No Child Left Behind

Narrowing the Curriculum?  

"The arts provide a more comprehensive and insightful education because they invite students to explore the emotional, intuitive, and irrational aspects of life that science is hard pressed to explain."
~Charles Fowler

Cuts in arts programs leave sour note in schools  

Grade 12 - Torn Paper Collage 

 Grade 6 - Oil Pastel

 Grade 10 - Ceramic Sculpture 

Grade 1 - Landscape painting 

    Grade 12 - Self-Portrait  Chalk Pastels  

Grade 4 - Repetitions Self-portrait Painting

Van Gogh Still Life

Grade 8 Photoshop Digital Image 

“The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 includes in almost every section of the law support and assistance for core academic subjects” (Arts Education Partnership, et al. 2005).
“The No Child Left Behind Act’s definition of core academic subjects includes the arts. In this respect, the arts have equal billing with reading, math, science, and other disciplines”
(Arts Education Partnership, et al. 2005).

While NCLB claims to have opened opportunities for arts education, art educators are left wondering if its focus on reading and math have taken time and energy away from other important subjects resulting in a narrowing of the curriculum. 

If the Arts are considered by law to be a "core academic subject, why, then, are Arts programs across the country suffering?

 "Because of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, public schools must meet specific test scores in math and reading to qualify for federal funding. In an effort to meet those scores, educational surveys and statistics show other programs, primarily art and music, plummet to the bottom of the funding totem pole" (Washut, 2007). 

"As more and more schools focus their budgets on core curriculum classes to meet the required test scores, more and more classes like art and music get cut or under-funded, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site. And there’s no end in sight. President George W. Bush’s 2007-08 federal budget plan proposes cutting 42 Department of Education programs, including the $35-million Arts in Education program" (Washut, 2007).

In a survey undertaken by the Council for Basic Education  "ample evidence of waning commitment to the arts, foreign language, and elementary social studies" (von Zastrow et al., 2004) was dicovered. In addition they uncovered that schools with high minority populations are experiencing the "greatest erosion of curriculum."

More specifically the study disclosed:

  • 25% of all principals surveyed reported decreases in instructional time for the arts; 8% reported increases. 
  • 33% of all principals anticipated future decreases in instructional time; 7% anticipated increases. 
  • 36% of high-minority school principals reported decreases in instructional time for the arts; of these 36%, well over a third reported large decreases. By contrast, only11% reported increases, and a mere 1% reported large increases. 
  • 42% of high-minority school principals anticipated future decreases in instructional time for the arts; over a third of these 42% expected large decreases. 10% anticipated increases, and only 1% anticipated large increases.

Locally, art educators within the public school systems are feeling the same narrowing of the curriculum, while on the university level, Ohio University has totally eliminated its Art Education program. 

Why, you may ask, should we worry about the state of the Arts?

Twenty-first century life is becoming more and more complex, and with that complexity comes the growth of requirements for educational success. We are bombarded daily by information, sounds and images channeled to us via television, the internet, other electronic media and multimedia technologies. Political and economic events a world away have an extensive and almost immediate effect on our lives.  Jobs, retirement, health care and so much more are changing at a rapid fire pace and becoming more complicated. For these reasons, and many more, we need the Arts.

"Because the liberal arts span the domains of human experience, they afford the best foundation for the diverse challenges that confront us in this rapidly evolving world. At the same time, a liberal arts education returns us to first principles, fostering an understanding of what it means to be human, an understanding that transcends limiting conceptions of occupation, social class, race, or nationality" (von Zastrow et al., 2004).

"CBE believes that universal access to such an education is a largely unacknowledged prerequisite to equal opportunity and therefore an essential birthright. All further learning builds upon the academic foundation established by English, math, science,
history, government, geography, languages, and the arts. As soon as we sacrifice one or more of these subjects to budgetary constraints, or to simple apathy, we limit students’ opportunities after graduation. In a society founded on equality, such sacrifices are unconscionable. prerequisite to equal opportunity"
(von Zastrow et al., 2004).


Arts Education Partnership, American Arts Alliance, American Association of     Museums, American Symphony Orchestra League, Americans for the Arts, Association of Art Museum Directors, et al. (2005) No subject left behind: A guide to arts education opportunities in the 2001 NCLB Act. Retrieved May 3, 2007 from 

Center on Education Policy, (2005). NCLB: Narrowing the Curriculum Policy Brief 3. Retrieved May 4, 2007 from DocumentID=51&C:\CFusionMX7\verity\Data\dummy.txt

Clements, M. (2003). Budget Cuts Paint Dreary Picture for State Arts Funding. Retrieved May 14, 2007 contentId=15291

Hurley, R. (2004). Cuts in arts programs leave sour note in schools. On WEAC. Retrieved May 14, 2007 from

King, K. & Zucker, S. (2005). Narrowing the Curriculum. Retrieved May 15, 2007 from D4CB2518C2B2/0/CurriculumNarrowing.pdf

Van Harken, J. (2003). Budgets cut student experience. Retrieved May 14, 2007 from

von Zastrow, C. & Janc, H. (2004). Academic Atrophy: The Condition of the Liberal Arts in America’s Public Schools. Retrieved May 14, 2007 from

Washut, R. (2007). O money, where art thou? Education majors deal with uncertainties from fine arts budge cuts. Redweek. Retrieved, May 14, 2007, from