There is a great article in the NY Times about the process that the Department of Education is going through to help reinvigorate arts education. This is the completion of the first ful year of the implementation of the city's arts education blueprint.
The high quality of the teaching at schools like P.S. 156 and I.S. 392, the city's Education Department says, is a direct result of its commitment to create a uniform arts curriculum through new standards put in place over the last three years. The Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts sets out benchmarks for what students pre-K through Grade 12 should be learning in visual art, music, dance and theater.
The blueprint is perhaps the most prominent example of a larger effort under way in the city to rebuild arts education. The school year now drawing to a close was the first in which the blueprint was in place in all four arts areas. The guidelines for visual art and music were completed in June 2004; those for dance and theater in June 2005.
"There is now a standard by which people are judged and by which people judge themselves," said Sharon Dunn, the senior instructional manager for arts education at the Education Department. "We have made this a priority. Teachers know what they're supposed to teach, principals know what they need to supervise.
It is great that the Department of Education has made this a priority. Based on the report there is much to be done:
Student-teacher ratios for the arts can be staggering. According to data provided by the department to the City Council this fall, there is 1 visual arts teacher for every 943 students and 1 music teacher for every 1,200. For dance and theater the numbers are even more extreme, with 1 dance teacher for every 8,088 students, and 1 theater teacher for every 8,871. Although about 40,000 teachers have been added to the New York City school system since 1975 — bringing the current total to about 84,000 — no more than 2,000 of them are arts specialists, according to the Center for Arts Education, a nonprofit group. Experts estimate it would cost $150 million to $200 million to hire arts specialists for every school, and the blueprint has no funds attached.
So there is a blueprint… but no funds. Is there a mandate?
"I'm a little hesitant to start to say, 'I'm going to mandate an arts curriculum, and I'm going to mandate a social studies curriculum, and I'm going to mandate a language curriculum.' Sometimes a little bit of judgment and discretion goes a long way."
No funding and no mandate. A very wise political leader engaged in the issue of arts education once told me, "If it is not mandated and measured it is not done."
From my point of view all we have are some really good intentions. But, this will not create change. Everyone knows what needs to be done in New York City. What we need is someone with the leadership, like has been demonstrated in California and Arkansas to make something happen.
Renewed Push for the Artistic ABC's in N.Y. – New York Times