highlights from key national research on arts education

Multiple Arts

Main Highlights Page | Multiple Arts | Drama | Music | Visual Arts | Dance


Elementary students who attended schools in which the arts were integrated with classroom curriculum outperformed their peers in math who did not have an arts-integrated curriculum. In 1998, more than 60 percent of the students attending schools integrated with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) performed at or above grade level on the math portion of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills while the remainder of Chicago Public School students averaged just over 40 percent. Those same numbers in 1992, before the CAPE program began were 40 percent in the pre-CAPE schools and 28 percent district-wide.

source: Champions of Change, 1999
pp. 54–55, Figure 4
Imagination Project at University of California
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
study: Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education Summary Evaluation


Elementary students involved in creating original opera showed higher rates of classroom participation and quality of participation than their non opera-creating peers. Students involved in reflecting, collaborating, and making the choices necessary to create opera participated more in class (50 percent vs. 33 percent) than their non opera-creating peers. The participation of the opera-creating students was more coherent and responsive to the flow of others' comments. The researchers note the pattern in three opera-creating classrooms, "breaks down in the fourth, where students were more often a work force doing teachers' bidding than a company of individuals in charge of making choices and decisions." In other words, the responsibility for and engagement in creating art is crucial to yielding its broader benefits. The longer students are engaged in the opera-creating process, the more substantial the effects on the quantity and quality of their classroom participation.

source: Champions of Change, 1999
p. 94, Table 1, p. 95, Table 2
PACE, Harvard Graduate School of Education
study: Why the Arts Matter in Education or Just What Do Children Learn When They Create an Opera


Artistically talented but academically at-risk 4th, 5th, and 6th grade urban students who were involved over the course of three years in arts training, learned in arts-integrated classrooms, and participated in an additional program that used the arts to support academic classes made greater gains in reading than did a control group of students who were not identified as artistically talented and who were taught in traditional classrooms that did not integrate the arts with the curriculum.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 64
study: Using Art Processes to Enhance Academic Self-Regulation


Artistically talented but academically at-risk 4th, 5th, and 6th grade urban students used more self-regulatory behaviors during classes in which the arts were integrated into the lesson.  Self-regulatory behaviors include paying attention, persevering, problem-solving, self-initiating, asking questions, taking positive risks, cooperating, using feedback and being prepared.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 64
study: Using Art Processes to Enhance Academic Self-Regulation


The qualitative and quantitative findings of an education reform program that places a high value on the arts found that "the arts do contribute to the general school curriculum, to learning for all students, to school and professional culture, to educational and instructional practices, and to the schools' neighborhoods and communities.  It is important that these contributions extend beyond what most arts in education programs promise to educators."

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 84
study: The Arts and Education Reform: Lessons from a Four-Year Evaluation of the A+ Schools Program, 1995–1999 (Executive Summary of the Four-Year Pilot of A+ Schools in North Carolina)


An arts-integrated education reform program placed high on six dimensions of "effective reform practice: balanced scope, clear focus on teaching and learning, a long-term time frame, a locus of authority that encourages school-level initiative but embraces support from the top, opportunities and support for collaborative engagement, and ongoing professional development directed at instructional change."

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 86
study: The Arts and Education Reform: Lessons from a Four-Year Evaluation of the A+ Schools Program, 1995-1999 (Report #1 summarizing A+ Schools in North Carolina)


Schools in South Carolina that made room in their schedules for the arts at the expense of other academic disciplines did not suffer a decline in standardized test scores in the courses that lost time in the school schedule through the addition of the arts.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 90
study: The Arts in the Basic Curriculum Project: Looking at the Past and Preparing for the Future


Sixth grade students who attended schools in which the arts were integrated with classroom curriculum outperformed their peers in reading who did not have an arts-integrated curriculum. In 1998, the difference in the Iowa Basic Skills Test for 6th grade reading favoring 19 schools integrated with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) was 14 percentage points above 29 other Chicago public schools matched to the CAPE schools in terms of family income, neighborhood and academic performance. In 1992, before CAPE was initiated, the difference between those schools had been 8 percentage points.

source: Champions of Change, 1999
p. 55, Figure 5
Imagination Project at University of California
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
study: Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education Summary Evaluation


Fourth, 5th, 7th, and 8th grade students who reported the highest level of instruction in the arts, either in school or out, scored higher on a figural creativity test than students in the lowest quarter of arts participation.  High arts children also scored higher from teachers' ratings on expression, positive risk-taking, creativity-imagination, and cooperative learning.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 66
study: Learning In and Through the Arts: The Question of Transfer


