The Resilience of Arts Ed Now: Beyond the Pandemic
The 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Report
The 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is a collaborative partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Arts Ed NJ, ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, and Quadrant Research.
The Resilience of Arts Ed Now: Beyond the Pandemic is the follow-up report to the nationally acclaimed 2007, 2012, and 2017 reports, Within Our Power: The Progress, Plight and Promise of Arts Education for Every Child, Keeping the Promise: Arts Education for Every Child, The Distance Traveled – The Journey Remaining, and ARTS ED NOW: Every Child, Every School. All four reports may be viewed and downloaded at www.artsednj.org.
The New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Quadrant Research.
Arts Ed NJ is the unified voice for arts education in New Jersey. Arts Ed NJ was founded in 2007 by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Department of Education and Music for All Foundation with additional support from the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation following the release of the report, Within Our Power: The Progress, Plight, and Promise of Arts Education for Every Child. The report’s recommendations became the work plan for Arts Ed NJ – helping schools, arts organizations, policymakers, and citizens to use this information to improve arts education for all children, whether driven by program, policy, or priority.
The mission of Arts Ed NJ is to create the proper conditions for arts learning to take place. Arts Ed NJ provides a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.
Suggested Citation: Morrison, Robert B., Amber Young, and Pat Cirillo: The Resilience of Arts Ed Now: Beyond the Pandemic. The 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Project Report. Warren, NJ: Quadrant Research, 2022.
From the Census Project Director
This fourth installment of the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is a clear milestone for arts education in our state. In 2019, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to document universal access to arts education for all students across the state. This was a truly historic moment.
And then the COVID-19 Pandemic swept our state, the nation, and the world. Grave concerns arose about the pandemic’s impact on education with school closings. Arts educators struggled to adapt to ever-changing health and safety guidelines and concerns that some of our performing arts programs were not safe. Anxiety was high. The disruption to arts instruction was enormous.
Given these circumstances, it would not be unreasonable to expect to see significant declines in arts education during the 2021/2022 school year. That is not what we found.
To the contrary, what we found was the resilience of arts education now across the state. Thus the title of our report: The Resilience of Arts Ed Now: Beyond the Pandemic The 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Report
In 2021, 99% of schools provided access to arts education for 99.4% of students during the 2020/2021 school year. Only 20 schools (with 7,220 students) reporting no arts instruction stand between us and returning to universal access.
As we move beyond the issue of access, participation and quality emerge as the new areas of focus. When it comes to participation, this report highlights the significant gains that have been made. Overall, 76% of all students in New Jersey now participate in arts education every year. In the past decade, we have seen a 10% increase in student participation. This means an additional 100,000 students annually participate in arts education bringing the yearly total to over 1 million students. Something to truly celebrate.
Additionally, more schools than ever report offering arts courses in three or more disciplines, a strategic goal for the work of the Arts Ed Now campaign. Student/Arts Teacher ratios are the most favorable since reporting started and funding to support arts education is at an all-time high.
The resilience we have documented is due, in no small part, to the 8,280 certified arts educators that provide instruction every day to 1.1 million students. It is their hard work, flexibility, and innovative strategies that have allowed our arts education programs to survive, thrive, and grow as we emerge from the Pandemic.
However, there is more work to be done. In spite of our gains in participation over the past fifteen years, we still have more than 40,000 elementary students and another 40,000 middle school students who should be participating in the arts (based on state policies) that are not. There are another 20,000 or so high school students who could also be participating that are not. If these participation rates were realized New Jersey would have 85% of students engaging in arts education every year. That should be our goal.
Access rates, arts participation, arts spending, and student-to-arts-teacher ratios tend to be more favorable in schools serving more affluent populations. This was something we did not find a decade ago. No child should be denied the significant documented benefits provided through active participation in arts education. This is an equity issue of great importance. Finding ways to level the playing field for all students must be a priority.
The greatest impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic has been on our arts and cultural partners where the bottom fell out across all of their programs for schools. While many organizations pivoted to provide virtual arts and cultural opportunities for our students, this could not make up for the complete evaporation of programs during the Pandemic. Rebuilding these partnerships and collaborations must be a focal point as we move beyond the Pandemic.
So now our focus turns to returning access rates to 100% at both elementary and middle school levels and reaching 60% at the high school level. By reaching these goals another 120,000 students will gain the benefits an education in the arts provides and we will reach a statewide participation rate of 85%. To improve quality we must address the documented inequities that are present in our less affluent schools.
In a world where imagination, creativity, and innovation are sculpting our future, ensuring we provide the inspiration for these skills for all students must be our goal.
That is why we must insist on ARTS ED NOW, for Every Student in Every School.
Robert B. Morrison, Project Director
This is the fourth wave of data collection for the New Jersey Arts Educational Census. The most recent wave of survey data was collected for the 2020/21 school year. During data collection, COVID protocols were still impacting the way that New Jersey Schools were operating (as evidenced below). Overall, very few schools were operating fully in person (less than 10%). Most schools were operating on a hybrid model (72%) with another 19% operating fully remote.
Throughout this report, we provide trend data by showing the results of the previous two waves of data collection (collected during school years with normal operations) and the most recent wave of data collection. Given the impact that COVID had on school operations during the most recent wave of data collection, and the time period (2020/21 school year) which schools were asked to report data for, trend data should be interpreted with care. Throughout the report, impacts of COVID can be seen in measures including arts enrollment, dedicated spaces, course offerings, and instructional time.
