Among the studies in arts education conducted back in 2007, one published study stated that the arts didn’t improve academic performance. The leaders of the study headed up an arts education program at Harvard though.
They contended that it really shouldn’t matter whether art courses improved test scores or grades. This was not alone what made them worthwhile.
Arts education certainly has benefits that extend beyond better test scores. Among these are improved visual analysis skills and learning from mistakes and making better critical judgments.
And even if their findings didn’t bear out improved academic performance, there are myriad others that do.
What the Studies in Arts Education Say
The arts – be it drawing, painting, music, theater, etc. – have been part of a well-rounded curriculum for decades. Yet when it comes to scaling back on educational programs, the arts are almost always the first to get cut.
In response to this, schools and organizations have completed numerous studies to highlight the importance of arts in education. What they’ve found is disturbing. Students who don’t have access to art can have greater difficulty learning subjects, more disciplinary issues, and increased risk of dropping out.
Below is a synopsis of seven such studies:
1. Fewer Disciplinary Infractions and Higher Graduation Rates
A 2010 study of Missouri public schools revealed that exposure to arts education led to fewer behavioral issues. This increased graduation rates as well as higher test scores and attendance.
The study was compiled by the Missouri Department of Education and the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education. Their data suggested that arts education had a profound effect on academic and social success. More specifically, they demonstrated increased proficiency in communication and math. Similar studies conducted in other states had similar results.
2. Raised Achievement Levels Through Arts Integration
A study conducted ten years ago in 2011 looked at integrating arts with other subjects. They found that this can help students more easily grasp subjects and boost achievement levels.
Branded “Reinvesting in Arts Education,” the study found that arts integration helped raise test scores. It also fostered the learning process itself. The report noted that skills attained in the visual arts could be applied to improve reading skills. Or that the skills needed to play an instrument could be applied to math. This is the idea behind arts academy middle schools and high schools.
3. Increased Proficiency in Academic Topics
Despite the insistence from some that only STEM subjects have value, the arts are anything but frivolous. In a study by the Arts Education Partnership, they found that students exposed to music, dance, and drama were often more proficient at academic topics such as math, reading, and writing.
The comprehensive study looked at 62 different studies from 100 researchers. They spanned a wide range of fine arts from visual arts to dance. It turns out that students given more arts education performed better on standardized tests, and had better social skills. They were also more motivated than those who had little or no access to arts education.
4. Deeper Connection to the World At Large
In a 2005 report entitled “A Portrait of the Visual Arts,” researchers argued that art education offered more than just a creative outlet. They asserted that the arts help students connect to the larger world and thus improve cohesion within the community.
By creating a more level playing field, the report demonstrated that arts education can help close the socioeconomic gaps. In other words, when providing lower-income students with the same enrichment experiences through art as their privileged peers, they feel a deeper connection.
5. Rewired the Brain in Positive Ways
A pivotal report from Johns Hopkins called “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts and the Brain” shared findings that creative training can help rewire the brain in some very helpful ways.
Researchers studied aspects like attention, motivation, and motor control. They found that students who were encouraged to spend time with focused attention on a specific art form increased the efficiency of their attention network as a whole. And students with regular music training showed changes in their brain structures that enabled them to transfer their motor skills to similar areas. Other scientific findings reported that that sustained arts education can be essential to the social and intellectual development of the brain.
6. Improved Literacy Skills
A pilot program through the Guggenheim Museum conducted a study on art education that demonstrated a connection between arts education and improved literacy skills.
The program assigned artists to schools to teach students and assist them in creating their own masterpieces. The students who took part in the gram had better performance on six different categories of literacy and critical thinking skills than students who didn’t participate.
Organizers speculate that the improved performance came from students learning valuable critical thinking skills while discussing art. They could then take these skills and apply them to analyzing and comprehending library materials.
7. Benefitted Educators As Well
A study called “Learning In and Through the Arts” demonstrated that it isn’t only students that benefit from arts education programs. Teachers do too.
After studying a dozen New York, Connecticut, Virginia, and South Carolina schools, researchers found that teachers were happier in environments with a strong arts climate. Some of this was a result of the fact that their students were doing better and were more cooperative. But generally speaking, teachers in this environment enjoyed greater job satisfaction, were more innovative, demonstrated interest in their work, and pursued further personal development.
Are the Arts Vanishing From Your Child’s Education?
It’s true that the arts are getting stripped from conventional educational systems. And given the findings from a sweeping swath of studies in arts education, this is a huge mistake.
It may be just the shift your child needs.