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LAUSD data shows art students can't always progress

Advanced clarinet students practice at San Fernando Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District during the Fall 2013 semester.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC
Advanced clarinet students practice at San Fernando Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District during the fall 2013 semester.

Los Angeles Unified’s feeder school system is broken when it comes to arts education, a survey of school principals reveals.

Only about a quarter of elementary schools have nearby middle schools with any or enough art classes to allow students to keep building on the skills they’ve learned. 

If a student takes up the flute in 5th grade, for example, she may have no chance to continue when she moves on to middle school. 

That is one of the findings in a new survey of school principals that measured factors like the number of arts teachers at each school, funding sources for art supplies, and the amount of time students spend on the arts per week.

The survey is the foundation for the new Arts Equity Index, a measure that will tell school officials whether arts resources are distributed equitably among district schools and where the greatest need may be.

Rory Pullens, head of LAUSD's arts education branch, has promised to reassign art teachers and other resources based on the findings — each school will be assigned a grade of sorts related to how well it teaches the arts ranging from "non-existent" to "excelling." Resources will then be assigned based on need, instead of student enrollment numbers. 

Pullens will present some of his findings to school board members at a Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting Tuesday.

RELATED: After recession cuts, LAUSD reconnects with community art groups

The findings will also be discussed in more detail at a State of the Arts event scheduled for Wednesday at Berendo Middle School.

Documents posted online ahead of the Tuesday committee meeting provide some details of the issues. Dance classes are particularly dismal, with very few offerings at the middle school level. 

The documents also suggest some strategies the district could use to increase students' exposure to the arts. A controversial pilot program that gives kids nine weeks of instruction in each of the four art forms could be expanded from 30 to 60 schools. The program would be modified based on feedback from the schools.