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Our Study

This section examines the relationship between graduation rates at more than 200 New York City public high schools and the arts education provided at those schools.36 It is based on an independent analysis of data compiled by the New York City Department of Education for the Annual Arts in Schools Reports for the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years and graduation rate data provided separately by the DOE as part of the reporting on school Progress Reports.

The schools in the analysis are those for which data were available from both the arts reports as well as on graduation rates. The schools were not identical for both school years, as data for some schools were not available for both periods.37 The analysis included a total of 189 New York City high schools from the 2006–07 school year and 239 from the 2007–08 school year. Because the Annual Arts in Schools Reports do not report on after-school, weekend, or summer arts education, all data are based on arts instruction offered during the school day.

Each year’s set of schools was grouped into three tiers according to graduation rates—low, middle, and high— with roughly equal numbers of schools in each tier.38 We then looked at the relationship between graduation rates and the nine arts education indicators described below. Due to the wide variation in the size of high schools in New York City, we present the data for several of the indicators as a ratio of the indicator per 1,000 students, a number that roughly corresponds to the average student population of 1,152 at the schools analyzed in this report.39

Arts Indicators

The following nine arts education indicators are key components of the DOE’s Annual Arts in Schools Reports and were selected for analysis in this report because they are fundamental measures of a school’s ability and inclination to deliver arts education to its students.40 We report the indicators–divided into two categories, Resources and Access–as follows:

Resource Indicators

Certified Arts Teachers
(reported as full-time certified teachers per 1,000 students)

Dedicated Arts Classrooms
(reported as dedicated arts rooms per 1,000 students)

Appropriately Equipped Arts Classrooms
(reported as appropriately equipped arts rooms per 1,000 students)

Arts and Cultural Partnerships
(reported as average number of partnerships per school)

External Funds to Support the Arts
(reported as percentage of schools raising any outside funds to support the arts)

Access Indicators

Coursework in the Arts
(reported as percentage of graduates per school who completed three or more arts courses)

Access to Multiyear Arts Sequence
(reported as percentage of schools where any arts sequences were offered)

School Sponsorship of Student Arts Participation
(reported as percentage of schools that offered an opportunity for students to participate in one of the reported activities)

School Sponsorship of Arts Field Trips
(reported as percentage of schools that offered an opportunity for students to attend one of the reported activities)

Table 1. Arts Education Indicators and High School Graduation Rate Comparison

Results and Discussion

The findings for all nine indicators analyzed here are summarized in Table 1. For each indicator, schools in the high graduation tier showed a greater commitment to arts education than schools in the low graduation tier. Schools in the middle tier also provided greater access and more resources to support arts education than schools in the low graduation tier across all indicators.

For two indicators (school sponsorship of arts participation and sequential arts offering), schools in the middle tier were slightly more arts-friendly than schools in the high tier.

Following is a more in-depth look at the data and results for each of the nine indicators, with a brief discussion of the findings as well as the significance of the measure. Results are reported for both the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years, and also a two-year average.

An expanded table with additional information (e.g., average school size, attendance rates, demographic information, etc.) can be found in the Appendix .

Resource Indicators

Certified Arts Teachers
The presence of certified arts teachers on a school’s staff is a key indicator of a high school’s commitment to arts education. Arts teachers provide students and the school with the expertise necessary to provide quality instruction in the arts and create a school community that values arts education.

In addition to traditional classroom arts learning, many schools deliver arts instruction through interdisciplinary, or integrated, learning opportunities that utilize the talents of a wider array of school staff. While this approach has great value and has long been supported by The Center for Arts Education, the hiring of certified arts teachers signals a school’s engagement with arts education, and the arts teachers are often the locus of interdisciplinary teaching in school.

Many small high schools do not have the resources, space, or size of student population to support a full-time certified arts teacher on staff, or an adequate array of faculty in general. This is a continuing challenge faced by the city’s small schools. To a limited degree there already exists a sharing of staff amongst schools, and artist residencies have been used in many schools to great effect. However, the development of flexible staffing structures to further address these challenges is necessary and should be encouraged.

High schools and middle schools are required to provide students with arts instruction by a certified teacher, and NYSED recommends that those teachers be certified in the art form they are teaching. As reported by the DOE, in 2006–07 only 82 percent of New York City high schools had certified arts teachers on staff.41 Additionally, according to NYSED arts is considered to be a shortage area for teachers statewide, with New York City being the area with the highest needs in the state.42

Due to the variation in high school size in New York City, for this report we looked at the number of full-time certified arts teachers at each school for every 1,000 students. A higher ratio of teachers to students can enhance learning in the arts, as in other subject areas, by allowing for more focused efforts by the teacher and one-on-one interaction between teachers and students. The city’s larger high schools require multiple certified art teachers, perhaps one in each art form, to provide the requisite instruction to all their students. While part-time certified teachers are also an important part of a school’s arts program, the DOE provided school-level data related to part-time instruction for only one of the two school years, so this measure was not included in our analysis.