Knowing that COVID would impact data during the 2020/21 data collection period, additional questions were added to gauge if schools anticipated returning to normal, pre-pandemic levels of operation, enrollment, etc. and most felt that pre-COVID operations would return.
School Operations During 2020/2021
Before proceeding to the detailed findings it is important to understand how schools were operating during the survey period as well as the reported impact of COVID-19 on arts education programs:
How Schools Were Operating
Impact of COVID on Arts Programs
58% of schools reported COVID-19 having some impact on their arts programs. Only 2% reported any staff reductions and only 7% reported eliminating courses outright.
It is with this understanding of school operations that the detailed findings in the next tab should be considered.
New Jersey is widely acknowledged as being a national leader in arts education, through the recognition of the arts as a core subject required by state code, strong supportive policies, highly qualified arts educators, and the near-universal provision of arts education for all students.
In New Jersey, nearly all students (99.4%) have, and nearly all schools (99%) provide, access to arts instruction as part of the curriculum.
There is a significant increase in the number of schools offering three or more arts disciplines since 2016. The percentage increase in the number of schools for each grade span is elementary (124%), middle (73%) and high schools (3%). This has been a strategic goal of Arts Ed NJ. While only 13% of students have access to all four arts disciplines required by state code, this improved significantly from the 6% reported in 2016.
Seventy-six percent (76%) of all students participated in one or more arts education courses during the year. Participation has increased by 10% since 2011 and 17% since 2006.
Participation in art (69%) and music (63%) were highest among the four arts disciplines. Visual art and music are also the most widely available arts disciplines at 95% and 96% respectively. Both dance and theatre showed significant increases in participation from prior reports.
Dance increases from 8% student participation for all schools to 30% participation when only schools that offer dance are included(Program Uptake Rate). Theatre increases from 7% to 18%. Visual art goes from 69% to 72%. Music goes from 63% to 65%. This indicates that the lack of dance and theatre in schools is a barrier to participation. When these courses are offered there is strong demand for student participation including 62% for dance and 44% for theatre participation in elementary schools.
Choir and Band programs were the most likely courses to be reduced or eliminated in 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic with schools reporting 29% of choral programs and 26% of band programs impacted.
More than 80,000 elementary and middle school students (7% of students) who should be participating in arts education (based on state requirements for elementary and middle school students) do not.
There are 7,220 students in 20 schools without access to arts education.
Per-Pupil Arts Spending (PPAS) has increased by 19% in elementary schools, 12% in middle schools, and 15% in high schools since 2016. The overall PPAS is $12.68.
Student arts participation is similar across all Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage categories as well as across race/ethnicity. However, as District Factor Groups become more affluent, so does overall arts participation.
Per-Pupil Arts Spending decreases as poverty levels (measured by free and reduced-price lunch and District Factor Groups) increase.
There are 8,280 arts educators employed in the state. There are 3,219 visual art, 3,628 music, 893 theater, and 540 dance educators state-wide. This represents an increase from 2016.
The overall student-to-arts-teacher ratio is 140:1. For visual art, the ratio is 359:1; for dance, it is 2,141:1; for music it is 319:1; for theatre it is 1,296:1. The ratio becomes less favorable as the percentage of students receiving free/reduced-price lunch increases.
Over the past three years, 83% percent of all schools in the state participate in some cultural activity down from 93% in 2016. This includes field trips (71%), assemblies (51%), long-term partnerships (31%) and artist-in-residencies (14%). These represent declines in all categories except long-term partnerships since 2006. The majority of schools (54%) engage in two or more cultural activities.
In 2021, most arts and culture activities with schools were suspended with only 5% offering field trips, 8% offering assembly programs, and 6% providing artist-in-residency programs.
Policies & Principles
How to View the Data
When reviewing the data contained in this report, it is critical to understand what the state policies or expectations are regarding arts education. This will provide an important context in which to view the data.
Arts Education and the Law in New Jersey
Beyond the established traditions and the stacks of research showing that arts education is an important part of human development, there are also New Jersey statutes that describe the role and scope of the arts in public education. Arts education in New Jersey is a basic educational right for all New Jersey children – not just the gifted, or the talented, or the economically advantaged. It has a very strong grounding in state administrative code and even in the state Constitution itself. Based on current law, arts education for EVERY STUDENT is a fundamental right anchored in the New Jersey Constitution.
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards1, State Graduation Requirements and the Administrative Code all contain benchmarks that pertain to arts education. The New Jersey Arts Education Census Project compared the results of their research to these benchmarks, in addition to other data, to assess the performance of schools in arts education. The understanding that arts education is a necessary component of whole-child education runs through New Jersey’s standards, requirements and codes.
Here is some of the background about how the laws evolved and where they stand today:
Arts Education and the New Jersey Constitution: A Thorough and Efficient Education
New Jersey is a state with a 120-year-old constitutional guarantee that regardless of residency, its children will receive a “Thorough and Efficient” education. To be clear, the Constitution states:
“The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.”
(Source: New Jersey Constitution, Article VIII, Section IV, paragraph 1)
How Are the Terms "Thorough and Efficient" Defined for Our State?
In May of 1997, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in the case of Abbott v. Burke on the two main parts of the Comprehensive Education Improvement and Financing Act (CEIFA) signed into law in December of 1996 by Governor Whitman. CEIFA was comprised of two parts: the core curriculum content standards and a school funding formula. Justice Adam B. Handler, writing for the majority, upheld the previously authored Core Curriculum Content Standards (now the New Jersey Student Learning Standards), commenting in his decision that they “are facially adequate as a reasonable legislative definition of a constitutional thorough and efficient education.”
