MOST NEW JERSEYANS BELIEVE ARTS EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT BUT ARE MIXED ON ITS FUNDING, IMPLEMENTATION AND STUDENTS’ ACCESS TO PARTICIPATION OPPORTUNITIES
Few Active in Promoting Arts Education in Schools and Communities
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With school back in session, New Jersey residents are not only thinking about “reading and writing and ‘rithmetic” but also about the importance of arts education, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in partnership with Arts Ed NJ for the Arts Ed Now campaign. Nine in 10 residents say that receiving an education in the arts – which includes lessons in dance, music, theater, visual arts, media arts, and other forms of creativity – is “very” or “somewhat” important in the classroom (90 percent), through before or after school programs (93 percent), and through cultural organizations in their community (89 percent).
Likewise, half or more of residents believe arts education is just as important as a whole range of other subjects, including English language arts (53 percent), science (50 percent), social studies (56 percent), computer science (49 percent), health and physical education (56 percent), and world languages (54 percent); a plurality feel this way when arts education is compared to math (43 percent) and career and life skills classes (45 percent).
Furthermore, New Jerseyans believe that arts education can help students “a lot” in in becoming more creative and imaginative (87 percent), building confidence (81 percent), improving communication skills (74 percent), becoming more tolerant of other cultures (73 percent), developing discipline and perseverance (69 percent), improving overall academic performance (60 percent), or gaining workforce readiness and career skills (53 percent).
Yet while New Jerseyans largely agree that arts education is an essential part of learning, they are somewhat mixed on how well it is being taught. When asked to grade how they feel public schools in their area are doing in terms of providing arts education, 16 percent of residents award an “A” letter grade, 29 percent a “B,” and 24 percent a “C.” This is slightly lower than the average grade residents assign to other core subjects like math (27 percent “A’s”), English (27 percent “A’s”), science (24 percent “A’s”), and social studies (19 percent give “A’s”), as well as computer science (20 percent “A’s”), and physical education (18 percent “A’s”). Only world language (13 percent “A’s”) and life skills classes (8 percent “A’s”) receive worse grades than the arts from New Jerseyans.
New Jerseyans are also mixed on whether students have enough opportunities to participate in arts education in the classroom during the school day (28 percent “strongly agree” that they do, 32 percent “somewhat agree”), through before or after school programs (33 percent “strongly agree,” 29 percent “somewhat agree”), or through community organizations (24 percent “strongly agree,” 31 percent “somewhat agree”).
Almost half of New Jerseyans (48 percent) believe their local public school district does not spend enough on arts education; 31 percent believe their local district spends the right amount, and just 5 percent believe their district spends too much. When it comes to the arts, in general, almost all residents believe they should be funded by government in some form – whether by local government (9 percent), state government (15 percent), or both (68 percent).
“New Jerseyans across the board see the value of arts education, but certain key subgroups are especially supportive,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University. “Women, non-white residents, and younger residents, for example, are more likely to believe the arts are important, that students in their area do not have enough opportunities to participate, that the arts help children build various skills, and that the arts do not receive enough funding.”
Despite considerable support for the arts, sizable numbers don’t participate in activities that help to promote and increase arts education. More than half have not taken a child to a program or event (56 percent), donated or raised money (63 percent), volunteered (66 percent), or shared something on social media related to the arts (64 percent) in their local schools or communities within the past year. Almost half have not discussed arts programs or events with others (47 percent), four in 10 (41 percent) have not attended an arts program or event themselves, and over a third (37 percent) have not encouraged a child to participate in an arts program or event. One in five residents have not done any of these activities.
Moreover, nearly half of respondents have not spoken about arts education in any way – whether with teachers, school administrators and elected officials, or in public meetings or on social media. Being a parent makes a difference, however. Parents and guardians are more likely to participate in arts-related activities and discuss arts education with others.
“This survey confirms what we have long suspected,” stated Robert Morrison, co-director of Arts Ed NJ. “While there is almost universal support for arts education in our schools, the public does not believe there is enough emphasis on, or resources to support, these programs. As the state transitions to focusing on a ‘well-rounded education’ as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, this is an important moment for districts across the state to examine their arts education programs and look for ways to improve opportunities for all.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 714 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Aug. 24-28, 2017. The sample has a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.