An Unfinished Canvas: Arts Education in California: Taking Stock of Policies and Practices – Summary Report


Woodworth, K. R., Gallagher, H. A., Guha, R., Campbell, A. Z., Lopez-Torkos, A. M., and Kim, D. An unfinished canvas. Arts education in California: Taking stock of policies and practices. Summary Report. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.


Over the last decade, California policy-makers have paid increasing attention to the importance of the visual and performing arts in public education (see below). However, beyond developing rigorous standards and calling for instruction in the arts as part of the required course of study, California historically has done little to develop, implement, and sustain comprehensive arts programs that provide all students with access to and opportunities in the arts. Although some California schools have excellent arts programs in place, with well-trained teachers, standards-aligned curricula, and high-quality facilities and materials, most do not. Instead, arts education in California is plagued by a lack of funding, underprepared elementary-level teachers, and inadequate facilities. It suffers from uneven implementation and is often crowded out by other curricular demands. As a result, most students in California do not receive instruction at the level required under state policy. Until now, the state has lacked comprehensive, reliable information to indicate whether it is meeting its goals for arts instruction. Relying on a statewide school survey (1,123 respondents) and case studies of 31 schools in 13 districts, conducted in 2005-06, this first-ever comprehensive study of the state of arts education in California has sought to fill that information gap by taking stock of arts education policies and practices.

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