(Source: Abbott v. Burke)
It is this, and subsequent rulings by the State Supreme Court that have codified the New Jersey Student Learning Standards as the definition of a “thorough and efficient” education as guaranteed by the state constitution.
The New Jersey Learning Standards
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards (previously known as the Core Curriculum Content Standards) were first developed in 1996 as an attempt to define the “Thorough” in “Thorough and Efficient education” as required by our state’s Constitution. Standards, by their very nature, describe what all students should know and be able to do upon completion of a thirteen-year public education (K-12). Standards are not a curriculum. They define the results expected but leave the process for achieving these results up to local school districts.
The 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts
On June 3, 2020, the New Jersey State Board of Education adopted the 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts (NJSLS) identifies essential core learning in the arts, defined as dance, music, theater, visual art and media arts. The NJSLS states:
All students will have equitable access to a quality, arts education that leads to artistic literacy and fluency in the artistic practices of the five art disciplines as a mechanism for:
- Performing, presenting or producing, as artistically literate individuals, by expressing and realizing creative ideas and implementing essential technical skills and cognitive abilities significant to many aspects of life and work in the 21st century;
- Responding to artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and cognizance of the ability of the arts to address universal themes, including climate change;
- Creating new artistic work reflective of a variety of ethnic, racial, and cultural perspectives; and
- Connecting and evaluating how the arts convey meaning through all arts and non-arts disciplines and contexts of our global society.
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Visual and Performing Arts (NJSLS-VPA) describe the expectations for literacy and fluency in five artistic disciplines: dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and media arts. Each artistic discipline has independent skills, knowledge, and content. However, as a field, the arts are interdependent, connected, and inclusive. The NJSLSVPA are designed to guide the delivery of arts education in the classroom with new ways of thinking, learning, and creating. Equitable access to a quality arts education is only achieved when the five arts disciplines are offered continuously throughout the K–12 spectrum.
This means the arts programs must have the same level of academic rigor and educational validity as any other core subject such as language arts literacy or math.
The standards further define learning expectations by grade band. The NJSLS-VPA were created to ensure that all students are able to:
- Communicate with basic literacy in each of the five arts disciplines by the end of grade 5 by using the vocabulary, materials, tools, techniques, and intellectual methods of each arts discipline in a developmentally appropriate manner.
- Beginning in grade 6, student learning in the arts is driven by specialization, with students choosing one of the five arts disciplines based on interest, aptitudes, and career aspirations. By the end of grade 8, students are expected to communicate with competency in their self-selected arts discipline.
- By the end of grade 12, students are expected to communicate with proficiency in one or more arts disciplines of their choice.
By graduation from high school, all students shall, in at least one area of specialization, be able to:
- Respond to works of art with insight and depth of understanding, calling upon informed acquaintance with exemplary works of art from a variety of cultures and historical periods.
- Develop and present basic analyses of works of art from structural, historical, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives, pointing to their impact on contemporary modes of expression.
- Perform/present/produce in a self-selected arts discipline with consistency, artistic nuance, and technical ability, defining and solving artistic problems with insight, reason, and technical proficiency.
- Relate various types of arts knowledge and skills within and across arts disciplines, by mixing and matching competencies and understandings in artmaking, history, culture, and analysis in any arts-related project.
School districts have until September 2022 to update and align local arts education curricula to the new Visual and Performing Arts Standards.
High School Graduation Requirements in the Arts
The New Jersey Administrative Code requires that, in order to successfully complete high school, students must meet the state’s Graduation Requirements, including 5 credits (1 year) in Visual & Performing Arts for High School graduation effective with the 2004-2005 ninth grade class (graduating class of 2008).
A Statement of Principles
The Value and Quality of Arts Education
We, the undersigned representatives of professional education associations, share a deep concern about the nature, role, importance, and future of arts education in the schools where our members teach, administer, supervise, develop and implement education policy.
We are unanimous in our agreement that all New Jerseyans who share our concern about the quality of education in general, and of arts education in particular (dance, music, theatre and visual arts), should understand the value of arts education for every child, and we encourage those who will work with us to enhance and support arts education in our schools. To that end, we invite all New Jerseyans, both within the professional education community and outside it, to join us in support of the following principles.
First, every student in New Jersey should have a comprehensive education in the arts.
This means that all PreK-12 students should have a thorough, balanced, sequential, in-school program of instruction in the arts, taught by qualified teachers, designed to provide students of all ages with skills and knowledge in the arts in accordance with high state and local standards.
Second, to ensure a basic education in the arts for all students, the arts should remain recognized as serious, core academic subjects.
The arts should not be treated as an extracurricular activity, but as integral core disciplines as they are recognized in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. In practice, it means that effective arts education requires sequential curricula, regular time-on-task, qualified teachers, and an equitable share of educational resources. Similarly, arts instruction should be carried out with the same academic rigor and high expectations as other core subjects.
Third, as education policy makers develop decisions, they should incorporate the multiple lessons of recent research concerning the value and positive impact of arts education.
The arts have a unique ability to communicate the ideas and emotions of the human spirit. Connecting us to our history, our traditions, and our heritage, the arts have a beauty and power unique in our culture. At the same time, a growing body of research indicates that education in the arts provides significant cognitive benefits and bolsters academic achievement, beginning at an early age and continuing through school.
- There is a demonstrated, direct correlation between improved SAT scores and time spent studying the arts. In 2014, The College Board reported that students with four years of study in the arts outscored students with no arts instruction by a combined total of 111 points on the critical reading and mathematics portions of the SAT.
