students are provided with both the inspiration and infrastructure to participate in the arts.
However, more work needs to be done. There are still more than 80,000 elementary and middle school students who should be participating in the arts (based on state policies) that are not, as well as another 40,000 or so high school students who could also be participating that are not.
It’s important to note that arts education is for everyone, and while most students will go on to jobs outside of the arts they benefit greatly from the skills, knowledge and discipline they gain by being engaged in the arts. By working to engage all students with high-quality arts education across the state, we are giving our students more opportunities to use their voice of creativity and providing them skills that will help them be successful beyond high school.
And the public agrees!
A Rutgers/Eagleton Statewide Public Opinion Survey this past September that found that nine-in-10 New Jersey residents say that receiving an education in the arts – which includes lessons in dance, music, theatre, visual arts, media arts, and other forms of creativity – is “very” or “somewhat” important in the classroom (90 percent), through before or after school programs (93 percent), and through cultural organizations in their community (89 percent).
As school administrators, you play a crucial role in creating the right environment for arts learning to take place. Here are some things you can do to support arts education in your own district:
- Visit artsednow.org, look up your own schools and see how they stack up to the statewide goals. Explore the Campaign Tools section to assist you in your districts.
- Engage with your school administrators and school board members to discuss the district strategy for arts education; consider a program review or develop a strategic plan for arts education.
- Adopt an arts education policy that outlines the board’s and administration’s shared vision for arts education.
- Make sure arts courses receive proper weighting. Read more about the new law that went into effect Fall 2016 and what you can do in your schools at artsednj.org.
- Make sure your local curriculum is updated and aligned with the most recent NJ Student Learning Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts.
- Be visible, and attend local concerts, productions, recitals, and exhibitions. Let your faculty see your support.
- Explore professional development and other opportunities offered by NJASA and its partner organizations to learn more about developing an arts-rich district.
By being proactive today, you may ensure an arts-rich education for your students tomorrow and our state and nation will be the better for it.
For more information on the state of Arts Education in New Jersey, please visit http://artsednj.org/2017-arts-education-census/
Individual school information may be found at https://artsednow.org/
Information about the 2017 Rutgers-Eagleton Public Opinion Survey on arts education may be downloaded at http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/rutgers-eagleton-arts-education-nj-sept2017/