Arts Education is Dwindling in America’s High Schools


Image by L Gould from Pixabay

Many students who take art classes say that they are a great place to simply be themselves and express their feelings and ideas through art forms.

In the midst of a long, hectic day of school, many Longfellow students find a place to let loose and have fun in the arts. Courses range from 3D Art Design to Advanced Theatre, and there’s certainly no lack of choices to explore. But this is not the case at every school.

A research paper on the availability of arts education in high schools funded by the National Endowment for the Arts has shown that nearly 20% of high schools in the United States have no courses in the arts whatsoever. 

The research concludes that this is the result of a number of changes over the last few decades, including tighter budgets and a growing number of state mandates that have taken over the classroom, pushing out the arts to make more space. This impact is even stronger for students in lower-income communities, where many schools have cut funding for the arts entirely. 

“For one, it seems more and more other required courses are coming along that are making it more and more difficult for students to take arts courses,” says Sarah Barry, longtime theatre teacher at Longfellow.

Despite the dwindling sense of importance we place on an arts education, the education-focused website Edutopia has found numerous studies over the last few years showing strong links between arts education and academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.  

“What’s more, the arts is a great place to learn about yourself and teach you new ways to communicate and express your feelings,”

The Washington Post reported that according to a study done by the College Board, students who take four years of art and music courses while in high school score more than 90 points higher on their SAT exams than students who took only a half year or less. 

“Having that change in pace every day is so refreshing and makes me do better in school altogether!” says Grace K., a dedicated theatre student at Longfellow.

An arts education, often undervalued, can be crucial to a student’s success. “Engaging with art is essential to the human experience,” says a blog post on the Brookings Institution website. “Because schools play a pivotal role in cultivating the next generation of citizens and leaders, it is imperative that we reflect on the fundamental purpose of a well-rounded education.”