Figure 1. Certified Arts Teachers and Graduation Rates

As illustrated in Figure 1, schools in the high graduation tier had more full-time certified arts teachers on staff per student than schools in the low graduation tier. This holds true across both school years surveyed. The high tier had four certified arts teachers for every 1,000 students and the low tier had fewer than three certified arts teachers for every 1,000 students. According to the two-year average, schools in the high tier had 38 percent more arts teachers than those in the low tier—or one additional arts teacher for every 1,000 students.

Dedicated Arts Classrooms

High-quality equipment in arts classrooms, as in libraries, gyms, and science labs, supports quality teaching and learning. It is nearly impossible for an arts teacher to deliver quality arts programming if required to move from room to room with supplies in a cart, which is the reality in many schools across the city. Likewise, inadequate facilities hamper quality teaching and learning and lead to substandard student learning.

Based on the 1997 test results of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), widely considered the “gold standard of educational assessment,” the U.S. Department of Education found that students performed better in the arts when they were taught in proper arts spaces.43

The size, configuration, specialized equipment, and features required for art classrooms are unique for each art form. Dance requires open space for movement. Visual arts require space for students to create, view, and store projects, as well as access to sinks and water. Music and theater require rehearsal and performance space, as well as proper storage space for instruments, sheet music, lights, and props. These particular needs make it essential to design and furnish appropriate facilities during school construction and renovation. Leaders in the field of arts education, as well as school design experts, have recommended that each school have at least one dedicated arts space for every 400 to 500 students.44

“The spaces and facilities available in schools to teach the arts are good indicators of the level of commitment to arts education.”—U.S. Department of Education, 1997 NAEP Arts Report Card

A dedicated arts classroom is a classroom used solely for arts instruction or performance. The DOE recognizes that “the ideal physical environment for arts learning is one that is dedicated to the arts discipline and appropriately and comfortably equipped with the specific equipment and supplies needed to optimize students’ experience.” According to the 2007–08 Annual Arts in Schools Report, however, 59 percent of school leaders reported the lack of available in-school arts space as a challenge to providing arts education—the most frequently cited challenge after funding (75 percent).45

Figure 2. Dedicated Arts Classrooms and Graduation Rates

As illustrated in Figure 2, students in the schools with the lowest graduation rates had the fewest rooms dedicated to arts learning. More specifically, according to the two-year average, schools in the high tier had one and a half more dedicated arts rooms per 1,000 students than schools in the low tier, or 40 percent more classrooms dedicated to the arts.

While our data-reporting method is not designed to compare different school years, from Figure 2 it appears that schools reported having more dedicated arts spaces in 2007–08 than they did in 2006–07. The anomaly could be due to the slightly larger sample size in 2007–08, which could have included schools with more arts classrooms, or a data or reporting inconsistency between the two years. With principals reporting the need to convert dedicated spaces for the arts and other subjects to general classroom use due to school overcrowding,46 it is unlikely, although not impossible, that the data reflect an actual growth in the number of spaces dedicated to the arts.

Appropriately Equipped Arts Classrooms
In the absence of dedicated spaces, rooms equipped to serve the art form but shared with other subject areas can be effective uses of space and resources, and if tailored appropriately, can be adequate substitutes for many, but not all, arts classes. The DOE classifies classrooms that have the materials and equipment needed to teach the art form as appropriately equipped classrooms, whether or not they are used for this purpose or are shared with non-arts subject areas. According to the DOE, dedicated and appropriately equipped spaces are not mutually exclusive; the Annual Arts in Schools Reports survey advised school leaders that rooms can be both dedicated and appropriately equipped.

Figure 3. Appropriately Equipped Arts Classrooms and Graduation Rates

As demonstrated in Figure 3, schools in the high tier of graduation rates had 38 percent more appropriately equipped classrooms than those in the low tier. There were 4.2 appropriately equipped classrooms for every 1,000 students in schools in the low graduation tier compared to 5.8 for every 1,000 students in schools in the high tier, according to the two-year average.

Arts and Cultural Partnerships
One of the benefits of living and attending school in New York City is access to its vibrant arts and cultural sector. In addition to having opportunities to see live performances and visit museums, many students attend schools that partner with arts or cultural organizations.

