The Podium

Bravo for arts education

Elementary school students in Avon work on a big mural for their school.  ( David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo )
Elementary school students in Avon work on a big mural for their school. ( David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo )

Parents’ Survey: Schools That Offer Arts Viewed As More Desirable - 60 Percent Rate Arts ‘Very Important’ Component of Good School

Arts education matters — not just to students, but to their parents, as well.

As families are in the midst of making their school choices under the new Boston public schools’ assignment plan for students in kindergarten through grade 8, a recent survey shows that parents value arts programming and consider it an important factor in choosing and evaluating a school.


MassINC Polling Group conducted the survey of 497 parents of Boston public school children for EdVestors, a Boston-based nonprofit focused on helping improve urban schools. Our aim was to better understand public school parents’ opinions on the role of the arts in public schools.

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The results: a resounding “bravo” from parents for arts education. Parents of children who participate in the arts at school are more engaged with their children’s schools and perceive the schools more positively, the survey found. Sixty-two percent of parents said that students who participate in the arts do better academically; 70 percent said children engaged in arts activities at school are happier than those who aren’t, and 60 percent described the arts as a “very important” component of a good school.

Parents don’t just view arts as important in the abstract; they consider arts programming when choosing schools. About half said arts programming is “very important” to them when selecting the school their child would attend; another third said the arts are “somewhat important” in that decision.

Classroom arts instruction fills a gap in the cultural education of young people: For one in five children in Boston public schools, school is the only place they can participate in dance, music, theater, creative writing and visual and media arts. Public school arts programming is particularly important to non-white parents, the survey found. Fifty-three percent of black parents and 54 percent of other races (mostly Hispanic) said the arts are very important, compared with 40 percent of white parents. Likewise, more lower-income parents said the arts matter in their school selection and that arts programming is an essential component of a good school.

Although most parents surveyed said they are satisfied with current arts offerings, 82 percent would support expanding arts programming during the school day, if possible. Nearly as many – 79 percent— would like to see a “great deal” or “fair amount” of time dedicated to arts programming if the school day were extended.


Despite their enthusiasm for and willingness to expand arts programming, parents are largely unaware of the overall expansion of the arts in the Boston Public Schools over the past several years. Just 17 percent of parents polled, however, are aware of the increase in arts programming.

The reality is that today 14,000 more students receive arts instruction each year compared with 2009, thanks in large part to the efforts of the BPS Arts Expansion Initiative, a multi-year effort to increase access to quality arts education across the school district. There are now 80 more Boston public schools arts teachers than there were five years ago. Leveraging funds from local and national foundations, the district has dedicated an additional $5 million per year to support arts instruction. Unlike many urban school districts, Boston public schools have increased arts education.

It’s clear that parents consider arts education a key component of a good school. Raising awareness about the ongoing initiatives to expand arts learning opportunities in Boston’s public schools, as well as arts programming in individual schools, will help parents make the best choices possible in the new school assignment process.

Laura Perille is executive director of EdVestors.