The Arts and Student Achievement

Arts in the Spotlight

Positive signs of support for the arts in education are visible everywhere.  Consider these recent developments:

  • In the federal No Child Left Behind Act, also known as NCLB, the arts share equal billing with reading, math, science, and other disciplines as "core academic subjects," which can contribute to improved student learning outcomes.
  • Forty-nine states have established content and/or performance standards that outline what students should know and be able to do in one or more art forms; 43 states require schools or districts to provide arts instruction.
  • Schools integrating the arts into the curriculum as part of a comprehensive education reform strategy are documenting positive changes in the school environment and improved student performance. 
  • The American public, bu an overwhelming margin, believes the arts are vital to a well-rounded education; more than half rate the importance of arts education a "ten" on a scale of one to ten.

As a nation, we are close to reaching a collective understanding that all students benefit from the opportunity to learn about and experience the arts. Study of the arts in its many forms—whether as a stand-alone subject or integrated into the school curriculum—is increasingly accepted as an essential part of achieving success in school, work and life.

Yet, at the same time we celebrate the arts for the value they add to learning and to life, study of the arts is quietly disappearing from our schools. In schools across the country, opportunities for students to participate in high-quality arts instruction and activities are diminishing, the result of shifting priorities and budget cuts. Poor, inner-city and rural schools bear a disproportionate share of the losses. Studies show children from low-income families are less likely to be consistently involved in arts activities or instruction than children from high-income families. Put simply, our rhetoric is out of sync with the reality. Why is it so important to keep the arts strong in our schools? How does study of the arts contribute to student achievement and success?

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