Partnerships between schools and outside arts and cultural organizations deepen not only arts learning opportunities for participating students but also learning across curriculums. Often the school and cultural partner collaborate to design and implement programs where the partner comes into the classroom to lead sequential sessions around a particular theme that enhance and enrich the classroom curriculum.

When such partnerships become an integral part of a school’s vision, learning through experiences with arts and cultural institutions becomes an energizing force in the school community. Successful partnerships also echo beyond the school walls as students and staff are connected to community resources in new and engaging ways. Unfortunately, not all students have equal access to these partnerships.

It is commonly understood that such partnerships vary widely, from a single workshop serving a single class to a yearlong, multifaceted design that serves multiple classes in multiple grades. While the DOE provided information to help describe the nature of these partnerships on an individual school basis, the information was either not suitable for the type of analysis conducted in this report or the data provided were not consistent over the two years.

Figure 4. Arts and Cultural Partnerships and Graduation Rates

Figure 4 displays the results of the analysis of the number of cultural partnerships into which each school has entered. As the figure illustrates, schools with the highest graduation rates on average forged 25 percent more partnerships with cultural organizations per school than those with the lowest graduation rates.

External Funds to Support the Arts
School expenditures for arts education are often augmented by contributions from external sources, such as parents, local businesses, government agencies, or corporate or private foundations.47 The funds raised from external sources can be spent in many ways, including hiring additional part- or full-time teachers and teacher’s aides, creation of school-based after-school programs, financing school trips to museums and other cultural centers, or helping to subsidize partnerships with arts organizations, to name a few. While the ability of schools to raise outside funds is partly dependent on the ability of parents to contribute, it also reflects the resourcefulness and determination of school leadership to engage outside entities to support the arts in school.

According to the Annual Arts in Schools Report for 2006–07, on average schools raised $12,650 from external funding sources, with the highest percentage coming from Parent-Teacher Associations (20 percent). As there were significant flaws in the school-by-school reporting of the dollar amount raised, this analysis focuses solely on whether or not any funds were raised from outside sources.

Figure 5. External Funds to Support the Arts and Graduation Rates

As illustrated in Figure 5, schools in the high graduation tier were 45 percent more likely to have raised funds from external sources to support the arts than schools in the bottom tier. According to the two-year average, only 38.5 percent of schools in the low tier raised any outside arts funding, while 56 percent of schools in the high tier raised outside funds during that time frame.

As mentioned above, the level of money raised from outside sources in many ways reflects parental engagement and wherewithal to make financial contributions. Schools with students from wealthier backgrounds generally raise more money and have more resources at their disposal to supplement their budgets. In poorer communities, parents generally raise less. This disparity in what schools can offer students ultimately translates into more limited in-school and after-school programming and instruction for low-income students—pointing to the importance of minimum requirements and funding mechanisms to ensure that the mandates are met during the school day.

Some view such minimums as unwarranted bureaucratic hurdles or restrictions on principal autonomy. The inequities evident throughout the city testify to the critical necessity of minimum requirements and dedicated funding lines, because they establish an equitable floor for minimum student participation in the arts and ensure the accountability of school leaders for providing balanced, standards-based arts education for all students.

Access Indicators

Coursework in the Arts
A variety of arts courses signals a robust high school arts program. While smaller schools face limitations, the city’s larger high schools are expected to offer students multiple classes in most disciplines. New York State regulations require one unit of credit, the equivalent of two classes (108 total instructional hours), in the arts in order to graduate, but many students choose to exceed those requirements when, and where, offered the opportunity.

Figure 6. Coursework in the Arts and Graduation RatesAs illustrated in Figure 6, on the following page, students in schools in the low graduation tier are significantly less likely to have taken three or more arts classes before they graduated than their peers in schools in the high tier. Specifically, over the two-year average, one third more students (34 percent) took three or more arts classes at schools with high graduation rates than did students in schools with low graduation rates.

This gap in the number of arts courses being taken by graduates is significant in that it ties directly to individual students’ coursework over their high school years and is perhaps the most unambiguous sign of the disparity in student participation in the arts for the schools analyzed.

It could be argued that students in the low tier are choosing not to take coursework in the arts; however, based on the overall findings in this report, it more likely signals a lack of opportunity at schools in the low graduation tier. While the DOE provided no data on the number of arts courses offered at individual schools, it is commonly recognized that many schools offer only the bare minimum, so their students have no opportunity to exceed the requirement. In fact, the 2007–08 data revealed that 21 percent of high schools were offering coursework in only one arts discipline or less—limiting student course options.

