Chicago Public Schools Reports Increased Access to Arts Education, Despite Statewide Budget Crisis

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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Ingenuity Inc., an organization that works to improve and expand arts education in Chicago, released its annual progress report surveying arts education in Chicago Public Schools.  Considering that earlier this year, Illinois’ public school districts were $20 billion in debt, Ingenuity’s findings may surprise you.

In 2013, CPS announced its Arts Education Plan, which states: “Through a comprehensive and sequential study of visual art, music, dance, and theater from Pre K-12th grade, all Chicago Public School students will have the opportunity to develop into innovative thinkers and creative problem solvers who are capable of expressing themselves, understanding others and contributing to their city’s culture and economy for years to come.”

Now, Ingenuity reports that more than two-thirds of Chicago Public Schools students attend a school “strong” or “excelling” in the arts. What does it mean to be strong or excelling? Ingenuity gave schools a Creative Schools Certification rating, a four-point scale they developed ranging from emerging to excelling.

An elementary school that is considered excelling provides 120 minutes of arts instruction to every student every week and has an arts instructor to student ratio of 1:350. A high school that is considered excelling offers arts education in three different disciplines, and has an arts instructor to student ratio of 1:350. The five arts disciplines defined by CPS are dance, drama, music, visual art, and media arts. Below see how all CPS schools were rated according to data Ingenuity released in its full report.

In addition to an increase in the number of “strong” and “excelling” schools, Ingenuity’s report indicated increases in the number of arts instructors in schools, as well as an increase in the number of minutes elementary schools provide arts instruction per week.

Ingenuity also found that 96% of elementary school students have access to arts instruction, while 59% of schools provide students with 120 minutes of weekly arts instruction.

Almost all schools – 96% – benefited from community partnerships with professional arts organizations such as the Joffrey Ballet and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In total, Ingenuity identified 579 arts partners that work with CPS students.

How much increased access to arts education CPS students receive varies. The chart below reveals that students who receive schooling in neighborhoods located in Chicago’s far north and northwestern sides have more access to arts education than students schooled in other neighborhoods throughout the city.

Ingenuity gathered data for the report through multiple sources, including Arts Liaisons who are current CPS employees designated by principals to be an “arts champion” for the school. Additional data was provided by schools and community arts partnerships. Ingenuity collected data from 88% of 660 schools in CPS.

Follow the latest stories about Chicago Public Schools from WTTW, WFMT’s sister station, including more information about Ingenuity’s recent report.