- Statistically significant links are being reported between music instruction and spatial reasoning. In one widely cited meta-analysis of 15 studies (Journal of Aesthetic Education, 2000), after six months, students who have had active music instruction showed enhanced temporal-spatial ability than did uninstructed students. The findings indicate that music instruction enhances the same higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science, and engineering.
- There is a demonstrated, direct correlation between improved SAT scores and time spent studying the arts. In 2014, The College Board reported that students with four years of study in the arts outscored students with no arts instruction by a combined total of 111 points on the critical reading and mathematics portions of the SAT.
- As numerous school-based programs around the country have repeatedly reported, study of the arts helps students think and integrate learning across traditional disciplinary lines. In the arts, they learn how to work cooperatively, pose and solve problems, and forge the vital link between personal (or group) effort and quality of result. These skills and attitudes, not incidentally, are vital for success in the 21st century workplace. Sequential arts education also contributes to building technological competencies. It imparts academic discipline and teaches such higher level thinking skills as analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating both personal experience and data. Finally, research findings indicate that arts education enhances students’ respect for the cultures, belief systems and values of their fellow learners and plays an important role in the development of social and emotional skills.
Fourth, qualified arts teachers and sequential curriculum must be recognized as the basis and core for substantive arts education for all students.
Teachers, who are qualified as arts educators by virtue of academic study and artistic practice, provide the very best arts education possible. In-school arts programs are designed to reach and teach all students, not merely the interested, the talented, or those with a particular socioeconomic background or abilities. These teachers and curricula should be supported by local education funding, nurtured by higher education, and afforded professional development benefits from outstanding teachers and trainers in the organizations we represent.
Fifth, arts education programs grounded in rigorous instruction, provide meaningful assessment of academic progress and performance, and take their place within a structure of direct accountability to school officials, parents, and the community.
In-school programs that are fully integrated into local curricula afford the best potential for achieving these ends.
Sixth, community arts providers that offer exposure to, and enrichment through the arts in both in-school and out-of-school settings give valuable support and enhancement to an in-school arts education.
As a matter of policy or practice these kinds of activities should complement a balanced, sequential arts education taught by qualified teachers, as shaped by clear standards, and as focused by the content of the arts disciplines.
Seventh, integrating the arts into other curricular areas, when done properly, enlivens learning for our students. Arts integration should be coordinated between the arts educators and the other content specialists and/or community partners to ensure learning outcomes in all content areas are met. However, arts integration, while a valuable tool for learning, is not a substitute for the acquisition of skills and knowledge provided by in-school arts education programs.
Eighth and finally, we offer our unified support to those programs, policies, and practitioners that reflect these principles.
On behalf of the students we teach, the schools we administer and work in, and the communities we serve, we ask all New Jerseyans who care deeply about making the whole spectrum of creative, cultural and cognitive development available to their children to join us in advancing opportunities for all children to receive an education in the arts.
New Jersey Association of School Administrators
New Jersey Education Association
New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association
New Jersey School Boards Association
New Jersey PTA
Arts Ed NJ
Access to Arts Education
After reaching universal access to arts education in 2019 (all schools offering one or more arts courses for students), there were 20 schools reporting no arts programs in 2021. Returning to universal access to arts education for all students should be a priority. Universal access has been a goal of Arts Ed NJ and the Arts Ed Now campaign.
Overall Access: In total, 99.4% of New Jersey students have access to some arts instruction in at least one of the four arts disciplines with 99% of all schools providing access.
Access by Age Group: High schools provide universal access to arts instruction (100%) across the state. In both elementary and middle schools, 99% of schools provide access to arts instruction.
Access Over Time: A total of 7,220 (0.6%) students attend 20 schools (1%) every day with no arts instruction. This is a significant decline from the more than 77,000 students without access first reported in 2006. This represents a reduction in the number of students without arts education of more than 90% since 2006.
Access by Discipline: While access to music (96%) and visual art (95%) remained stable and nearly universal, there is a significant increase in the percentage change in the number of schools providing access to dance and theatre with dance nearly doubling (97%) from 2016 and theatre increasing by 31%. These increases were across all grade spans for dance and in elementary and middle school for theatre.
Multiple Discipline Offerings
Increases in Schools Offering Multiple Disciplines: There has been a significant increase in the percentage of schools offering three or more arts disciplines between 2016 and 2021. Elementary schools showed the greatest increase with 124% followed by middle schools at 73%. This has been a goal of Arts Ed NJ since 2015.
Current Numbers: 94% of elementary and middle schools and 93% of high schools offer courses in two or more disciplines which is static from prior years.
All Four Disciplines: The percentage of schools offering all four arts disciplines increased from 6% of all schools to 13% of all schools in 2021 for 43% growth.
Overall Participation in 2021: In 2021, 76% of all students participated in some form of arts instruction, representing nearly 1 million students. Elementary participation rates stayed the same at 93%, middle school dropped slightly from 86% to 84% and high school stayed the same at 44%.
Increases from 2016: Since 2016, there has been a significant increase in dance and theatre participation. Dance increased from 3% to 8%. Theatre increase from 3% to 7%. Visual art stayed the same at 69%. Music was the only discipline to decline in 2021 from 65% to 63%.
Increases Where Disciplines are Offered: When we look at only those schools where an arts discipline is offered, what is referred to as the program uptake rate, we see a very different picture for participation with dance and theatre. Dance increases from 8% student participation for all schools to 30% participation when we only include schools that offer dance. Theatre increases from 7% to 18%. Visual art goes from 69% to 72%. Music goes from 63% to 65%. This indicates that the lack of dance and theatre is schools is a barrier to participation. When these courses are offered there is strong demand for student participation.