Fourth, 5th, 7th and 8th grade students who reported a high level of instruction and participation in the arts showed higher levels of confidence about their own academics than did low arts children.

source: Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, 2002, p. 66
study: Learning In and Through the Arts: The Question of Transfer


In schools with strong arts climates, teachers and students both benefit. Teachers found students who had received high levels of arts training to be more cooperative and more willing to share what they had learned than students with low levels of arts training. "High-arts" students were better able to express their ideas, use their imaginations and take risks in learning, as reported by teachers. High-arts students had better rapport with teachers and teachers in arts-rich schools demonstrated more interest in their work and were more likely to become involved in professional development experiences. They were also more likely to be innovative in their teaching.
 
source: Champions of Change, 1999
pp. 38–41, Figures 2 and 5
Teachers College/Columbia University
study: Learning In and Through the Arts: Curriculum Implications


More students who had received high levels of arts instruction earned high scores on measures of creative thinking than students with the lowest levels of arts instruction. Creative thinking includes various aspects of problem solving: how many ideas a student has in response to a problem, how original those ideas are, how detailed the ideas are, and the student's ability to keep her mind open long enough for innovative ideas to surface. The results were, "more firmly tied to rich arts provision than to high economic status."

source: Champions of Change, 1999
p. 38, p. 39, Figure 1
Teachers College/Columbia University
study: Learning In and Through the Arts: Curriculum Implications


A co-relationship between high involvement in the arts and better academic scores was found among all students and remained consistent when the students studied were selected only from the lowest socioeconomic quartile. Socioeconomic status (SES) takes into account parental income and education levels and has long been known to be the most significant predictor of academic performance. High SES students would be expected to have both greater involvement in the arts and better academic performance making the relationship seen here between the two not very significant. However, by comparing low SES students with other low SES students, the relationship between high arts involvement and better academic performance could be tested without SES affecting the results. In the low SES group, significant differences were found between the academic achievement of high arts-involved students and low arts-involved students as measured by standardized tests and reading proficiency measures. For instance, 30.9 percent of 12th grade, low SES, high arts-involved students scored in the top half on the standardized tests which combined math and verbal achievement. Only 23.4 percent of their low arts-involved peers (12th grade, low SES) did so. For achievement in high levels of reading proficiency the percentages are 37.9 percent for the high arts-involved students (12th grade, low SES) and 30.4 percent for the low arts involved (12th grade, low SES).

source: Champions of Change, 1999, p. 8
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California at Los Angeles
study: Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts


The levels of academic achievement recorded by high arts-involved students in the lowest socioeconomic (SES) quartile narrows the gap that they have with higher SES students. Twelfth grade, low SES, high arts-involved students nearly close the achievement gap in reading proficiency with higher SES, low arts-involved 12th graders (37.9 percent reaching high levels of reading proficiency versus 42.9 percent respectively).

source: Champions of Change, 1999, pp. 6, 8
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California at Los Angeles
study: Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts


Drop outs rates are co-related to levels of arts-involvement among all students, even when controlled for socioeconomic status (SES), and high arts-involved, low SES students close the drop out gap with higher SES but low arts-involved students. Low SES students in general have a higher drop out rate than higher SES students but 3.5 percent of low SES, high arts-involved 8th graders studied dropped out by the 10th grade whereas 3.7 percent of higher SES but low arts-involved 8th graders dropped out by the 10th grade.

source: Champions of Change, 1999, pp. 6, 8
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California at Los Angeles
study: Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts


High levels of arts involvement co-related to the number of hours students watched television. 10th grade students in the top quartile of arts involvement watched less television than those students in the bottom quartile of arts involvement. 28.2 percent of the high-arts students watched one hour or less of television on weekdays contrasted to 15.1 percent of the low-arts students. Only 20.6 percent of the high-arts students watched three hours or more of television on weekdays contrasted to 34.9 percent of low-arts students.

source: Champions of Change, 1999
p. 3, Figure 1
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California at Los Angeles
study: Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts


The YouthARTS Development Project, a research initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice, offered arts opportunities to youth at risk in three cities and found decreased delinquent behavior and improved cooperation and attitudes about school. Some of the findings reveal that in Portland, while only 43 percent of the program participants demonstrated an ability to cooperate with other at the start of the program—a full 100 percent did so by the end of the 12-week program. Attitude toward school also improved by program participants: only 7.7 percent improvement in the non-arts group over the same time frame in contrast to 31.6 percent improvement in the youth involved with the arts program. In San Antonio, 16.4 percent of the arts program participants had a decrease in delinquent behavior in contrast to only 3.4 percent of the non-arts comparison group. In Atlanta, despite the fact that the arts program participants had, on average, more court referrals than the comparison group at the start of the program (6.9 and 2.2 referrals, respectively), they had, on average, fewer court referrals during the program period than the comparison group (1.3 and 2.0 respectively).

