A Snapshot of K-12 Arts Education in Oregon

Over the past 30 years, inadequate budgets and pressures to raise test scores and graduation rates have strained many in-school arts programs. Nonprofits have stepped in to help, but many communities still lack resources to offer high-quality arts experiences to all students. The result? A fragmented arts education landscape where students in some communities have plentiful and varied arts opportunities, while others have very limited options.

But there’s good news, too. Many Oregonians recognize the value of the arts and are passionate about increasing access to the sense of connection, creativity and vibrancy that arts programs foster in classrooms.

Arts organizations most commonly serve middle and high school students in Oregon.

OCF’s first Arts Education Snapshot focused on the role that nonprofit arts organizations play in providing education in Oregon. This 2019 report takes a deeper look at what arts education is available to K-12 students across the state.

Key Findings

  • Students in Oregon do not have equitable access to arts education, despite its known benefits.
  • Both schools and nonprofit arts organizations play an important role in ensuring that K-12 students receive all the opportunities needed to realize their full potential.
  • The extent to which students can access arts education in schools varies across the state, though there are no distinct patterns related to community size or geographical region.
  • Over the past five years, arts education offerings in schools have increased slowly but steadily.
  • As of 2017-2018, most schools in Oregon offered at least one arts course, and at least a quarter of Oregon students attended at least one arts course during the May 1, 2018 enrollment audit.
  • Music is the most common type of arts education available both through courses offered in schools and through programming provided by nonprofit arts organizations. • Nonprofit arts organizations use a wide range of approaches to serve K-12 students.
  • Nonprofit arts organizations provide programming in every county in Oregon. While there are more nonprofit arts organizations based in more urban counties like Multnomah and Lane, rural counties like Gilliam and Lake have greater coverage by arts organizations serving K-12 students.
  • Nonprofit arts organizations vary in their capacity to deliver arts education; many have few staff resources and rely on volunteers and contractors to lead programming.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Better data about arts courses offered in schools and student participation in those courses, as well as better data about the arts education offered through nonprofit organizations, would significantly clarify the nature, scope and accessibility of arts education for Oregon students.
  • More strategic funding could improve equitable access to arts education for both schools and nonprofit arts organizations.
  • Increased coordination and collaboration between nonprofit organizations and schools would help local communities determine and address local needs regarding arts education access.
  • A clearer and more unified vision for arts education that balances local flexibility with a shared definition for high-quality, equitable arts education would help parents, educators, school leaders, policymakers and taxpayers better advocate for arts education.