The positive impact of arts education on student learning and achievement is supported by a great deal of scientific research over the past 20 years. Studies of the effect of arts learning on the developing brain yields results showing brain changes in a range of cognitive domains. Schools and communities, and certainly, the voices of teachers and students, affirm the merit of creating a school culture that embraces the arts throughout the grades and curriculum. Students may have access to arts education in a separate course or extracurricular offering, which can serve students who have an interest in that discipline. There is great value in such courses, yet these cannot and do not reach all students, which leaves an educational, social, emotional and cultural deficit in their school experience. Well designed and executed Arts integration does not change the need for classes in the individual art disciplines, but it does ensure that all students benefit from the skills and abilities that the arts develop, and that cross-over to other subject areas.
Weaving the arts into the academic curriculum has been shown to increase academic performance, promote confidence and self-esteem, and to decrease negative, non-productive behaviors. Many strategies and practices directly supporting the Common Core Standards can be used with artworks; analyzing an artwork, finding evidence for claims, and speaking that is grounded in evidence, for example. Vocabulary development can be enriched with integrated lessons that include the vocabulary of an arts discipline and another content area. Aligning standards from the Arts with the standards of other disciplines, including the Common Core, can increase the depth of knowledge level to level three where students are called on to develop and demonstrate strategic thinking, and level four where students are called upon to exercise extended thinking. Some of the skills associated with extended thinking are: design, synthesize, apply concepts, critique, create. The Habits of Mind that undergird the Common Core Math Standards that are supported include attend to precision and reason abstractly and quantitatively.
At the high school level, higher retention, thus lower dropout rates, are seen when students are actively engaged in the arts. While all students benefit from arts education, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, English Learners, and students with special needs—many who have been historically underserved in public schools—show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement when participating in the arts.
The link below leads to a graph showing the relationship between SAT scores and participation in art and music. Americans for the Arts, http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/get_involved/advocacy/research/2013/artsed_sat13.pdf
About Lisa Marin
Lisa is a Consultant II with the Center for Distance and Online Learning.