Given Michigan’s arts education climate, the decision to undertake Michigan’s first Arts Education Survey was a timely one. The survey was engineered and conducted by Michigan Youth Arts, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Department of Education, in collaboration with ArtServe Michigan and Michigan Youth Arts Education Roundtable. The report was released to the public in mid-September.
“The findings of the Arts Education Survey are the first time that we, as a field, have seen such concrete data on the status and condition of the arts in our schools,” said Kim Dabbs, executive director of Michigan Youth Arts.
The 96-page report stemmed from a survey of nearly 100 questions that was distributed through the Michigan Department of Education to every school in Michigan, whether public, private or charter. While the survey wasn’t mandatory, there was a 20 percent response rate, which presented a fairly representative look of about 30 percent of the total student population in Michigan.
Mike Latvis, Director of Public Policy at ArtServe Michigan, explained a few of the important findings.
“We now know that there are 108,000 students who do not have access to arts education in Michigan,” Latvis said. “Eight percent of Michigan high schools offer no arts curriculum, despite the fact that since 2006, there’s been a requirement to complete at least one credit in the arts to graduate from high school.”
Latvis continued, “We also found some interesting data in terms of what we’re spending on arts education in Michigan schools. When you get past the teachers’ salaries and benefits and look at how much we’re spending on students, we found that in elementary, middle school and high school, the median is $2.09 per student per year on arts education. When you look at elementary by itself, that number falls to $1.67. That’s less than a penny a day per student. I think we can all agree that a penny a day is a bit low.”
While the data is eye opening, it will be useful in working to change arts education across Michigan.
“We now have the ability to utilize those findings to bring back equity to all schools and for all students,” Dabbs said. “We believe that every child deserves an equal and well-rounded education, and this report shows the startling disparities throughout our state in the delivery of those goals.”
Dabbs also noted that throughout the coming year, the organizations that conducted the survey will be working together to ensure the strengthening of arts education programs in all schools and the recognition of model programs currently in place.
Once the preliminary results were in, representatives from the organizations conducting the survey went to approximately 20 state legislators in the Senate and House who sit on education committees.
“We wanted to bring legislators in from the beginning to make it a collaborative process and talk about recommendations on how to fix this,” Latvis said. “In June, we also met with Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan to present initial findings. And we continue to work behind the scenes to introduce key leaders to the survey.”
Latvis noted that the survey results have been eye-opening overall.
“Among everyone, it’s been surprising in some aspects. The percentage of Michigan high schools that don’t offer arts curriculum was surprising,” he said.
But luckily, the data allows these organizations to take action.
“We will be presenting this data in November in front of the State Board of Education,” Latvis said. “We’re also working with the State Board to use these results in drafting an education policy on high quality arts education.”
To read the report, click here.