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The Status of Arts Education
 in Mississippi

“The first rule of advocacy is: ‘to whom are you advocating’
 and the second rule is ‘what do they care about’
 not ‘what do you care about’.”
Robert Lynch, Americans for the Arts

  • There are many capable and experienced certified arts educators working in Mississippi’s K-12 schools today. Colleges and university teacher education programs are training the next generation of arts teachers and classroom teachers who integrate the arts.
  • The Mississippi Visual and Performing Arts Framework 2003 (VAPA) is published and in implementation phase! To date, 467 teachers from 67% of Mississippi’s school districts have received training to implement the K-12 arts frameworks.
  • A training DVD for the Mississippi Visual and Performing Arts Framework 2003 was created and then mailed to district superintendents and curriculum coordinators to assist in additional VAPA Framework training.
  • Music and visual art teachers are eligible to obtain certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; over thirty visual art and music teachers have obtained National Board Certification.
  • Statewide professional organizations exist to support K-12 music, visual art, and theatre teachers, offering professional development at state conferences and regional workshops.
  • The Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) offers professional development, convenes stakeholders, promotes arts education awareness and advocacy in Mississippi, and monitors state and national issues in arts education with state and national partners.
  • The Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative supports the need for certified arts teachers and arts programs that include music, dance, theatre, and visual art instruction for all students in the school.
  • Mississippi’s K-12 teachers and administrators are invited to attend the Whole Schools Initiative Summer Institute whether or not their school is part of the initiative.
  • Teacher pay raises granted by the Mississippi Legislature have made teaching in Mississippi more attractive to certified arts educators.


  • Mississippi’s legislative funding formulas do not contain a provision for arts education teachers (among others); full-time employee (FTE) units are determined at the local district level by school boards and superintendents.
  • State funding shortfalls over the past four years have forced local school leaders to make difficult decisions about arts education classes in elementary and secondary schools.
  • State and national education accountability issues precipitated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 are driving education reform decisions at the local level.
  • School administrators sometimes abandon long-range planning for all students to focus on short-term solutions for low-performing students. This often results in cuts of scheduled instructional time in arts education.
  • Policy-makers and decision-makers are often uninformed or misinformed about the benefits and value of arts education for K-12 students.
  • Teacher pay raises have forced school districts to adjust allocation of resources, sometimes increasing the number of students served by each teacher. Acceptable arts teacher loads of 500 or less students per full time teacher at the elementary level or 200 or less students/teacher at the secondary level are often the exception rather than the rule.
  • There is a shortage of certified teachers to fill arts education positions in the state.


  • The principal is a key decision-maker at the local level. When a principal fails to actively support arts education, students typically receive less than adequate exposure to the arts.
  • Curriculum balance is affected when school administrators and school board members focus solely on published test scores.
  • Reliance on old habits, concepts, models, and methods prevents school district decision-makers from placing the arts in the core of the curriculum, as education policy requires.
  • Ignorance of or refusal to acknowledge the benefits of comprehensive, sequential arts education limits student access to arts instruction.
  • Adequate local funding support may not be distributed equitably across all core subjects.


  • Nationally published research in arts education strongly supports its inclusion in K-12 education programs; the benefits of arts education have been significantly highlighted.
  • Since 1999, the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education has convened an annual higher education forum to address challenges facing K-12 arts education and teacher education.
  • Since 1992, the Mississippi Arts Commission has promoted arts-based school reform through the Whole Schools Initiative. Schools that receive funding participate in professional development training in arts infusion for selected staff, who return to the school to share training with their faculty colleagues. In 2002, a new program, Arts in the Classroom, extended an invitation to K-12 Mississippi schools to apply for professional development opportunities to train classroom teachers to utilize the arts in instruction.
  • Since 2003, schools inside and outside of Mississippi are eligible to register for the Whole Schools Initiative Summer Institute.
  • In July 2004, the Whole Schools Initiative 5-year research evaluation, “The Arts are an R, Too,” documented the academic successes of Mississippi schools in the initiative that systematically infused the arts into classroom instruction.
  • During 2004, the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education Take Part! Project has conducted A Community Audit for Arts Education in five diverse locations, and will complete a statewide survey of arts education to be published in 2005.
  • The Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education sponsored the Arts Create Excellence General Session and 38 Arts Education Professional Development Track sessions in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education’s June 2005 MEGA Conference. Arts Education Awards recipients were recognized in the General Session.
  • The Mississippi Department of Education, the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, and the Mississippi Arts Commission collaborate to speak with one voice in education policy, advocacy, and funding related to arts education in the state.
  • The Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education continues to offer professional development training for K12 teachers. Off-site sessions during the MEGA Conference will provide training for K-12 teachers and K-12 certified arts specialists in all disciplines.
  • In November 2005 the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education will offer professional development training and networking opportunities for teaching artists and arts presenting organizations that work with schools.
  • The U.S. Congress, with the assistance of Senator Thad Cochran, has authorized funding to the U.S. Department of Education that supports arts education. (Model Development and Dissemination; Professional Development).

Prepared by Althea Jerome with assistance from Sally Edwards and Trecina Greene of the Mississippi Department of Education, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, June 2005. 


Why don't schools teach the arts?

Many people--among them parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, and policy makers--confuse the arts with entertainment.  They do not understand that good programs of arts instruction benefit all students, not only the talented.  They do not know that the arts:
Teach students to think critically, solve problems, and make thoughtful decisions.
Help students learn to express themselves effectively.
Teach students to work as part of a team.
Help to improve student attendance and graduation rates.


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