Arts in education study proves what some of us already knew

A first-of-its-kind study by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) reveals that public high schools offering more arts education have higher academic achievement, regardless of student ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

New survey data associate arts education with higher scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) in reading, writing and science – and lower dropout rates. Colorado is one of only three states to conduct a similar comprehensive study of arts education in public schools. In all three states, schools that scored high on the survey’s arts index had lower dropout rates.

The findings also show that most of Colorado’s public schools – with elementary schools in the lead – choose to offer some formal arts education to a majority of students, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic makeup of the student population: 93 percent of elementary schools (grades K-5); 86 percent of middle schools (grades 6-8); and 83 percent of high schools (grades 9-12).

Read the complete report.

Art matters! The arts help kids become more well-rounded adults and teach them things that no math or science class could possibly teach.

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5 comments to Arts in education study proves what some of us already knew

  • You’re right Alyson, we already know how creating helps the brain, but there’s two sides to this coin. As a teacher for 10 years, I was continually astounded how many kids couldn’t read or add their way out of a wet paper bag. And these aren’t the “SpEd” kids; I’m talking 14 year old kids who had trouble reading street signs or struggled to count the change back from the cash register. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a firm believer on the benefits of the creative arts in problem-solving, understanding metaphors, non-verbal communication, and other cognitive skills (wrote a thesis on it). Let’s face it, for some kids, it’s the art classes that keep them coming to school. But when there is limited $/time, you can’t teach everything. My view: cut some of the time spent on information classes and spend more on skill-based curriculum. Less of “here’s the information, memorize it” and more of “here’s how you do it and why you need it, now try it.” That said, the next step is to light a fire under art teachers to aim toward building cognitive skills through creating and less “oooo what a pretty picture”. It’ll be interesting to see how CSAP folks come up with ways to assess this. Oh my, does this sound like a rant? 🙂 Better get back to the studio and chill.

  • I have been an artist / art educator for more than twenty years. I think a good portion of our society realizes the arts are important in educational curriculum. However over the past ten years, I have seen the time allowed for art dwindle. I teach at a K-12 school. My time with elementary students has been cut in half. This year, more than half of the middle school students don’t get any art class at all. My high school students are primarily on a vocational track. This is due to federal and state mandates which require specific amounts of time allotted for academic core subjects. There isn’t enough time in the school day to accommodate all the requirements. I believe many art teachers are well equipped to integrate academics into their art curriculum and I don’t believe the majority of art teachers have a (as Tracy states) “oooo what a pretty picture” mentality. With higher standards for quality teachers, those days are gone. However, even the best art educators are at a loss to contribute their skills if they don’t get time with the students. This is the primary problem. Sheree Rensel

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    Tracy and Sheree: Thank you for your personal insights. I agree with both of you. As a former museum educator, I know how hard we worked to help teachers integrate arts into the classroom. Still, many teachers didn’t or weren’t able to take advantage of all the tools we put together for them. At the same time, I’m angry that arts have been so readily pushed aside. There are too many kids who can benefit from art–even if they are floundering in reading, math, and science. Some people just respond to the world differently and have a journey that doesn’t respond to aptitude tests.

  • I agree with Tracy and Sheree as well. I used to be an art teacher many years ago and it was not good even then. They were always cutting the arts out and what little time they did give, it was for a 35 minute class every third day! You can barely get kids in their seats, talk about what they are going to do, actually DO SOMETHING, and then clean up! As my kids grew and I helped in school, things just seemed to get worse. CSAP took over and Standards Based Education was all about doing the absolute minimum to pass the requirements and then teaching was all about what the kids needed to know to pass the test. Creative thinking, learning for the fun of it wasn’t even in the picture. Only the kids who had parents that encouraged music, theater, and art seemed to do well and thrive. They did a study during that time on what was the common thread with kids who had the highest SAT scores. They all were involved in the arts! I know I am preaching to the choir on this blog, but at least it looks like the pendulum may be FINALLY swinging back to the early 70’s when the arts were revered and the understanding that the arts made a better and smarter person prevailed.

  • Sandra Cherry Jones

    Taking high school art classes were really the reason I decided to pursue art as a living. I think I had one of the best art teachers a student could have. She help me to have confidence in my ability. She saw something in me that I did’nt see in myself. So when I see students who are taking art classes I encourage that interest, because I know what it meant to me.