Preparing StudentsNext Americafor theCover artwork by Muriel StockdaleThe Benefits of an Arts Education
IntroductionEvery young person in America deserves a complete and competitive education thatincludes the arts. America’s global stature, culture of innovation, and entrepreneurialspirit depend on the strength of a world-class education system. Perhaps nowmore than ever—as the country becomes increasingly diverse, the world moreinterconnected, and the workplace more oriented around technology and creativity—arts education is key to such a system and to ensuring students’ success in school,work, and life.For this reason, the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) created ArtsEdSearch.org—thenation’s first clearinghouse of research examining the mounting body of evidence onthe benefits of an arts education. Drawing on the research in ArtsEdSearch, this bulletinoffers a snapshot of how the arts support achievement in school, bolster skills demandedof a 21st century workforce, and enrich the lives of young people and communities.About the Arts Education PartnershipThe Arts Education Partnership, a division of the Council of Chief State School Officers,is dedicated to securing a high quality arts education for every young person in America.A national coalition of more than 100 education, arts, cultural, government, business, andphilanthropic organizations, AEP was created in 1995 by the National Endowment for theArts and the U.S. Department of Education and is administered by the Council of ChiefState School Officers and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
AThe arts prepare studentsfor success in school.Arts instruction and arts integrated instruction—lessonsteaching skills and content of an art and non-art subjectin tandem—engage students and increase learning andachievement. Arts education:1Boosts literacy and English Language Arts (ELA)skills. Arts education helps students become betterreaders and writers. Drama instruction, for example,increases reading readiness and word fluency inearly grades and continues to improve readingcomprehension and writing skills throughout middleand high school.1, 2 When the arts are integrated withliteracy instruction, all students benefit, especiallyEnglish Language Learners and students fromlow-income backgrounds.32Advances math achievement. Students whostudy the arts, especially music, outperform theirnon-arts peers on mathematics assessments.4, 5 Artsintegrated math instruction also facilitates masteryof computation and estimation skills, and challengingconcepts like fractions.6, 73Engages students in school and motivates them tolearn. Arts education helps make learning matter tostudents by giving them a medium to connect newknowledge to personal experiences and expresswhat they have learned to others. Students who aretypically disengaged in school are more likely toparticipate in arts and arts integrated classes thanin classes where the arts are absent, and studentswho receive arts integrated instruction have higherattendance than those who do not.8, 9, 104Develops critical thinking. In a world where studentsmust frequently wade through a sea of information todetermine which facts are trustworthy and relevantto a particular topic, critical thinking skills are key tocollege readiness and lifelong learning. Arts educationdevelops students’ critical thinking skills—includingskills for comparing, hypothesizing, critiquing, andexploring multiple and alternative viewpoints.11, 125Improves school culture. Arts education helps fostera positive culture and climate in schools.13 Whenschools integrate the arts across the curriculum,disciplinary referrals decrease while effectiveness ofinstruction and teachers’ ability to meet the needsof all students increase.14, 15 Arts integration alsocontributes to increasing teacher satisfaction andlowering teacher turnover rates, often challenges forlow performing schools.16
BThe arts prepare students for success in work.Arts education develops thinking skills and capacities keyto success in the 21st Century workforce. Arts education:1Equips students to be creative. Arts educationdevelops creativity, one of the top five skillsemployers prize for the 21st Century.17 Studentsreceiving an arts-rich education perform better onassessments of creativity than do students receivinglittle or no arts education.18, 19 Performing artsstudents, for example, show greater flexibility andadaptability in thinking than their peers.20, 212Strengthens problem solving ability. The artsdevelop reasoning skills that prepare students tosolve problems. Students who study the arts, forexample, score higher than their peers on testsmeasuring the ability to analyze information and solvecomplex problems, and are more likely to approachproblems with patience and persistence.22, 233Builds collaboration and communication skills. Inthe arts, students learn to articulate their intentions,receive and offer constructive criticism, and listenactively to others’ ideas. Art making allows studentsto experience what it feels like to be active membersof a community and to work as a team to determineand achieve common goals.24, 25, 264Increases capacity for leadership. Students whoparticipate in the arts develop leadership skills,including decision-making, strategy building,planning, and reflection.27, 28, 29 They also prepare touse these skills effectively by developing a strongsense of identity and confidencein their ability to affect theworld around them inmeaningful ways.30, 31
CThe arts prepare studentsfor success in life.Arts education prepares students to engagemeaningfully in their communities. Arts education:1Strengthens perseverance. Arts educationdevelops students’ capacity to persist in the face ofa challenge. Through arts study, students improvein their ability to turn barriers into opportunities,overcome difficulty in completing complex tasks,and sustain attention.32, 33 In a longitudinal study of25,000 secondary school students, those with higherinvolvement in the arts scored better on measuresof persistence than their peers with lower artsinvolvement.342Facilitates cross-cultural understanding. Artsexperiences foster pro-social behaviors andsocial tolerance that help prepare students forlife in an increasingly global and culturally diverseworld. Ensemble performance, community muralpainting, and other group arts experiences inwhich participants are from diverse backgroundsdemonstrate particular value for developing crosscultural understanding.35, 363Builds community and supports civic engagement.Arts programs foster a sense of community amongparticipants that supports their personal, artistic,civic, and social development. They also offer avehicle for effecting change in the surroundingcommunity.37, 38 Students who have had an arts-richeducation volunteer more often and exhibit greatercivic engagement than other students.394Fosters a creative community. Students whostudy the arts in their school years are more likelyto engage with the arts in later life as consumers,performers, or creators than their peers who receiveno arts education. Additionally, researchers find thatthe more art forms students study, the greater theirarts participation in adulthood.40
What’s NextAware of the importance ofthe arts in a complete andcompetitive education, whatcan you do next? Here area few ways to secure an artseducation for every child: Stay informed—Followeducation efforts in yourlocal media, learn about localarts education offerings andthe position of arts educationin school and municipalbudgets, and continue toexplore the research inArtsEdSearch.org. Connect with others—Attend school boardmeetings and communityforums, set up meetingswith state, school, andcity leaders, find outwhat is important to localstakeholders, and identifygroups with like-mindedgoals. Get involved—Share thisbulletin with state, school,and community leaders,join parent and othercommunity groups, leadpublic discussions, makepresentations at schoolboard or city councilmeetings, and, in general,build a dialogue on thesignificance of the arts to acomplete and competitiveeducation. Tie it all together—Identifypublic policy goals thatare supported by researchand work with state andcommunity leaders to ensurethat they are enacted.AcknowledgmentsAEP wishes to thank LaurenStevenson, Ph.D., Principal of JunctionBox Consulting, for her assistance inpreparing this research brief.One Massachusetts Ave., NWSuite 700Washington, DC 20001aep-arts.orgartsedsearch.orgArts Education Partnership, PreparingStudents for the Next America: TheBenefits of an Arts Education April 2013Citations1Podlozny, A. (2000). Strengthening verbal skills through theuse of classroom drama: A clearlink. Journal of AestheticEducation, 34, 239-276.2Walker, E., Tabone, C., &Weltsek, G. (2011). Whenachievement data meet dramaand arts integration. LanguageArts, 88, 365-372.3Ingram, D., & Riedel, E.,(2003). 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