Would that headline raise your eyebrows? Of course it would.
So why is it no big deal that a GAO report shows that only 7% of schools spend less time on the arts under No Child Left Behind? As one headline put it, ”GAO finds school arts curriculum not hurt by standardized testing”
Over at Eduwonk, Andy says that if the report had shown a higher percentage of schools reporting a loss of class time on the arts there would have been a big stink. I have no doubt that’s true. But it’s equally wrong (not that Andy says this) to dismiss concerns about curriculum narrowing by saying it’s “only” seven percent of schools. Also, the GAO report notes teachers at schools identified as needing improvement and those with higher percentages of minority students were more likely to report a reduction in time spent on the arts.
FIrst, there’s every reason to be skeptical of data gathered by estimating time spent on a subject rather than measuring it. But more to the point, why suggest that curriculum narrowing at “only” seven percent of schools is not a cause for concern? If a prescribed drug had adverse side effects in “only” seven percent of patients–and a higher rate among poor and minority patients (!) – it would be subject to an immediate recall and the line of lawyers filing suit would “only” stretch for miles.
It’s easy to dismiss these findings when it “only” happens in someone else’s school.
I have not poured over the methodologies and results of the GAO report in detail, but one thing does jump out. According to the GAO, most elementary school teachers-about 90 percent-reported that instruction time for arts education remained the same between school years 2004-2005 and 2006-2007.” If I were filling out the survey, I would have reported no change during that time period too. My students had almost zero art and music time during the 2004-2005 school year. Two years later? Still almost none.