NYCDOE Fine Art Access: Parent Voice and Policy


My name is Margaret Phelan, I am currently in my final semester at CCNY and in the thick of my thesis research.  A little backstory: After graduating from Parson the New School for Design in 2008 with a BFA in Illustration, I spent 6 years working as a freelancer and teaching artist for the Children’s Museum of the Art New York. I worked primarily in classroom settings throughout the five boroughs including yearlong residencies at PS 347 The American Sign Language and English Lower School in Manhattan, IS 318 The Eugenio Maria de Hostos School in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and The Renaissance Charter School, a high school in Jackson Heights, Queens. During these residencies, I had the opportunity to work with a diverse student population, grades pre-K-12th. These students represented a cross section of NYC’s socio-economic backgrounds, with varied learning needs, and in different educational settings (both public and charter). I worked to support pre-existing certified art teachers; in collaboration with regular classroom educators to integrate the arts into their curriculum; and as the sole art educator. That experience in tandem with my current full time position as a Ceramics Teacher at a charter school in Harlem has allowed me the opportunity to witness the range of what school leadership both defines and implements as their school’s art program. In some capacities I acted as the sole art teacher to satisfy the NYC Department of Education high standards and school accountability. After seeing the varied emphasis on the importance of the arts in schools and reflecting on these experiences, I started to question exactly how and where the arts were accessible and how administrators defined ‘high quality’ fine art programming.

So I started to dig into the DOE websites. You can read all about current curriculum standards and data collection in the document “Participation in Arts Education According to NYSED Instructional Requirements”, which is taken directly from the “NYC Arts Education at the New York City Department of Education” website.

While conducting research for my thesis on the impact of parent voice and what it means for the DOE in terms of developing Art Ed policies and in making the arts accessible for all NYC children, I came across this document produced by the Office of the New York City Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, entitled “State of the Arts: A Plan to Boost Arts Education in New York City Schools” which illustrates the reality of our NYC students access to the arts.  This is a screen shot from that document entitled “Map 4: New York City Schools with no Arts or Cultural Partnerships and no Full-time Certified Art Teachers”:


Unfortunately, there is a clear correlation between household income and access to even the bare minimum (no arts or cultural partnership AND no full time certified art teacher) of fine art program requirements and standards. Nowhere better is this divide between the “have” and “have not’s” more clearly illustrated than in my current school which is collated with three other DOE schools, a setting which is the focus of my study. Through my thesis research I hope to bring some light to this issue of access and, through the process, augment parent voice to impact policy.


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