Music and art instruction in American eighth-grade classrooms has remained flat over the last decade, according to a new survey by the U.S. Department of Education, and one official involved in the survey called student achievement in those subjects "mediocre," reports the New York Times. The survey, released June 15, was conducted as part of a nationwide test of music and arts achievement administered last year. As the first federal effort since 1997 to examine instruction and measure student achievement in music and the arts, the survey has added new evidence to the debate about whether American schools are cutting back on the subjects they teach to concentrate on improving students’ basic skills. In the test, administrators at 260 public and private schools were asked how much time they devoted to art and music instruction, and 7,900 eighth-grade students were tested on art and music concepts. The small number of students tested, and the 11-year gap since the most recent federal arts test, limited the assessment’s usefulness for reaching conclusions about achievement trends, federal officials said. But one indicator showed a clear decline in student exposure to the arts: 16 percent of students reported having gone with their class to an art museum, gallery, or exhibit in the last year. That was down from 22 percent in 1997…

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