A Place in the Curriculum: Superintendents' Perceptions of Fine Arts Programs
Type of Degreedissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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The decisions regarding school curriculum are based on mandates from state and local policies and funding from local, state, and federal government funding. In most K–12 public school systems, decisions regarding funding issues are approved by the local board of education upon the recommendation from the superintendent. As chief executive officer of the school system the superintendent’s beliefs may profoundly affect decisions surrounding funding and curriculum issues within the school district (Andero, 2000; Penning, 2008; Remer, 2010). In the course of the past four decades, there has been an increased awareness of the arts due in part to greater resources and academic benefit through the inclusion of the arts. However, trends of the last decade have shown a sweeping shift towards the elimination of arts programs. Often times decisions surrounding which programs to eliminate are related to funding issues (Beveridge, 2010; Chapman, 2004; Hart, 2012; Spohn, 2008). The downturn in the American economy during the past decade has created significant problems for state governments balancing their budgets. As a result, a significant number of school districts had to make the tough choice of eliminating programs, many of them being arts, to make up for the lack of funding received from the federal, state, and local governments. The elimination of any K–12 core subject may have some unintended consequences to the students, the school districts, and the larger community. And very seldom do core academic subject areas find their way to being eliminated. If this may be the case, then one may question why the arts programs are usually the first programs to be eliminated due to lack of funding. This study investigated superintendents’ perceptions of arts education under ideal and current conditions in the four southern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. Administrators’ actions directly or indirectly impact school curriculum. Curriculum decisions are based on the availability of funding and other resources, and administrators’ priorities. Administrators’ priorities are often shaped by their beliefs which impact their actions. However, the actions of many administrators in the elimination of arts programs were in direct contradiction of their belief systems (Heilig, Cole, & Aguilar, 2010; Holcomb, 2007; McMurrer, 2008). From the data cited, a conclusion can be drawn that the perception of superintendents in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi was positive overall. The survey items analyzed revealed that 82% to 95% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with broad arts educational goals for all schools. Respondents also identified several factors that negatively influenced their capacity to offer arts education in their districts. The data also revealed how superintendents’ personal experiences impacted their perceptions of arts education in their school districts.