A Message from the Project Director
This third installment of the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is a clear milestone for arts education in our state. New Jersey is now reaching the point of “universal access” to arts education for all students, with 99% of schools providing and 99.4% of students attending schools with arts education during the 2015/2016 school year. Only 26 schools (with 9,160 students) reporting no arts instruction stand between us and this important goal. Once achieved, New Jersey will be the first state in the nation to be able to make this claim.
As we move beyond the issue of access, participation and quality emerge as the new areas of focus. When it comes to participation, this report highlights the significant gains that have been made. More than 76% of all students in New Jersey now participate in arts education every year. In the past decade we have seen a 12% increase in student participation. This means an additional 100,000 students annually participate in arts education bringing the yearly total to nearly 1 million students. Something to truly celebrate.
However, our work remains unfinished. In spite of our gains in participation over the past decade we still have more than 40,000 elementary students and another 40,000 middle schools students who should be participating in the arts (based on state policies) that are not. There are another 40,000 or so high school students who could also be participating that are not.
In addition to participation rates and arts spending, student-to-arts-teacher ratios tend to be more favorable in schools serving more affluent populations. This was something we did not find a decade ago. No child should be denied the significant documented benefits provided through active participation in arts education. This is an equity issue of great importance.
So now our focus turns to increasing participation to 100% at both elementary and middle school level and 60% at the high school level. By reaching these goals another 120,000 students will gain the benefits and education in the arts provides and we will reach a statewide participation rate of 85%. To improve quality we must address the documented inequities that are present in our less affluent schools.
In a world where imagination, creativity and innovation are sculpting our future, ensuring we provide the inspiration for these skills for all students must be our goal.
That is why we must insist on ARTS ED NOW, for Every Child in Every School.
Robert B. Morrison