Why Arts Education is Critical


Why Arts Education Is Critical

The benefits associated with the successful implementation of Arts Education Programs such as ours, have been closely linked to the things that we say we want and demand from our children, our schools and our communities – academic achievement, [healthy] social and emotional development, civic engagement and equitable opportunity.[1] Arts integration is associated with, but not limited to, the following types of outcomes:

Academic: Achievement in core academic subjects, including the arts, as measured by standardized tests as well as performance assessments; achievement on gateway exams such as the SAT; graduation rates; and college attendance.

  • Literacy and Language Development – A significant body of research highlights the positive relationship between study in the arts and improved literacy and language development noted by increased oral language skills, story-understanding and expressive ability.
  • Mathematics Achievement – Research demonstrates positive connections between arts study and achievement in mathematics. The positive effects of arts on mathematics achievement are not sudden but gradual, which suggests that students benefit from sustained access to arts programming.
  • Overall Academic Achievement – Arts activities and learning are connected to greater readiness for school. Middle and high school students with a high engagement in the arts are more likely to perform well on standardized achievement tests and attain high grades, and are less likely to drop out of school. Moreover, students in schools with art, music, and physical education taught by specialists do better on state standardized tests than students in schools without.
  • Underserved Students – Studies find that students from low socio-economic backgrounds show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement when participating in the arts.

Cognitive: The development of important thinking skills and capacities that are not only intrinsically important, but are also crucial to academic and professional success.

  • Creative Thinking – Research has connected arts programming to the development of creative thinking skills, including adaptability, flexibility, imagination, fluency, originality, elaboration, and abstractness. Students receiving an arts rich education perform better on assessments of creativity than do students receiving little or no arts education.
  • Critical Thinking – Studies find that arts education develops students’ critical thinking skills; such as their ability to compare and hypothesize, which are both essential to a student’s ability to apply knowledge and visualize solutions. Arts education develops awareness and exploration of multiple viewpoints. Research with older adults has connected the arts with reducing cognitive decline associated with aging.
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning – Research suggests that there too exists a strong relationship the arts and reasoning skills, decision-making, problem-solving skills and sustained focus.

Personal: Capacities that are critical to the development of a strong sense of identity, positive self-concept, emotional well-being, motivation to succeed, and engagement and persistence in learning, life, and work.

  • Engagement and Persistence – Learning the arts develops student engagement, meaningful involvement, and persistence in one’s own learning—skills essential for success in school, work, and life. Research suggest that students involved in the arts are more engaged in school and more motivated to learn, improved in their ability to turn barriers into opportunities and was found to encourage further motivation for higher achievement.
  • Positive Behavior – There are reports about the positive relationship between participation in arts programs and changes in behavior for students, such as serving as a highly effective motivator for increasing desirable behavior and decreasing undesirable behavior, a reduction on emotional and behavioral problems and a reduced likelihood of engaging in risky, delinquent, and/or violent behavior.
  • Self-Awareness, Self-Concept, and Self-Expression – Research connects arts learning with increased self-understanding and confidence, as the arts is viewed as providing a safe environment through which they can explore, create, and express their identity.
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence – Research finds that arts participation increases student confidence and self-efficacy.

Societal & Civic: Connect students, teachers, and schools to one another and to their communities, and includes those things that impact students in their roles in the community, such as civic engagement and arts participation.

  • Collaboration and Communication – Students in arts programs develop effective teaming abilities as well as a deeper level of cultural understanding and sensitivity toward others’ perspectives. These same students also exhibited a greater awareness and mutual respect for others, while also learning to express their individuality more appropriately within group settings.
  • Community-Building & Engagement – The arts help to foster the creation of healthy, supportive community. Students who study the arts in their school years are more likely to be engaged with the arts as consumers, performers, or creators later in life. Cultivating a safe, positive working environment supports risk taking, creative ideas and learning from mistakes. Community involvement in the arts has been shown to provide artists with a supportive environment to engage with and impact their surrounding communities.
  • Community and Civic Engagement – Arts programs promote a sense of personal responsibility towards their communities. Research shows a positive relationship between the arts and civic engagement as evidenced by the individuals greater understanding of issues, the ability to generate creative solutions to social problems, increased political participation (e.g., voting), increased participation in community service and ability to affect their surrounding community through artwork.
  • Cross-Cultural Understanding – Engagement in the performing arts is associated with increased social tolerance. Arts programming and experiences create an environment in which diverse perspectives can be visible and valued.
  • Social Development – Individuals who actively participate in the arts are considered to develop superior interpersonal communication skills (i.e., the ability to communicate personal thoughts, feelings, and ideas to another person).

Students, the beneficiaries of our programming, begin to flourish when the ARTS sparks their creativity and drives their learning; which, in turn, allows them to better serve their communities, their beneficiaries.

[1] Source: Edutopia- “Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best – Art and music are key to student development.” By Fran Smith, January 28th, 2009.