AUSTIN, Texas—More than 40 arts education leaders representing 30 state agencies, colleges and universities, professional teachers’ associations and school districts recently attended a “K-16 Arts Education Summit” hosted by the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin.
Arts education advocacy in the state of Texas and the teacher shortage affecting arts education were at the top of the agenda.
“Enrollment and graduation rates in teacher certification programs are not increasing and numbers show little change over the last 10 years,” said Douglas Dempster, senior associate dean at the College of Fine Arts. “We’ve pulled together leaders from all the groups with a stake in this process, hoping collectively to stimulate a discussion on the most pressing issues, and to formulate a cohesive plan to tackle the problems.”
Elementary and secondary art programs are being threatened by shrinking school district budgets and a shortage of qualified teachers. Nearly 12 percent of middle and high school arts teachers are not certified in the discipline they teach, a figure that has grown by 30 percent in the past two years.
Attrition adds to the problem. As many as 40 percent of all certified arts teachers leave the profession within three to five years. Over the last decade the state’s one-year attrition rate has increased to 13 percent, more than double the national average. Future retirement and enrollment trends indicate this figure will continue to rise.
These issues are not easily resolved and require a coordinated effort by the entire arts education community. Tom Waggoner, director of fine arts in the Texas Education Agency’s Division of Curriculum and Professional Development, believes the very cyclical nature of arts education requires a stronger collaboration among the parties involved in the process.
Colleges and universities are responsible for training artists and young teachers to supply the demand for art educators in public elementary and secondary schools. The schools, in turn, must provide well-trained high school students for colleges and universities to recruit into their art programs. When any part of the circle fails, the cycle is interrupted.
The art, drama and music teachers’ associations in the state, the various fine arts colleges and departments, and other professional organizations have all maintained very strong advocacy and lobbying initiatives, but not enough has been done collectively to overcome the common challenges. The efforts have been somewhat disjointed.
“The necessary communication among the numerous parties involved has never really been established,” Waggoner said. “Because we’ve never really sat down and talked about this in an official forum, the circle has broken down.”
Other discussions during the summit focused on the need to accelerate the formulation of new teacher certification tests in the arts and the need for better information gathering and more coordinated advocacy for arts education.
Dr. Edwin Sharpe, vice chancellor for educational system alignment in the University of Texas System, spoke about the effect of the federal “No Child Left Behind Act” on public education in Texas.
For more information contact: Bruno Longarini, College of Fine Arts, 512-475-7021.