New Research Links Art and Academic Achievement, Meanwhile Arts Ed on the Decline

By: Anna Joranger

April 16-17 (this past Tuesday and Wednesday) marked the 25th Annual Arts Advocacy Day, when advocates and leaders from arts organizations across the country convened in Washington, DC to discuss how we can ensure that public policy supports a thriving arts scene.

Two studies released in recent weeks highlight the importance of Arts Advocacy Day and other measures to call attention to the arts. The first is Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-2010, from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This study sums up what we already knew: Arts education offerings have noticeably declined in public schools over the past ten years.

The other study, Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth, examines Low Socioeconomic Status students (low SES) and High Socioeconomic Status students (high SES) to see how each group performs when offered higher and lower levels of arts education. Both groups experienced higher achievement when provided with more arts ed opportunities, but for low SES students the results proved especially startling. Low SES/high arts exposure students made enormous leaps in achievement compared with low SES/low arts students – including everything from graduation rates to grade point average. In short, low SES students benefit from the arts in particularly significant ways.

Taken together, these two studies paint a dramatic picture of how arts education, a part of the school day that has high impact on under-performing schools, is being forced off the grid at the expense of students who need it most. As Jennifer Glinzak said in her ARTSblog post on the subject: “When these studies are married, their effectiveness as a tool for advocacy becomes undeniably clear.”