In the United States no one can answer this fundamental question:
Who has access to arts education in our public schools and who does not?
This is not a new question.
Access to, and equity of, arts education instruction has been mentioned as a priority by policy makers, national organizations, educators, business leaders, parents and teachers for more than two decades – dating back to the National Governors Association announcement of the 1989 “National Education Goals.” Policy makers in particular have been quick to talk about the importance of an arts education for every child. Yet, twenty five years after these conversations began, the original fundamental question remains unanswered.
It is our belief in order to expand access to arts education in our schools and communities we absolutely have to know where we stand. This is THE most elusive knowledge in our field and the most fundamental question that must be answered before arts education in this nation can move forward in any meaningful and strategic way.
In order to impact arts participation in our schools, organizations require the ability to direct resources to the specific areas of need and to learn from schools where programs are robust. Currently, with no road map to identify where these specific schools are, organizations have been left to fend for themselves based on anecdotal information or localized survey data with a wide range of quality and no comparability within a state.
If the many organizations concerned about arts education in this country truly believe in the ideal that every child should have access to arts education as part of a basic education (and we believe they do) then the entire arts education field must confront the reality that there is no way to attain this goal without determining where arts education stands today so clear strategies may be developed to address the undeniable gaps in access persistent in various parts of the United States. Simply put: to get to where we want to go we must understand where we are.
SEADAE and Quadrant Research launched the implementation of the Arts Education Data Project (AEDP) to answer the first part of this question – where we are – regarding access to arts education in every public school building in the United States.