Given the national studies in which at-risk students cite arts participation as their reason for staying in school, increasing course offerings in the arts in the low-graduation schools is likely to be an effective way to improve student engagement at those schools.

Access to Multiyear Arts Sequence
An arts sequence is a set of sequential courses that build upon each other in any of the four main artistic disciplines (dance, theater, music, visual art). Sequential coursework allows interested students to pursue advanced learning in the offered arts disciplines and provides students with a pre-professional and/or academic track in the arts.

New York State education regulations require that each school district offer students the opportunity to complete a three- or five-unit sequence in any of the four recognized arts disciplines beginning in grade nine. Because New York City is considered a single school district, the state requirement is technically satisfied. In light of the size of the district, however, the DOE has made a commitment to ensure that every community school district, of which there are 32, offers a sequence in each of the four arts disciplines.

Beginning with the class of 2009, students are now able to earn a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation in the Arts by completing five units in a single art form and successfully completing the exit exam in that art form. This is a welcome development, yet a student’s opportunity to earn this advanced designation will be largely dependent on whether or not their school offers a multiyear sequence.

Figure 7. Acces to Multiyear Arts Sequence and Graduation Rates

According to the two-year average in Figure 7, schools in the high graduation tier were nine percent more likely to offer an arts sequence than those in the low tier. For the 2007–08 school year, however, a greater percentage of schools in the low tier offered an arts sequence, the reverse of the results from the previous school year. This is the one data point in the analysis that was inconsistent with all others. While it is possible that the schools in the low tier increased their offerings in relation to those in the high tier, it is more likely that reporting inconsistencies were at play, as is likely with a system of self-reporting.

School Sponsorship of
Student Arts Participation

Whether performing in a school play, singing in the choir, or contributing work to an exhibit, the active engagement of students in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts is invaluable to student learning in the art form.

To measure student participation for the two Annual Arts in Schools Reports, principals were asked to indicate with a “yes” or “no” the types of arts activities that the school sponsored from a list of activities provided by the DOE on the Arts in Education Survey.48

As the survey did not request actual student participation rates, this indicator is not an accurate measure of true student participation; it should be refined by the DOE in the future to more accurately capture this critical information.

For the purposes of this analysis, we grouped together all the activities reported by the DOE and distinguished solely between schools that had any student participation in an arts activity and schools that had none.

Figure 8. School Sponsorship of Student Arts Participation and Graduation RatesAs illustrated in Figure 8, a high percentage of schools in every tier had some student participation in an arts activity. Despite a slight difference between schools in the high and low tiers, the graph would imply that even those schools with low graduation rates were providing students with ample opportunity to participate in an arts activity. As mentioned above, the reporting on this measure is misleading, because the DOE gave schools credit for student participation irrespective of how many students actually participated.

Also worthy of note is that the data for the 2007–08 school year included additional categories of student participation (participated in concert performance, showed student-made film) that were not reported in the previous year, which most likely explains the increased level of participation for that school year over the previous one.

School Sponsorship of Arts Field Trips
Taking students to concerts, theater performances, or museum exhibits is a long-standing tradition in public schools. These school trips are often students’ first introduction to the unique cultural resources of New York City. Sets, lights, a live orchestra, the Egyptian wing of the Met—all these can provide inspiration to schoolchildren.

Student attendance at arts activities is not only a way to build an appreciation of the arts, it can also give high school students new ideas about future career paths and reasons to stay in school.

The visual display of the arts is made possible by the support of vast numbers of industry employees, from stagehands to box office personnel to marketing specialists to graphic designers to arts conservators to advertising writers, and more. Estimated to have an economic impact of $21 billion per year,49 and providing over 309,000 jobs in New York City alone (8.1 percent of all city workers),50 the creative sector is vital to New York City’s economy.

For this measure as well as the previous indicator, the DOE asked principals to indicate with a “yes” or “no” the types of events or activities that the school sponsored.51 Schools received full credit for sponsoring an activity regardless of the number of students who participated.

Figure 9. School Sponsorship of Arts Field Trips and Graduation Rates

As illustrated in Figure 9, a high percentage of schools across all tiers reported student attendance at an art activity. Nonetheless, schools in the low tier were noticeably less likely than schools in the high tier to have offered students an opportunity to attend an arts activity. Given the generous definition of sponsorship, it is reasonable to assume that an even greater discrepancy exists in the percentage of students at these schools who had the opportunity to attend one of the activities sponsored.

It is worth noting that data provided for 2007–08 included an additional category of activity (viewed film/media), which can explain the increased level of participation of 2007–08 over the previous school year.

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