Education

New survey provides details on arts education classes in LA County

A new survey finds that visual arts is the most commonly taught art form to students in Los Angeles County public schools who receive instruction from community art partners.
A new survey finds that visual arts is the most commonly taught art form to students in Los Angeles County public schools who receive instruction from community art partners.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Many Los Angeles public schools still have major gaps in their arts education programs, even though community groups have stepped in to provide instruction in such areas as music.

A new survey out gives a first-time glimpse at how nonprofits and other groups are providing art classes at schools across the county. 

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"It turns out when we surveyed the community arts partners ... we find that they’re doing a lot of service to elementary grades and less in the upper level grades," said Bronwyn Mauldin, the author of the report by the LA County Arts Commission where she works as the research and evaluation manager.

Public schools in California are legally required to provide instruction for first through 12th-graders in four major arts areas: music, theater, visual arts and dance.

To make that happen, some schools rely on community arts organizations to bring in art teachers. Many schools, it turns out, pay the groups to provide those services.

In its report, the arts commission set out to quantify the scope of arts instruction provided by outside groups in L.A. County’s 81 school districts. 

The survey reflects the answers of 185 respondents, which does not reflect all arts groups or teaching artists. The report calls the collection method "convenience sampling" and the author writes that "it is not possible to know to what degree the findings here represent the larger population of all community arts partners in L.A. County and their activities."

From the responses covering the 2012-2013 school year, about half or 53 percent of all public schools were served by at least one artist or arts organization. That's 1,174 schools out of more than 2,198 within LA County's 81 school districts. 

The findings show that elementary students benefited the most from the arts instruction: 77 percent of community arts education offerings go toward elementary students.

Middle schoolers saw the lowest numbers of partnerships in the arts, according to Mauldin.

She said ideally every school in the county would work with a community arts group to ensure the broadest exposure to arts instruction for all students.

The survey is the first time L.A. County officials have collected data of this kind. Their report shows that in Chicago and New York, data collection efforts and partnerships appear more developed, with 86 percent of schools in the Chicago public schools district working with community arts partners and 82 percent in New York City's school district doing the same. 

The arts commission has created a map that allows users to search its data on arts instruction by individual schools. To check art offerings at your school, visit the Arts for LA's website