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New dashboard shows arts class participation in different King County high schools

The jazz band at Mount Si High School in the Snoqualmie School District.
Ariel Van Cleave
The jazz band at Mount Si High School in the Snoqualmie School District.

Creating art or engaging in artistic endeavors has numerous benefits for young people – from fewer disciplinary infractions to better academic performance and increased likelihood of pursuing post-secondary education.

And yet students’ participation in arts classes varies by what school they attend. Higher-poverty schools in King County have lower enrollment in arts classes.

That's one data point evident in a new dashboard released by the cultural funding agency 4Culture and the state superintendent's office. It shows the percentage of high school students taking different kinds of arts classes in individual schools within King County's 19 school districts. It's intended to let anyone in the public research arts class participation and compare schools.

For example, more than two-thirds of students at Bellevue's International School took a music class compared with just 12 percent at Kent-Meridian High School in the Kent School District in the 2017-18 school year.

“We strongly believe the arts can make for a happier, healthier education in every single way,” said Charlie Rathbun, director of arts programs with 4Culture. “So we will be looking at outcomes around the dropout rate, discipline rate, graduation rate, things like that.”

Overall, the dashboard shows higher participation in visual arts and music classes than in theater or dance.

“Dance, for example, being almost non-existent in our schools — we have to ask why and think about those students who might respond quite positively to dance,” Rathbun said.

Alternative schools and dropout re-engagement programs have very low participation in arts classes. Students across the state are required to take two arts courses to graduate.