Arts Education in New Jersey Schools Continues to Grow

March 2, 2015

VH1 Save the Music photo

New Jersey continues to lead the nation through the release of detailed arts education information to the public and the research findings look promising—a 4% increase in high school arts participation from the previous year with significant increases in dance and theater participation.

These findings are based on the arts educator assignment data for all schools and the high school arts participation data from the New Jersey School Performance Reports just released by the New Jersey State Department of Education. The findings for the 2013/2014 school year are accessible through the Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education created by the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership found at

According to the new state data, 94 percent of schools in New Jersey reported offering arts education programs that provide access to nearly 1.3 million students (97 percent of all students). Student participation in high school arts programs grew to just under 50 percent of all students.

“New Jersey continues to provide innovative policies and pioneering initiatives for arts education by offering detailed information about the status and condition of arts education in every school across our state,” commented Robert Morrison, Chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. “We appreciate the New Jersey Department of Education’s support for including the arts in the School Performance Reports, recognizing the important role they play in the educational development of all our students.”

According to Morrison, the findings also reveal that Music and Visual Art are nearly universally available (87 percent of schools reaching 92% of students for Music and 85 percent of schools reaching 91 percent of students for Visual Art).

Among the other key findings for all schools:

  • The percentage of schools providing Dance and Theater continues to lag (7 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
  • 80 percent of schools reported the presence of both Music and Visual Art providing access to 88 percent of all students.
  • Key Findings for High Schools:
  • A total of 49.3 percent of high school students were enrolled in one or more arts disciplines during the 2013-14 school year (representing 191,974 unique students). This represents a 4 percent growth in arts enrollment from the prior year.
  • Among the arts disciplines, visual art has the greatest percentage of enrollment at 31.1 percent (117,613 students) followed by music at 17.5 percent (68,354 students), theater at 3.9 percent (15,261 students) and dance at 2.1 percent (8,087 students).
  • The increases in enrollment were across the board with Dance increasing by 13.5 percent, Theater by 11.5 percent, Music by 4 percent and Visual Art by 2 percent.
  • There are 7,182 professional arts educators providing arts instruction in New Jersey high schools (including 3,545 in music, 3,340 in Visual Arts, 191 in Theater and 106 in Dance). 84 percent of all arts teachers are assigned to one school.
  • Two out of every three high schools (66 percent) reported an increase in arts

The information does not address the quality of the programs, elementary and middle school participation or the impact of scheduling changes created by recent educational reform initiatives or new statewide assessments.

All of these areas require further The Interactive School Performance Dashboards for Arts Education allow citizens to interact with the information, explore student enrollment and levels of participation for each of the four arts disciplines (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) for all high schools as well as the presence of arts programs for every school. The data may be viewed by school, district, county or state totals. Schools and communities will also be able to compare their results to the averages for the entire state.

The call for including arts education as part of annual school reporting dates back to 2007 when the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership released the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Arts Education Census Report, Within Our Power.

Among the report’s many recommendations was that schools should “publicly report on an annual basis information regarding access to, level of participation in visual and performing arts education, and that this information be included as part of a state accountability system.”

New Jersey has long had some of the strongest requirements for arts education in the nation. Since 1996, the visual and performing arts (Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts) have been a part of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and are part of the state’s graduation requirements.

Additionally, New Jersey was the first state to conduct a mandated study to document access, participation and quality of arts. In support of these requirements, research regarding the educational benefits of the arts for all New Jersey students (not just the gifted and talented) is compelling.

Various studies have identified links between involvement in the visual and performing arts and improved attendance, school engagement, increased academic performance, decreased drop out and discipline rates and higher levels of college attendance — areas of improvement vital to student success.

Just as important, the arts develop important life skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and a recent study found New Jersey high schools with more arts education have a greater percentage of students who were highly proficient in language arts on the High School Proficiency Assessment test. High schools with more arts education have a higher percentage of students planning to enroll in a four-year college.

For more information about the School Performance Reports and information regarding arts education visit the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership website.

The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP) is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, with additional support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Prudential Foundation and Quadrant Research. The mission of the NJAEP is to provide 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.

*Above photo is courtesy of VH1 Save the Music Foundation