Data powers today’s world. With endless information at our fingertips, parents can chart a course for their child’s education. The arts are a path many parents know complements their child’s strengths and shapes their academic and career trajectories. Data shows us that all students can benefit from arts education. And now, our own data shows that too often, Oklahoma schoolchildren lack access to fine arts courses, thus limiting their potential.

Data available through the Oklahoma Arts Education Dashboard, a new tool created by Quadrant Arts Education Research, shows 45% of students in Oklahoma have no access to arts education in their school. The dashboard indicates wide disparities. In Oklahoma County, 76% of students are enrolled in some type of fine arts course, while in Pushmataha and Adair counties, only 11% are. These figures and more are available through the dashboard, recently developed through a partnership of the Oklahoma Arts Council, state Education Department, Oklahomans for the Arts, and Kirkpatrick Family Fund.

The dashboard is a game changer for arts education in our state. Parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, state lawmakers and others can now identify where gaps exist in the availability of fine arts programs. Parents can use the dashboard to push for the fine arts programs their students need, or they can use the dashboard when deciding where to relocate their families. Administrators, school boards and lawmakers can use the data in strategizing ways to meet demand for fine arts courses and to give more Oklahoma parents options for charting their child’s path to success.

Every student, regardless of their eventual career, benefits from hands-on arts learning. Americans agree with this. A nationwide survey conducted in 2018 showed 91% of Americans believe arts education is important to a well-rounded education. The artistic process is a conceptual, multi-dimensional one that positively impacts one’s grasp of math, science, English and more. The arts offer skills that no other content area can. If we want to produce creative thinkers who will stay in Oklahoma and launch the next innovative start-up, fine arts courses are essential. If we intend to entice companies to move here, we must offer their employees a world-class education that includes the fine arts.

The Oklahoma Arts Education Dashboard is a first step. The next step is using the data to drive decisions. Where in our state are children able to flourish creatively? How can districts reallocate resources to meet the varied needs of students through the fine arts? In what areas of Oklahoma should we prioritize investments in arts education to improve academic outcomes? Answers to these questions and more can be served through the dashboard.

All Oklahomans are affected by the type and quality of education students receive in our schools, which is why every Oklahoman should explore the new Oklahoma Arts Education Dashboard at ok4arts.org. The power of this data has implications that go far beyond the classroom.

Dosser Green

Dosser Green

Tonnie Dosser is executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Viewpoint: Data shows Oklahoma needs to close arts education gap