Arts Connect Houston Releases Art Education Report Looking at HISD Schools

by Jessica Fuentes May 16, 2024

Arts Connect Houston (ACH), a network of community members and local organizations committed to ensuring students have access to the arts, has released a baseline report about the state of arts education in the Houston Independent School District (HISD).

Launched in 2015 amidst concerns about a decline in arts education opportunities in the district’s schools, ACH has created programs, grant opportunities, and fostered partnerships between public schools and arts organizations. The baseline report, which surveyed 60.6% of the campuses in the district, is the first of its kind for the city of Houston. It provides a view of the current state of fine arts education across the district, which future data will be measured against to track changes.

Notably, in 2023 the Texas Education Agency took over the management of HISD, after which they appointed a new superintendent, in an effort to support schools that are not meeting state academic standards. Because the arts are not a subject addressed in standardized tests, arts education may not be a priority in the agency’s work addressing struggling schools, making this baseline report and future studies even more important.

A graphic from a report on the state of the arts with a quote about the benefits of the arts for students.

National and state-sponsored reports on the arts, such as Texas Cultural Trust’s 2023 State of the Arts Report (SOTAR), have quantified the educational impact of the arts. SOTAR found that in general, Texas high school students who are enrolled in more arts courses have better attendance, higher rates of passing standardized tests, and are more likely to attend college.

A graph from a report indicating the strength of arts education programs in schools across Houston Independent School District.

The Arts Connect Houston report focuses on access to the arts, quality of arts education, and partnerships. Part of the survey reviewed schools in relation to the Creative Schools Certification rubric, which identifies schools as Excelling, Strong, Developing, or Emerging. While 93% of HISD middle schools received Excelling or Strong rankings, only 77.5% of high schools had the same level. 42% of the elementary schools were classified as Emerging. Though 94% of students were enrolled in at least one fine arts course in elementary and combination campuses, 4% of elementary schools did not have any fine arts instructors on campus. 

ACH notes that partnerships between arts organizations and schools are an important complement to existing fine arts instruction. These partnerships can culminate in a variety of arts experiences for students including field trips, workshops, and performances. Approximately 70% of HISD campuses report having one to five partnerships.

A graph from a report indicating the number of elementary and secondary schools in Houston Independent School District that use state, district, and national arts standards.

In regards to the quality of arts education, most campuses claimed they followed the state’s learning standards for fine arts. However, the report notes that if the goal is to have every campus use the district’s arts learning standards, which have been developed to supplement the state standards, approximately 65% of HISD elementary schools and 75% of HISD secondary schools will need to adopt the district’s standards. 

Additionally, one area of disparity between elementary and secondary arts educators is the availability of arts-specific professional development opportunities offered — 35.4% of elementary campuses and 61.5% of secondary campuses reported offering arts professional development. Because of the strong partnerships between arts organizations and schools, the report points to an opportunity for arts organizations to offer more professional development for elementary educators. 

Moving forward, ACH will continue to collect and analyze data in order to provide better support to HISD schools. Read the full report on the ACH website.

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