Uptake by Both Discipline and Grade Span: This is particularly true when looking at the data at the grade span level. Dance participation jumps from 11% in all elementary schools to 62% in elementary schools where dance is offered. The same holds true for theatre.
Course Offerings & Enrollment
Top Courses: offered during 2019/2020 but not offered in 2020/2021 because of COVID-19 based on the percent of all schools (both curricular and co-curricular) .
In 2021, 36% of all schools reported offering adaptive instruction in at least one arts discipline with the most programs in either music or visual art.
Of the schools that provide adaptive instruction, 77% reported special education students being integrated into main arts classes in at least one discipline with either music or visual art being cited most frequently.
Time of Instruction in Elementary Grades
In schools where an arts discipline is offered, the median number of hours per week of instruction remained stable in elementary grades in each discipline from prior studies (45 minutes for music/45 minutes for art, 20 minutes for dance and theatre). However, the percentage of schools offering at least 1 hour per week of instruction across all arts disciplines combined declined from 94% to 90%. This is largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are more arts educators and more schools with full-time arts educators than reported in prior studies.
Full Time Arts Teachers
The percentage of all schools with at least one full time equivalent (FTE) arts teacher continued to increase from prior years.
Percentage of All Schools with Full Time or Part Time Arts Educators
The percentage of schools with full time arts educators has increased across all grade spans. This increase indicates fewer arts teachers are assigned to more than one school.
Total Number of Arts Educators
In 2021, there were 8,280 total arts educators employed in the state including 540 dance, 3,628 music, 893 theater, and 3,219 visual art educators.
Certified Arts Educators as Primary Instructor – Overall
in Schools Offering the Discipline
While the percentage of certified arts educators as the primary instructor in music and visual art remained high there has been a significant increase in the percentage of certified arts educators as the primary instructor in both dance and theatre.
Certified Arts Educators as Primary Educator (Dance/Theatre)
in Schools Offering the Discipline
The charts above highlight the significant increases in certified arts educators being used for dance and theatre.
As a result of the increase in the use of certified dance and theatre educators, the use of visiting artists for instruction declined.
Student/Arts Teacher Ratios
The overall student-to-arts-teacher ratio has improved since 2016 from 163:1 to 140:1. This is a 14% improvement over the period. A lower ratio is preferable. Student/Arts Educator Ratio is an important measure to identify quality.
All Students by Discipline
The arts-student-to-arts-teacher ratios have all improved across all disciplines over the the previous studies.
Arts Students Overall
Arts Students by Discipline
Seventy percent of schools reported having a school or district-based arts supervisor (an increase from 58% in 2016 and 55% in 2011). However, of all district arts supervisors, 56% are certified in an art form (a decrease from 68% in 2016).
Schools provide a wide variety of professional development opportunities for all Certified Arts Educator (CAE); 80% of schools report professional development activities for CAE a slight decrease from 2016 (85%). Only a quarter of all schools (27%) reported professional development in the arts for general classroom teachers (CT) consistent with prior reports.
As first reported in 2006, per-pupil arts spending is a direct predictor of higher or lower levels of arts education. In 2021 there was an increase in Per-Pupil Arts Spending at all school levels and a decline in the number of schools using outside resources to offset budget cuts.
Annual Per-Pupil Arts Spending
On average, per-pupil arts spending is $10.72 per student in elementary schools (a 19% increase from 2016), $14.02 per student in middle schools (a 12% increase from 2016), and $30.52. in high schools (a 15% increase from 2016). This number excludes teacher salaries and capital expenditures.
Over the past ten years per-pupil arts spending has increased by 33% for elementary, 27% for middle schools and 32% for high schools.
Daily Per-Pupil Arts Spending
On average, per-pupil arts spending per day is 6 cents per day for elementary schools , 8 cents per day for middle schools, and 17 cents per day for high schools.
Impact of COVID-19 on Funding
Only 10% of schools reported a decrease in funding during 2021 while 74% stayed the same and 11% reported an increase. Music (9%) and visual art (10%) reported the biggest decreases. Of the schools reporting a decrease only 31% of schools (or 6% of all schools) reported they did not anticipate the funding would return to pre-pandemic levels.
The percent of districts using outside funding to support arts education declined from 39% in 2016 to 32% in 2021. For those districts receiving outside funding the top sources were PTA/PTOs (48%), and District Foundations (39%). Federal Grants were the third-highest (18%) as a result of Federal COVID-19 education funding.
Ninety-three percent (93%) of schools offering any arts courses have at least one dedicated classroom in any of the four arts disciplines. At the grade-band level, 90% of elementary, 96% middle, and 99% of high schools provide dedicated spaces in at least one of the four arts disciplines. This is a slight decline from prior years.
Where an arts discipline is offered, the vast majority of schools are providing appropriately designed and dedicated space.
Repurposed Space During COVID
During the 2021/2022 school year some arts instructional spaces were repurposed to meet other goals for a school. 78% of schools reported repurposing of arts classrooms. For these schools, the majority of schools, 65%, reported they would be returning those classrooms for arts instruction the following year.
Use of Technology
Not surprisingly, There has been a significant increase in the use of student-centered technology in the arts with 84% of all schools reporting use of technology across all disciplines provided compared to 66% in 2016, 54% in 2011, and 33% in 2006. Most schools report using technology across multiple arts disciplines.
