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Report: Arts Education Leads to Higher Test Scores

New Jersey Arts Education Census Project surveys nearly all schools to compare arts education offerings.

A statewide survey of arts education programs in New Jersey schools to be released Thursday finds a correlation between schools with more arts education programs and greater proficiency scores on the language sections of the state's High School Proficiency Assessment.  

The report is a follow-up to one conducted in 2007, and is a joint project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the state Department of Education, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, and Quadrant Arts Education Research.

According to Robert Morrison, project coordinator of the report and founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, the report compiled survey responses from about 99 percent of the schools asking for information on as many as 26 different areas, such as the number of arts teachers and class offerings, facilities, and funding resources the school has.

Morrison said each school was then assigned a score, based on the school's ranking in each area.  The report will be available to the public on the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership website following a news conference Thursday morning at the War Memorial in Trenton.

"The reason we use an index is to allow schools to do well differently," Morrison said. He added that because of the indexing, "it takes some doing to get a below average score."

The 2007 survey was undertaken at the behest of the NJ Department of Education to measure how well schools were fulfilling the state's requirement for arts education, which includes requirements to meet the Core Curriculum Standards with programs in music, theater, dance and visual arts.

But those requirements aren't always met—Morrison said the first report found some schools were awarding diplomas to students who did not meet state requirements because the schools did not offer the mandated arts classes.

"There were a number of issues like that that rose to the top, and corrective steps were taken," he said.

While many may expect the scores to be higher in the more affluent schools in the state, Morrison said that's not always the case.

"I walk into schools all the time where they don't have the resources some of these schools do, and they have wonderful programs," he said. "These principals will walk over hot coals for the success of the programs.

"I've seen some of the strongest arts programs in some of the poorest districts," Morrison added.

The report is being released as part of a coordinated the "Arts Day in New Jersey" program May 10, aimed at highlighting not only arts education, but also the economic and cultural impact arts have in the state. 

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