"The arts are education."
It's as simple as that for Jarrod Hartzler, who spent more than half a decade as the executive and artistic director of Akron's Tuesday Musical before accepting the position as executive director at the Ohio Alliance For Arts Education.
Stepping into his new role officially on September 4, Hartzler wants to continue pushing the arts beyond the confines of a school's music or art room.
"One area of focus for the Alliance that we have been working with for a long time is arts integration," he said.
That's when teachers use the arts to help teach other subjects like math, English or even science.
"For example, if you're a social studies teacher, drama really helps teach social studies,” he says. “If you're a math teacher, guess what? Dance really helps fractions and other mathematic equations."
Imagine being able to show students with movement what 1/2 of a turn looks like by spinning around in the classroom. Hartzler said the best teachers across the state are already using strategies like this in their classrooms, but he wants OAAE's resources to give them the tools to be better educators.
"(Teachers) can look at the learning standards in the dance curriculum and the math curriculum and bring those together where they're both served appropriately and completely,” he says. “It just makes it that much more impactful."
According to the Alliance's Arts Education Data Project, 83% of Ohio K-12 students are enrolled in some kind of arts education class, whether it be dance, visual art, drama or music. That's 1.4 million students across the state.
Hartzler said it's one of the first such databases of its kind in the country.
"You can actually drill down and see your district, your school, how many students have access to arts programs and then how many are participating,” he says.
But when you look deeper, it's clear that not all arts curriculum is equal in terms of enrollment. Music and visual art enroll about 70% of Ohio students, but the numbers are just 1 % for drama and less than 1% for dance.
Why? Not all schools have access to qualified instructors in dance and drama, Hartzler said. On the other hand, music is often an integral part of school curriculums across the state.
Hartzler points to big professional organizations like the Ohio Music Education Association that work to make sure music stays in the curriculum.
"It is always the challenge to make it equal for dance and theater,” Hartzler says.
Hartzler said many parents enroll students in dance or drama classes and workshops outside of traditional schools. But he said parents can "advocate to their school boards and their building administrators that they would like to see that coursework offered in the school, as well."
Another step to bridging the gap in enrollment for dance and theater is the Ohio Teaching Artist Roster, a partnership between the OAAE, Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, Ohio Arts Council, VSA Ohio and Ohio Dance that helps put qualified arts teachers into the classroom.