State Policies adopted by the New Jersey State Board of Education regarding the visual and performing arts continue to be recognized as some of the best in the nation. While significant gains have been made, enactment of these policies at the school level needs to continue to improve. Greater attention is needed in the inclusion of the arts in school district plans.
As of 2021, 97% of all schools had an arts education curriculum updated to align with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the arts. This is a significant improvement over 2006 when 81% reported alignment. The 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts have already been adopted by 26% of school districts in 2021.
Required Discipline Offerings
While the state arts standards call for education in all four arts disciplines, most elementary (74%) and middle schools (63%) offer only two – usually music and visual arts. The majority of high schools (69%) offered 3 or more disciplines. While only 13% of schools offer all four disciplines this represents 19% of students. This is more than double the 6% report in 2016. Only 9% of elementary schools, 12% of middle schools, and 30% of high schools offer arts education in all four arts disciplines as required. This is an increase over prior years.
Ninety-four percent of New Jersey high schools weigh arts courses equally with the other core subjects. This is a significant improvement from 80% reported in 2006. 90% weigh Honors or Advanced Placement courses equally with similarly rigorous courses in other subjects.
Ninety-seven percent of high schools meet or exceed the five-credit graduation requirement minimum set by the state. This is a significant increase from 83% reported in 2006.
Meet/Exceed Graduation Requirements
97% of high schools meet/exceed the state requirements.
Forty-seven percent of high schools reported that a significant majority (over 50%) of high school seniors exceed the state graduation requirement. This is the same as 2016 and an increase from the 42% reported in 2011.
Arts in Strategic Plans
Since 2011, There have been declines across the board when it comes to school and district level goals, the inclusion of the arts in strategic plans, or the presence of written arts education plans.
Historically, New Jersey schools have had rich and meaningful connections between community arts and cultural organizations and the public schools through field trips, assembly programs, artist-in-residencies, and multi-year partnerships. However, there has been a decline in the engagement between schools and arts and cultural organizations since 2006. The COVID-19 Pandemic reduced the percentage of school engagement with cultural organizations to minimal levels.
Any Arts and Cultural Engagement
Since 2011 there has been a significant decrease in the percentage of schools engaged with ANY arts and cultural partner within the past three years for each study year.
The most recent three years reveal the impact of COVID-19.
New Jersey public schools are providing frequent exposure to professional artists and arts events via field trips. Seventy-one percent (71%) of all schools offered at least one field trip to arts exhibitions, performances, or events within the past three years which is down from 83% in 2016. Elementary participation has decreased to 63% for this report from a high of 89% in 2006. COVID-19 was the biggest barrier to participation in 2019 and 2020 followed by “time out of the school day”.
When asked to break down participation in field trips for each of the past three years the impact of COVID-19 becomes clear.
Program selection for field trips is driven by the arts teachers across all school types (ES = 35%, MS = 49%, HS = 64%).
Fifty-one percent (51%) of all schools report at least one school assembly which focused on the arts in the past three years. This represents a steady decline since 2006. COVID-19, cost and time out of the school day are identified as the biggest barriers to participation in 2019 and 2020.
When asked to break down participation in assembly programs for each of the past three years the impact of COVID-19 becomes clear.
Program selection for assembly programs is driven by the school principal for elementary and middle schools (47% and 39% respectively) and arts teachers (57%) at high schools.
Fourteen percent of schools hosted an artist-in-residence program. This is down from 17% in 2016 and 26% in 2006. A “lack of information on the availability of programs” (30%) followed by “no obstacles” (29%) were identified as the biggest obstacles to participation in 2019 and 2020.
When asked to break down participation in artists-in-residencies for each of the past three years the impact of COVID-19 becomes clear.
Program selection for artist-in-residencies is driven by the school principal for elementary (41%), principals, arts supervisors, and arts teachers in middle schools (tied at 26% each) and arts teachers (60%) at high schools.
Multi-year partnerships with one or more community-based arts or cultural organizations is the one area regarding arts and cultural partners that has seen an increase in the past decade going from 28% in 2011 and 2016 to 31% in 2021. Forty-one percent (41%) of high schools, 31% of middle schools, and 30% of elementary schools. All grade levels have increased since 2011.
Funding for Cultural Programs
Funding to engage with arts and cultural organizations is primarily supported by the school/district budget. This has increased since 2011. PTA/PTO is an important source of funding, especially in elementary schools. Student fees are only used for field trips. Artist-In-Residencies receive greater support from sources outside of the school budget or parent groups.
Key measures from the 2021 New Jersey Arts Education Census Report were analyzed across a number of school measures including free/reduced-price lunch, chronic absenteeism, English language learners, district factor groups, and school majority race/ethnicity. Below are the most notable measures from this analysis.
Access to dance increases as the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage of the school increases, decreases as District Factor Groups become more affluent, and provide greater access to students in schools that are majority Black or majority Hispanic.
Schools offering three or more disciplines increase with the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage of the school. Schools that are majority Black or Hispanic provide greater access to three or more arts disciplines.
Student access to dance increases as the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage of the school increases, decreases as District Factor Groups become more affluent, and provide greater access to students in schools that are majority Black or majority Hispanic.
Student access to three or more disciplines increases with the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage of the school. Students in schools that are majority Black or Hispanic have greater access to three or more arts disciplines.
Student arts participation is similar across all Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage categories as well as across race/ethnicity. However, as District Factor Groups become more affluent so does overall arts participation.
Dance participation increases as the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage of the school increases, is greater in the less affluent District Factor Groups, and is highest in schools that are majority Black or Hispanic.
