Both national and state standards mandate that art be a core academic subject for students across our nation. Yet, an analysis by the Manhattan Borough President Office’s of the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Annual Arts Education Survey shows that while some New York City schools have sufficient programs, others display much room for improvement.

Manhattan BP Gale Brewer's report, called "ArtsForward," aims to improve methods for assessing school compliance and ensure that schools have equal access to the resources needed to enhance arts education.

Unveiling the report on Monday, Brewer also announced $20,000 in grants to help fund schools’ arts partnerships and a series of arts mixers to connect the public schools to the city’s top museums and institutions.

The report gives ideas on how to integrate arts into the everyday classroom.

The first step, the report found, is to sufficiently survey the adequacy of arts education in the city. The borough president's office contacted schools to check results from the DOE's arts survey and found that 21 percent of elementary schools, 39 percent of middle schools and 23 percent of high schools had to have their information corrected.

One of the survey’s biggest problems is the way it is compartmentalized, causing arts such as music and dance to be too divided from each other, the report found. The report argues that designing a new survey to better show the quality of the schools’ art programs is more reliable than just showing how it meets the state requirements.   

Beyond the survey, money is a big problem. According to the report, 68 percent of schools find that funding is insufficient to make the arts program work. MBPO believes that with the restoration of dedicated funding, the disparity in arts education in the city could be remedied. Such funding would help in getting materials for the arts programs, paying for performances, and hiring arts specialists to teach students the importance of arts education.

The report identifies other areas where DOE can improve, including collaborative programming and teacher certification. According to the MBPO, the creation of collaborative programs such as the Campus Arts Consortium can foster theater productions and band ensembles. Small-school collaboration also provides for more resources as schools are joining together to provide arts education.

Further, schools may consider implementing a Master of Arts Teaching Arts Urban Residency Program. This will help teachers learn the history of the arts and how to transfer that into teaching a class.

A major thread of the initiative is that teaching art doesn't take away from—but rather reinforces—other, more academic school subjects. Brewer's office points to a statement on the state education department website: “Current research demonstrates that integrating the arts into general education throughout the learning process, in addition to sequential teaching in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, significantly enhances students' cognitive, personal, and social abilities."