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February 12, 2014

Vast inequality in arts education exists across N.C. elementary schools

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As the debate over the Common Core State Standards in math and language arts continues to rage in the states, some educators are more worried about the lack of requirement for arts education in schools.

While 46 states require that the arts be taught in elementary school, many students are being left behind. Although most public schools offer some sort of music instruction, about 4 million elementary school students do not receive instruction in the visual arts, 96 percent of elementary schools do not offer theatre and 97 percent do not offer dance.

Arts education, say advocates, is a way to engage students and present information in memorable and interesting ways.

“Children all learn in different ways,” said first grade teacher Maria Eby of Bugg Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. “And it’s our job to make sure we’re presenting things in different ways.”

Many schools have pulled resources out of the arts in order to perform better on state standardized tests, which assess students in reading and math. However, many are now seeing the value of arts education in the classroom, and nearly half of art teachers nationwide now teach at more than one school.

Now, a coalition of arts organizations has released new standards for the arts, but it will be up to each state to decide whether to adopt and enforce them.


Warm up questions
  1. If you could take more of any subject (or class) in school, which subject (or class) would that be?
  2. What subjects are assessed by your state standardized test? Which are not? Do you think there are any valuable skills and subjects that are not tested?
  3. What role do the arts play in your life? Do you think it is important to study the arts?
Discussion questions
  1. Do you think there should be standards for teaching the arts in school? Why or why not?
  2. Should schools spend resources on the arts when their students cannot read or do math at grade level? Why or why not?
  3. What can you learn from the arts that you cannot from other subjects?
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