Why are the arts so important, particularly in a child’s education?
The arts not only enrich our lives, communities and culture, but they are vital to a child’s education. A strong arts education promotes the skills children need to be successful. A growing body of studies presents compelling evidence connecting student learning in the arts to a wide array of academic and social benefits. For example, exposure to art education promotes self-directed learning, improves school attendance and sharpens critical and creative skills. Additionally, research has shown that what students learn in the arts may help them to master other subjects, such as reading, math or social studies. The evidence is clear: study of the arts contributes to student achievement and success in school and beyond.
High arts involvement equals higher scores on achievement tests:
- In a well-documented national study using a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement.
- Moreover, the high arts-involved students also watched fewer hours of TV, participated in more community service and reported less boredom in school.
- Several independent studies have shown that high school students who take arts classes have higher math and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes.
- Also, the more arts classes a student takes, the higher the scores.
“Students in music-performance courses scored 57 points higher on the verbal section of the SAT, and 41 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation.” (The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001)
Involvement in the arts makes children smarter:
In 2008, the Dana Foundation released Learning, Arts and the Brain, the Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition, a series of studies conducted by leading neuroscientists from seven prestigious universities.
- Over a three-year period, the study investigated the question, “Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?”
- The cognitive neuroscientists who participated in the study found a tight correlation between exposure to the arts and improved skills in cognition and attention for learning.
- One of the study’s major findings was that children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas.
“9th grade students in the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) program, which integrates arts education with more traditional academic studies, were reading one full grade level ahead of their peers who were not involved in the program.” (Increasing Student Achievement Through The Arts, 2000)
Access to arts education in school benefits youth-at-risk:
- Studies show that access to arts education in school offers distinct benefits to economically disadvantaged youth and students at risk of dropping out.
- Students at risk of dropping out of school indicate their participation in the arts as a reason for staying in school.
- An 11-year national study that examined youth in low income neighborhoods found that those who participated in arts programs were much more likely to:
- be high academic achievers,
- be elected to class office,
- participate in a math or science fair, or
- win an award for writing an essay or poem.
“High school arts teachers often describe the positive effects of arts education as a strategy for engaging and motivating their at-risk students.” (Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002)
Creativity and innovation is highly valued by employers:
Several recent studies have concluded that the creativity and innovation utilized in the artistic process will be highly valued by employers in the United States in the coming years as we continue to shift into a global economy.
- The 2006 report, Are They Really Ready to Work?, issued by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Society for Human Resource Management, found that employers believe that applied skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and creativity/innovation, will surpass basic knowledge such as reading comprehension, mathematics, science, and history/geography on the combined list of skills that respondents say will increase in importance over the next five years. Of those skills, creativity/innovation ranks among the top five.
- In a similar study, Ready to Innovate, business leaders agreed that innovation is essential to competitive advantage, and are placing greater value on finding and employing creative workers.
- The findings also suggest that arts-related study in college was found to be a key creativity indicator to potential employers.
“The nation’s top business executives agree that arts education programs can help repair weaknesses in American education and better prepare workers for the 21st century.” (BusinessWeek, October 1996)
Asbury, Carolyn and Rich, Barbara. Learning, Arts and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition. Dana Press, New York, NY: 2008.
Deasy, Richard J. Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Arts Education Partnership. Washington, D.C.: 2002.
Deasy, Richard and James Catterall. Increasing Student Achievement Through The Arts. American Youth Policy Forum: 2000.
Ruppert, Sandra. Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement. National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Washington, D.C.: 2006
“2010 Final Report, The Role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength. Americans for the Arts: National Arts Policy Roundtable. Washington, D.C.: 2011