The Arts Advantage: Expanding Arts Education in the Boston Public Schools

by Julia Gittleman; Laura Perille

Feb 12, 2009

Presents findings from a survey on the availability of arts education in the city's public schools, relevant school traits, funding needs, and partners. Offers recommendations and strategies for a three-year expansion plan. Highlights best practices.
  • Observation: A majority of K-5 (76%) and K-8 (81%) students received the initial benchmark of once weekly, year-long arts instruction, whereas this was true for only 48% of students in middle schools serving Grades 6-8.
  • Observation: Only 5% of all Boston Public School (BPS) elementary students and 6% of all middle school students receive the "best practice" benchmark of twice weekly, year-long arts instruction.
  • Observation: Schools identified the top barriers to increasing arts education as: 1) limitations to the school budget (91%); 2) lack of public or private external funding (60%); and 3) lack of time in the school day (46%).
  • Observation: While staffing levels are similar, comparable district arts offices in Seattle and Memphis have budgets that are roughly four times that of Boston.
  • Observation: Recommendations include: 1) expanding equity and access with a three-year goal of getting 100% of all students, through Grade 8, to the initial benchmark of once weekly, year-long arts instruction by 2012; 2) building district capacity; 3) launching the BPS Arts Expansion Fund to raise $1.5 million over three years in additional private philanthropic funding; and 4) convening a new BPS Arts Advisory Board to oversee arts expansion efforts.
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