Statewide Report Calls for Increased Arts Learning Opportunities in PA Schools and Communities, Offers Policy Recommendations

The Arts and Education Initiative of EPLC Supporting the Arts in the Schools and Communities of Pennsylvania

Arts and Education Initiative report calls arts education the key to a
“healthy, prosperous and vibrant future in Pennsylvania”

HARRISBURG-(March 14, 2012)-A report released by the Arts and Education Initiative (AEI) of the Harrisburg-based Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) urges state policymakers to make access to high-quality, comprehensive, standards-based arts education a priority for K-12 students in Pennsylvania. The report includes nearly 40 recommendations for state policymakers and other audiences and seeks to improve support for the arts and arts education in Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts and diverse community settings.  

To read the full list of recommendations, visit (available at 10am on Wednesday, March 14).

“Our report emphasizes that citizens of all ages should have access to a rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and that all PK-12 students should be provided a high-quality, comprehensive, standards-based arts education,” said Ron Cowell, EPLC president.  “For our students, arts activities in schools enhance student achievement and prepare young people with the 21st-century skills they need to be successful in our increasingly global society.”

“Access to the arts in its many forms is essential to nurturing an educated citizenry in Pennsylvania,” said Jordan Crosby, Director of AEI, “but the arts in schools and general participation in the arts are threatened with decline at a time when we need them most.”
Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and a member of the AEI Study Group, said the report “provides practical, creative recommendations for action by state and local policy makers. It is needed now more than ever as schools across the state struggle to provide students opportunities to learn through the arts, opportunities that foster creativity and engage students in learning.”

The report calls on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to take a stronger leadership role in the arts by reestablishing at least one full-time staff position dedicated to arts education.  “This position, now unfilled for more than a year, is pivotal to fulfilling the Department’s role and our recommendations concerning arts curriculum, assessment, and professional development,” said Cowell.   The Department is also urged to re-establish the Governor’s School for the Arts and to initiate a new arts education information system to inform future policymaking.

The report also calls on local school boards to require an arts credit for high school graduation, and urges the State Board of Education to strengthen the current graduation requirement of a “culminating project”, a requirement that the board is considering eliminating completely.  Legislators are urged to establish an Arts and Culture Caucus and the Governor is urged to promote interagency collaboration to enable “greater opportunities for arts and culture to flourish in Pennsylvania.”

“The recommendations of the report emphasize that there are many decision-makers who can contribute to strengthening the arts and arts education in Pennsylvania,” said Crosby,  “but we especially need more champions and leadership among key state policymakers.”

Although the recommendations include new policies that the General Assembly, state agencies, local governments, and school districts should develop, the report also emphasizes that state policymakers need to do a better job of implementing certain current policies and supporting successful programs that have been affected by budget cuts.   Cutbacks in support for arts education activities of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the grants it makes to arts organizations, as well as the failure of the Department of Education to monitor the requirement for school districts to provide local assessments in the arts, are cited.

“While this report is not primarily about funding,” said Cowell, “we cannot ignore the adverse effects that cuts in state funding for arts, museums and education have had on learning opportunities in schools and communities.  State lawmakers need to carefully consider whether they will further erode or will build these assets that we know contribute to student success, a stronger workforce, and vibrant communities.”

“The AEI report is a powerful advocacy voice for arts education in our schools and arts learning experiences for Pennsylvanians of all ages,” said Clyde McGeary, former member of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and former Curriculum Executive in the Department of Education.

Noting that in addition to budget cuts affecting the arts and arts education, “a review of legislation introduced in recent years reveals practically no interest by state lawmakers in arts and arts education issues,” the report calls for greater collaboration and more effective advocacy efforts by supporters of the arts and arts education.

Sandra Ruppert, Director of the National Arts Education Partnership, said, “Kudos…..on producing a report that is not likely to sit on the shelf.  Extremely well-written and very well researched.”

The report follows a year-long process of discussions by a 32-member Study Group, a comprehensive review of relevant public policies in Pennsylvania and other states, eight regional community forums, and surveys of several stakeholder groups by EPLC.

The AEI project of EPLC is supported with grants from the Heinz Endowments, the William Penn Foundation, and the Buhl Foundation.


About The Arts and Education Intitative
The Arts and Education Initiative (AEI) is a major project of the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  The goals of the Initiative are to strengthen public and policymaker support for the arts in Pennsylvania; improve partnerships between the arts and the education communities across the Commonwealth; and enact public policies that support the arts in schools and communities and the learning opportunities they afford to people of all ages.

About the Education Policy and Leadership Center
The mission of The Education Policy and Leadership Center is to encourage and support the development and implementation of effective state-level education policies to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.


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