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State of the Arts: A Look Behind the Data of Arts Education in Ohio

a photo of Arts Education
According to OAAE data, 1.4 million Ohio K-12 students are enrolled in the arts.

The Ohio Alliance for Arts Education is welcoming a new leader. Jarrod Hartzler is leaving Akron’s Tuesday Musical to take over as the Alliance’s executive director.

On this Week's State of the Arts we sit down with Hartzler, who thinks some things are working in schools when it comes to the arts, while other aspects need improvement.

"The arts are education." It's as simple as that for Hartzler, who spent more than half a decade as the executive and artistic director of Akron's Tuesday Musical before accepting the position as executive director at OAAE.

Stepping into his new role officially on Sept. 4, he wants to continue pushing the arts beyond the confines of a school's music or art room.

"One area of focus for the Alliance that we have been working with for a long time is arts integration," he said.

That's when teachers use the arts to help teach other subjects like math, English or even science.

"For example, if you're a social studies teacher, drama really helps teach social studies. If you're a math teacher, guess what? Dance really helps fractions and other mathematic equations."

Imagine being able to show students with movement what 1/2 of a turn looks like by spinning around in the classroom. Hartzler said the best teachers across the state are already using strategies like this in their classrooms, but he wants OAAE's resources to give them the tools to be better educators.

"(Teachers) can look at the learning standards in the dance curriculum and the math curriculum and bring those together where they're both served appropriately and completely. It just makes it that much more impactful."

Looking behind the data
Among Ohio K-12 students, 83% are enrolled in some kind of arts education class, whether it be dance, visual art, drama or music. That's according to the Alliance's Arts Education Data Project.

Hartzler said it's one of the first such databases of its kind in the country.

Jarrod Hartzler takes over at OAAE Sept. 4.
Credit Courtesy Tuesday Musical
Jarrod Hartzler takes over at OAAE Sept. 4.

"You can actually drill down and see your district, your school, how many students have access to arts programs and then how many are participating."

But when you look deeper, it's clear that not all arts curriculum is equal in terms of enrollment. Music and visual art enroll about 70% of Ohio students, but it's just 1 % for drama and less than 1% for dance.

Why? Not all schools have access to qualified instructors in dance and drama, Hartzler said.

On the other hand, music is often an integral part of school curriculums across the state. Hartzler points to big professional organizations like the Ohio Music Education Association that work to make sure music stays in the curriculum.

"It is always the challenge to make it equal for dance and theater."

Hartzler said many parents enroll students in dance or drama classes and workshops outside of traditional schools.

But he said parents can "advocate to their school boards and their building administrators that they would like to see that coursework offered in the school, as well." 

Another step to bridging the gap in enrollment for dance and theater is the Ohio Teaching Artist Roster.

It's a partnership between the OAAE, Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, Ohio Arts Council, VSA Ohio and Ohio Dance that helps put qualified arts teachers into the classroom.

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.