Based upon report from L A Johnson, NPR
In the USA, public schools are run by local authorities, elected as a form of local government and mostly with taxation powers. The US has 13 times the population of Australia and about 15,000 school districts.
Australia has 8 equivalents – public ‘school districts’ run by state governments. Things are simpler here.
And yet (admittedly for only the third time ever), the US government has released a national report card examining the knowledge, understanding and abilities of U.S. eighth-graders in visual arts and music. Has this ever happened in Australia? Does it even happen at state government level?
The findings come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which regularly reports on U.S. student achievement, including math, reading and science. Only in 1997, 2008 and 2016 has it looked at music and visual arts.
Overall, the national scores on arts achievement remained flat when compared with 2008, said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of NAEP. ‘Granted this is not the best score,’ she said, especially when compared with U.S. students’ progress in math. ‘Math has shown a tremendous improvement.’
The arts assessment measured students’ knowledge based on their ability to understand and interpret historical pieces of art and music. The report also looked at their creative abilities. In one exercise, students were asked to draw a self-portrait, which was then scored for attention to detail, composition and use of materials.
The research used a sample of 8,800 students. In music, students averaged 150 on a scale of 300 eight years ago, and there basically was no change in 2016. There was a similar outcome in visual arts. Only 42% of eighth graders had taken an arts class – down slightly from 45 percent in 2008.
Among other key findings:
- Regional differences: Students in the Northeast outperformed students from all other regions in music and visual arts
- Gender differences: As with past assessments, female students outperformed male students in both categories; and the music performance of male students declined significantly from eight years ago.
- Among students who receive free and reduced-price lunches, performance in visual arts increased, narrowing the gap between those students and their peers who come from higher-income families.
- Students identified as Asian/Pacific Islanders outscored white students in both music and visual arts for the first time.
- Eighth-graders reported being less likely to take private art and music lessons than they did in 2008.
But the main point is that the US government bothered to find out.