Statewide Arts Education Census Results Released

  • April 19, 2017

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AUGUSTA, ME, April 14, 2017—The second census of arts education resources for Maine’s 183,995 students, the first survey in this area since 2009, revealed both a surprising amount of consistency in school offerings over the past seven years as well as large gaps in the equity of the resources available to students across the state. The summary report on the survey’s results, including five recommended goals across four key areas to strengthen arts education in Maine, is now available to the public at

The year-long collaboration between the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Department of Education, championed by famed singer-songwriter Noel Paul Stookey, achieved a stunning 95% response rate, reporting on 97% of Maine’s students—making it the highest voluntary response rate on record nationally.

“Local and national data shows that high quality arts education, taught by certified teachers and teaching artists, positively impacts student learning and school quality,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “Now our job is to ensure that all students in Maine have access to these beneficial programs and instruction.”

Maine ranks among the top six states in the nation in regard to comprehensive arts education policies, according to a 2014 report from the Arts Education Partnership, but the State of Maine does not require measurement in subject areas not mandated by the federal government. Responding principals noted that an important outcome of the census would be to advocate for assessment polices for arts education in order to gather Maine-centric, rather than national, data points that demonstrate the impact of arts education on student performance.

The census data shows, among other things:

·       Music and visual arts education for Maine students remains strong it not consistent from region to region: 71% of all schools report music classes and 68% report visual arts classes during the school day;

·       Media arts, theater, and dance instruction in schools lag far behind, with only 15% of schools reporting media art classes; 12% reporting drama classes; and 5% dance classes. Even fewer of these schools offer instruction in these areas by a certified teacher;

·       28% of Maine’s schools report arts integration in other curricular content areas; 30% offer after school arts programs; and 29% report gifted and/or talented programs;

·       52% of all principals report no arts-related field trips and 46% report no arts in co-curricular activity, such as concerts or community events;

·       27% of principals report programming in their schools through a relationship with one or more local or regional arts organizations; 15% indicate utilizing community-based artists in their arts education offerings.

“There’s an ongoing perception, with education budgets being cut statewide, that Maine schools have lost art teachers. The good news is that this newest data indicates that isn’t so,” said Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education for the Maine Arts Commission. “But district by district, the data does indicate a pattern whereby our most rural schools have access to the fewest resources.”

First action steps have included presentation of the census data, findings, and recommendations to each of the state’s superintendent regions, working toward each region achieving progress toward goals to strengthen arts education by 2025. Additional desired results, identified on the basis the census findings and to be achieved by 2025, include:

·       100% of Maine’s schools will have staff taught arts instruction during the school day;

·       60% of Maine’s schools will have relationships with arts and cultural resources – an increase of 33%;

·       arts education data will be regularly updated;

·       75% of Maine’s schools will be utilizing the Maine Arts Commission’s resources.

The census required responses from principals, who in addition to surveying their schools’ offerings also noted the following challenges in providing high quality arts instruction: budget constraints; lack of time in the school day; and competing priorities. The principals’ recommendations for how to achieve better equity in arts education for Maine’s students included increased funding for organizations that support school arts education programs; an increase in the funding for and availability of school art supplies and equipment; and more professional development opportunities for teachers in the arts.

In urging the principals to participate, the project champion, Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame wrote, “For me, music has been a doorway to understanding relationships of all kinds; from mathematical to social - from the intricacies of technology to the metaphorical abstracts of the sung word.”

Additional partners on this project include the Maine Art Education Association, the Maine Music Educator’s Association, the Maine Alliance for Arts Education, the Maine Principals’ Association, and the New England Institute for Teacher Education.

The 2016 Arts Education Census is an important outcome of the Commission’s five-year cultural plan adopted in 2015: Fortifying Maine’s Creativity & Culture: A Five-Year Cultural Plan 2015-2020. It was funded in part by a generous grant from Jane’s Trust and additional support from the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Department of Education. For information regarding the census and cultural plan, as well as funding programs and services, please visit The website offers free registration to participate in the Maine Artist and Arts Organization Directory listings and events; to review grant program guidelines and open applications; to receive the Commission’s monthly e-newsletters, containing information about grant and other opportunities and awards; and to follow the Commission on social media @MaineArts #MaineArts.

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The Maine Arts Commission supports artists, art organizations, educators, policy makers, and community developers in advancing the arts in Maine. For more than 50 years the Commission has encouraged and stimulated public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; has worked to expand the state's cultural resources; and encouraged and assisted freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. Additional information is available at


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Linda Nelson

Maine Arts Commission
193 State Street
Augusta  ME  04333