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Arts Education Benefits Public School Students

By Kelly Ni
Epoch Times Staff
Created: April 14, 2012 Last Updated: April 14, 2012
Related articles: United States » South
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Advocate for arts in education, Doug Israel. (Courtesy of Doug Israel)

Advocate for arts in education, Doug Israel. (Courtesy of Doug Israel)

Those who study the arts in elementary and secondary school do better academically and in other ways, according to a study from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Yet arts instruction is shrinking, according to another study from the Department of Education (DOE).

Doug Israel, Director of Research and Policy for the Center for Arts Education, a non-profit group that supports the arts in New York City’s public schools, said school administrators and teachers across the country understand the value of arts in education. Both budget cuts and emphasis on testing and measuring basic academic skills have diminished arts instruction in public schools, he said.

“The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies,” published on March 30 by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), said young people with an arts education have better academic outcomes, higher career goals and higher levels of civic engagement, according to a press release from the NEA.

“Kids that are struggling in other academic subjects or do not do well sitting behind the desk the entire school day actually respond and perform when given an opportunity to engage in arts learning, whether it be dance, theater, music, or the visual arts,” said Israel.

According to Israel, arts education has a power to reach all students and provide opportunities for creative learning and innovative thinking skills.

Israel said students in high poverty schools have a particular need for arts education. “Those kids that are struggling in public schools that are at risk of dropping out, these kids are actually getting less arts education than the kids in the low poverty schools,” said Israel.

Kids that are struggling in other academic subjects or do not do well sitting behind the desk the entire school day actually respond and perform when given an opportunity to engage in arts learning, whether it be dance, theater, music, or the visual arts.

“It is important that education decision leaders, principals, and school districts really look at this issue and commit to tackling it, making sure that all of our students are afforded opportunities to participate in arts education and creative learning,” said Israel.

In 2000, 20 percent of elementary schools offered dance classes but in 2009, dance was nearly untaught. Only three percent of elementary schools offered a class especially for dance, according to the DOE report.

One reason for the decline of arts education could be budget cuts. “We had a series of school years where there have been cuts to school budgets, and that has impacted arts instruction in many schools across the country,” said Israel.

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act set in motion an emphasis on testing scores in English, language arts, and math, according to Israel. In the past decade, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects have been at the forefront in education.

Israel said those subjects are critical for students, but in his opinion, over-testing “comes at the expense of some of the other subjects, including the arts, foreign language and physical education,” he said.

“This is a loss of opportunity to engage in arts education and creative learning,” according to Israel.

Schools may be facing these challenges by offering arts activities outside of regular school hours or by partnering with outside artists. After class hours, more than half of schools offered dance or music lessons and held choir or band practice. Even more offered art related field trips or school performances and presentations, according to the DOE study.

A minority of schools used partnerships with artists and art related organizations to provide arts education. The DOE survey found that 44 percent and fewer schools worked with cultural or community organizations, individual artists and craftspeople, or universities and colleges. Smaller percentages of schools named museums or galleries, performing arts centers and community schools of the arts as sources of arts instruction.

The Department of Education (DOE) stated “Student access to arts education and the quality of such instruction in the nation’s public schools continue to be of concern to policymakers, educators, and families.”

“Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-2010” was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).




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