This blog was authored by Paul Sznewajs, Executive Director of Ingenuity, a national leader in arts data collection and mapping that has partnered with CPS to track the quality of arts education in our schools.

cps_5410This week, Ingenuity released its 4th annual State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools report, with data covering more than 90 percent of CPS students.

Since we began collecting data in 2013—the year CPS created its first comprehensive Arts Education Plan—there have been significant improvements in arts education throughout the District.  Each of the past four years has seen a steady increase in elementary schools meeting weekly instructional minutes, and in the number of schools ranked Strong or Excelling in the arts. 


cert_growthThe fourth year of data finds that:

  • Over 2/3 of CPS students attend a school that is Strong or Excelling in the arts
  • On average, 96% of elementary school students had access to arts instruction
  • 96% of schools collaborated with at least one community arts partner.

Credit for this success largely goes to the District’s nearly 600 Arts Liaisons—mainly CPS instructors nominated by their principals to be each school’s “arts champion.” Arts Liaisons, about 80 percent of whom are the school’s arts instructors, report the data that becomes the basis for their school’s Creative Schools Certification rating, as well as a large portion of the data reflected in this report.

CPS, Ingenuity, and more than 1,000 community arts partners—from major cultural institutions to small community arts providers—use this report to measure the progress of the arts plan, identify areas of improvement, and work with school leaders to expand programming. Findings are also used by network chiefs and principals to encourage strategic choices when planning for the arts.

The progress we’ve seen is promising. Four years ago, three out of ten CPS schools were rated Strong or Excelling in the arts. Today it’s six out of ten schools. That’s laudable growth, progress that reaffirms an underlying commitment to the arts by many CPS principals.

How do we know that arts education is important? National research shows that in schools with rich arts programs, students have increased attendance and graduation rates, lowercps_1032 discipline rates, and higher test scores, and teachers report higher job satisfaction. Recognizing this, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has championed the arts in schools, calling them “as critical as math and sciences to a 21st century education,” and “a core component of the school day.”  We agree and appreciate that vision.

Ingenuity works hard each year to improve our data collection, one outcome of which is www.artlookMap.com, which gives schools and community providers data on partnership opportunities, and parents a guide to arts programming across the district.

Chicago’s success in expanding access to the arts has garnered national attention over the past four years. So, what if we challenge ourselves to achieve the same growth in the next four years?  

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We have an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for our public school children. When we started this work, there was a vision that saw children in every school and neighborhood enjoying the arts as part of their education. If we can achieve similar growth in the next four years, we may very well realize that goal, and see every child in every CPS school have equitable access to a quality education in the arts.