NAfME Legislative Memo: April 6, 2012

The Latest on Music Education Policy from Capitol Hill

April 6, 2012

Report Reveals an Arts Education Gap Between High- and Low-Income Schools

A long-awaited survey on school arts instruction dropped on Monday, April 2. Policy experts are carefully studying the numbers of Arts Education in Public and Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-2010. One early conclusion: The percentage of public elementary schools offering classes in the visual arts, drama and dance has declined over the past decade.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) used the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) to gather the data. NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other countries.

In contrast to the other arts, the report notes that music was “almost universally available in the nation’s public elementary schools.” In both the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 school years, “94 percent of elementary schools offered instruction that was designated specifically for music during regular school hours.”

“That sounds good on the surface, but what is the quality of the education?” Chris Woodside, National Association for Music Education (NAfME) assistant executive director for advocacy and public affairs, said. “That is our concern.”

The report also noted a gap in the availability of music instruction in schools with a higher concentration of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. In 2009-2010, music instruction was offered in 89 percent of those schools, while it was offered in 97 percent of schools with the lowest concentration students who received free and reduced-price lunches.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks at an event announcing the report Arts Education in Public and Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-2010

Speaking after the release of the report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the report “allows us to compare changes in arts education over time, and it’s the first survey that enables us to get a clear sense of how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has affected arts education.”

Most troubling, he said, is an “equity gap between the availability of arts instruction as well as the richness of course offerings for students in low-poverty schools compared to those in high-poverty schools, leading students who are economically disadvantaged to not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students.”

“A well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students’ success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode,” Secretary Duncan concluded at the announcement.

NAfME President Scott C. Shuler and Education Secretary Arne Duncan

NAFME President Scott C. Shuler and Mike Blakeslee, NAfME chief operating officer and deputy executive director, attended the release of the FRSS report at an elementary school in Washington, DC.

According to Woodside, NAfME and its partners within the Arts Education Working Group, The Music Education Policy Roundtable, and the larger arts education community are analyzing the full report and will coordinate a response.

NAfME advocacy staff is following the release of the FRSS Report.

Read the full report

NAfME Advocacy Groundswell

Next NAfME Webinar Focuses on State-Level Advocacy

On April 17 NAfME will offer a new Webinar, “Advocacy 201: Advocacy at the State Level.” It will feature successful state-level advocacy strategies and stories from NAfME members and staff. With the possibility of less federal money going out to the states, music education advocates can make the case to state elected officials that music education should be funded.

Advocacy 201: Advocacy at the State Level
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

Roz Fehr, April 6, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (

Photos by Scott C. Shuler and Mike Blakeslee


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For today’s students to succeed tomorrow, they need a comprehensive education that includes music taught by exemplary music educators.