Per-Pupil Arts Spending
Per-Pupil Arts Spending decreases and the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage increases as well as when District Factor Groups become more affluent. Per Pupil Arts Spending is highest, by a wide margin, in schools where the majority Race/Ethnicity is White.
Student/Arts Teacher Ratio
Student arts teacher ratios become less favorable as the Free/Reduced Price Lunch percentage increases. This ratio is most favorable in schools where the majority race/ethnicity is Black.
There are 57 charter schools with 25,533 students representing 3% of all schools and 2% of all students. The vast majority of these schools serve grades K-8. Access to, and enrollment in, arts education has improved.
Access to arts education for students attending charter schools is nearly equal to the rate for those attending traditional public schools. When comparing access by discipline, public school students have significantly greater access to music, theatre and visual art while charter school students have greater access to dance.
The percentage of students enrolled in the arts overall is slightly higher for charter schools (84% vs. 76%) overall and across disciplines. However, the lack of high schools in this data impacts the overall average.
Student/Arts Teacher Ratios
The overall arts student-to-arts-educator ratio is 138:1. This remains slightly higher than public schools (106:1) A lower ratio is preferable. However, the enrolled student/arts educator ratio by discipline shows a large gap. Charter school educators have greater student loads which may impact the quality of instruction. Smaller numbers are more favorable.
Per-Pupil Arts Spending
On average, per-pupil arts spending is $16.67 per student in elementary schools, $16.80 per student in middle schools, and $15.48 in high schools. Charter school spending on a per-pupil basis is higher for elementary and middle schools than for public schools.
Arts and Cultural Partners
Most charter schools engage in some arts and cultural activities and have higher engagement with assembly programs than traditional public schools.
The table below provides county-level summaries for three key measures: percentage of students enrolled, student/arts educator ratios, and per-pupil arts spending. The numbers in green are above the state average for the measure. The numbers in red are below the state average for the measure. Two counties are above average on all three measures. Two counties are below average for all three measures.
We recommend that the New Jersey State Board of Education build upon the strong policies in place supporting the visual and performing arts and include the arts in all accountability processes to measure the implementation of these policies.
We recommend that the New Jersey State Board of Education require ALL schools to publicly report on an annual basis information regarding 1) access to arts courses; 2) level of student participation in the arts; and 3) certified teachers and student arts teacher ratios. Currently, this data is only released for middle and high schools. This information should be included in NJ SMART and any state accountability system as part of the New Jersey State Plan for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
We recommend that each school district include the visual and performing arts in district strategic plans to ensure all students have access to a quality arts education as part of their educational experience. Arts Ed NJ is available as a resource.
With the passage of ESSA we recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education require school districts to report on course weighting in the visual and performing arts in calculating a pupil’s grade point average, including honors and/or advanced placement arts courses are reported as part of NJ QSAC or any future accountability system.
We strongly recommend that the New Jersey State Board of Education reinstate a board level liaison for Arts Education to interface with both the New Jersey State Department of Education, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and Arts Ed NJ.
We recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education continue to collaborate with Arts Ed NJ to improve the capacity of school districts and/or individual schools to implement a comprehensive, standards-based, sequential visual and performing arts Education.
We recommend that the New Jersey State Board of Education, the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the professional arts education organizations, school districts, school administrators, school board members, educators, parents, and concerned citizens continue to call on Arts Ed NJ as a resource for arts education policy issues.
We recommend that the New Jersey State Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education establish the following goals for arts education by 2025:
- Return to universal access to arts education for all students
- 100% annual arts education participation rates for elementary and middle school students
- 60% annual arts education participation rate for high school students
- Continue to increase the number of schools offering arts opportunities in more than 2 disciplines
Attainment of these goals would increase New Jersey’s overall arts education participation rates from 76% to 85% of all students and would serve an additional 120,000 students.
We recommend school administrators ensure students have access to all four arts disciplines as required by state code. We recommend the New Jersey Department of Education report on the number of disciplines offered by schools as part of the department’s School Performance Report.
We recommend the New Jersey State Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education work together to determine why so many students in elementary and middle schools who should be receiving arts instruction are not.
We recommend vocational/technical schools offering day-long programs provide the appropriate instruction in the visual and performing arts as required by state code for all students. The New Jersey Department of Education should determine what, if any, barriers are keeping these schools from providing instruction in the arts.
We recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education, with Arts Ed NJ partners, identify schools where arts instruction is unavailable or very limited and support policies and resources that restore and/or improve arts education in these schools.
We recommend that New Jersey state colleges and universities include visual and performing arts coursework in the high school GPA calculations used to determine eligibility for enrollment, and at least the equivalent of one year of instruction in the visual and performing arts be required for entrance in all institutions of higher learning.
We recommend that the New Jersey School Counselor Association collaborate with Arts Ed NJ on the development of professional development programs to increase the knowledge and understanding of the contribution of arts education to the development of all students.
We recommend that the New Jersey State Department of Education work with Arts Ed NJ and other appropriate professional organizations collaborate to increase professional development for school and district administrators regarding the importance of the visual and performing arts.
We recommend all districts employ an Arts Supervisor with teaching certification in an arts discipline for the coordination of curriculum implementation, alignment of programs between schools, and the most effective use of personnel and resources.
We recommend the development of a “best practices” guide regarding both staffing, scheduling, and implementation of arts education to assist struggling schools and encourage school administrators to engage in additional professional development on these topics.
We recommend arts educators and other arts education supporters expand the use of the ARTS ED NOW campaign as a vehicle to help promote their programs and raise awareness regarding the important role arts education plays in the development of all students.
We recommend that schools and districts exceed the current state averages for per-pupil arts spending to support visual and performing arts instruction.
We continue to recommend that per-pupil arts spending be included in the Comparative Spending Guide for every public school and included in school performance reports.
We recommend efforts should be made to address the equity gap that appears in the areas of participation, per-pupil arts spending, and student arts teacher ratios. These gaps between schools were not present 15 years ago.
We continue to recommend that the New Jersey Schools Development Authority ensure that all new schools and school additions include the appropriate physical facilities to support instruction in the visual and performing arts.
We recommend Arts Ed NJ serve as a centralized clearinghouse for information about visual and performing arts education programs, policies, best practices, models, news and information to aid schools, districts, and communities.
We recommend that school districts and cultural organizations continue to collaborate to enhance and enrich the curricular-based visual and performing arts education programs.
We recommend the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts provide resources and attention to support collaboration between schools and cultural organizations in arts education initiatives.
We recommend that Arts Ed NJ partner organizations work to identify the cause of the decline in community collaborations and artist-in-residence programs and recommend actions for the field to enable more schools to utilize the vast educational resources of NJ’s cultural organizations.
We recommend Arts Ed NJ partner organizations work together to provide additional professional development and information to school administrators to raise awareness about the educational benefits of these school/cultural organization partnerships.
We recommend that New Jersey foundations and other grant-making agencies and organizations use these Census Project results to help direct resources to areas of greatest need.
About the Data
Arts Ed NJ conducts the New Jersey Arts Education Census Survey every five years to capture details regarding the status and condition of arts education for every school in the state of New Jersey.
All public school principals in New Jersey were required by the Commissioner of Education to provide data on arts education from their school for this Arts Education Census Project. Data were provided via a special online questionnaire to Quadrant Research. The data were then forwarded to Bedrock Research for statistical analysis, which is the basis of this report.
A single questionnaire was used. The survey was programmed to only show relevant questions based on school type (elementary, middle, high). The questionnaire was implemented during the 2020-2021 school year, and the majority of items for each school type were identical. A majority of the questions were identical to the 2005/2006, 2010/2011 and the 2015/2016 census. School administrators were contacted by the Commissioner of Education on February 17, 2021 and advised of the survey process and instructions. Data collection began on March 1, 2021 and the last completed questionnaire was collected on July 23, 2021.
The goal of 100% participation in this study was nearly achieved. Of the 2,295 public schools targeted for participation, 2,157 successfully completed a questionnaire, yielding a 94.0% response rate. This includes 57 charter schools. The total number of public and charter schools included in this analysis is 2,157 with a total student population of 1,156,940.
Because of the high response rate there is only a negligible (± 1%) margin-of-error associated with these results due to sampling variation. In other words, the results obtained are statistically equivalent (to three decimal points) to those obtained had all schools responded.
All 21 counties and all school districts in New Jersey are represented in this study.
The New Jersey schools are represented by a majority of schools with at least one elementary grade (70%). The remaining schools had middle school grades (38%) and/or high school grades (18%). School types are not mutually exclusive; a single building could be designated as being an elementary school, a middle school, and/or a high school, depending in which grades they have enrollment. For the purpose of this report, schools with ‘elementary grades’ are those with at least one grade from kindergarten through fifth grade. Middleschool grades are grades six through eight. High school grades are grades nine through twelve.
The data does not include any arts instruction provided by non-school entities in the data analysis. Information on the connections between schools and cultural organizations is included based on information provided by the schools through the Census.
Free and Reduce-Priced Lunch data is from the Common Core of Data file from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Robert B. Morrison, Quadrant Research
Survey Administration and Analysis
Amber Young, Bedrock Research
Pat Cirillo, Cypress Research
Robert B. Morrison, Quadrant Research
Editorial Support and Final Report Design:
Social Impact Studios
Ennis Carter, Director
Devon Bojtschewsky, Interactive Designer
Brian Raudenbush, Visual Designer
Emily Scott, Impact Coach
For Arts Ed NJ:
Robert B. Morrison, Director
Kira Rizzuto, Director of Learning Programs
Priscilla Hopkins-Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications
Aaron Brown, Development Manager
Mary Reece, Board Chair
Ann Marie Miller, Board Vice-Chair
Margaret El, Board Member
Bari Erlichson, Board Member
Jeremy Grunin, Board Member
Penelope Lattimer, Board Member
Barbara Moran, Board Member
New Jersey State Department of Education:
Angelica Allen-McMillan, Ed. D., Acting Commissioner of Education
Lisa Habrel, acting Director, Office of Standards
Dale Schmid, Former Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator
New Jersey State Council on the Arts:
Allison Tratner, Executive Director
Michelle Baxter-Schaffer, Director of Communications
Samantha Clarke, Program Officer, Arts Education & Lifelong Learning, Multidisciplinary
Porché Hardy, Former Program Officer, Arts Education
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation:
Tanuja Dehne, President and CEO
Wendy Liscow, Former Program Officer
ArtPride New Jersey Foundation:
Adam Perle, President
Ann Marie Miller, Director of Advocacy & Public Policy
New Jersey Professional Arts Education Associates:
Art Educators of New Jersey
Dance New Jersey
New Jersey Music Educators Association
Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey
Governor Phil Murphy for his steadfast and public support of arts education in all New Jersey schools,
the late Mark Biedron, former President of the New Jersey State Board of Education, for being a life-long champion for arts education, and
John Pietrowski, Director of Arts and Events, Madison Community Arts Center, for his original inspiration and work that gave life to this project.
The New Jersey Arts Education Census Project is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Quadrant Research.