source: OJJDP, U.S. Department of Justice
study: YouthARTS Development Project
pp. 7, 10, 12


Troubled students involved in afterschool arts programs excelled in academics and school life beyond less troubled students in a national sample. Though the students observed and studied in after school arts organizations were twice as likely as those in a national sample (U.S. Department of Education, NELS:88) to be undergoing insecure family situations and attending violent schools, they were four times more likely to have won school-wide attention for their academic achievement, three times more likely to be elected to class office, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem, and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

source: Americans for the Arts Monograph, p. 3
Living the Arts through Language+ Learning: a report on community-based youth organizations
Shirley Brice Heath
Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching


Environments of afterschool activities at arts organizations "emerged as somewhat different from those of groups engaged primarily in community service or sports." Linguistic anthropologists found that in the arts organizations, "Students participated in planning and preparing as a group, their sentences peppered, "with 'could,' 'will,' 'can,'—asserting possibility."

source: Champions of Change, 1999, pp. 24–25
Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
study: Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts During Nonschool Hours


Students involved in after-school activities at arts organizations showed greater use of complex language than their peers in activities through community-service or sports organizations. Linguistic anthropologists found that "the influences of participation in the arts on language show up in the dramatic increase in syntactic complexity, hypothetical reasoning, and questioning approaches taken up by young people within four-to-six weeks of their entry into the arts organization." "Generalized patterns emerged among youth participating in after-school arts groups: a five-fold increase in use of if-then statements, scenario building followed by what-if questions, and how-about prompts, more than a two-fold increase in use of mental state verbs (consider, understand, etc.), a doubling in the number of modal verbs (could, might, etc.)"

source: Champions of Change, 1999, p. 27
Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
study: Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts During Nonschool Hours


Students in after-school arts groups "had nine times as many opportunities to write original text material (not dictated notes) as their classroom counterparts."

source: Champions of Change, 1999, p. 28
Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
study: Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts During Nonschool Hours


Various disciplined attitudes and behaviors were observed in underprivileged students who were given instruction in an art discipline. The effects of students' involvement with the arts were tracked over time. These effects included artistic, academic, and personal achievement and states of mind. Common characteristics across all age groups (elementary through adult) were: resilience, self-regulation, (constructive) identity, and the ability to experience flow (total focus and absorption in a task).

source: Champions of Change, 1999, p. 69
National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented
University of Connecticut, Storrs
study: Artistic Talent Development for Urban Youth: The Promise and the Challenge


Students in the United States receive different degrees of instruction in the various art forms but not a high degree of instruction in any of them. The National Assessment of Educational Progress determined in 1997 that 3 percent of the nation's eighth-graders attend schools that reported that the typical eighth-grader receives instruction in dance at least three or four times a week. For theater the comparable figure is 10 percent, for music it is 43 percent and for visual arts, 52 percent.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress, 1997
National Center for Education Statistics
U.S. Department of Education


Instruction and participation in the arts affects students' abilities to respond to, perform, and create in the arts. Students who played instruments almost every day scored almost twice as high in music performance (on average, 53 percent) as those student who did not have music all year (27 percent). The same relationship held true for singing. Those students who were asked to sing almost every day scored almost a third higher (on average 40 percent) in music creating than those students who did not have music that year (29 percent). Among the students in the upper 25 percent of those tested in responding to music, 44 percent reported playing music in a band, either at school or independently, compared to only six percent among those in the lowest 25 percent.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress, 1997
press release
National Center for Education Statistics
U.S. Department of Education


The arts provide a "cognitive use of the emotions. In this domain it is judgment rather than rule that prevails" (Israel Scheffler, 1977). Ten general lessons the arts teach children:

  • to make good judgments about qualitative relationships;
  • that problems can have more than one solution;
  • to celebrate multiple perspectives;
  • that in complex forms of problem solving, purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity;
  • that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know;
  • that small differences can have large effects;
  • to think through and within a material;
  • constructive ways to say what cannot be said;
  • that the arts offer experience we can have from no other source; and
  • that the arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

source: Learning and the Arts: Crossing Boundaries, 2000, p. 14
article: Ten Lessons the Arts Teach
Professor of Education Elliot Eisner
Stanford University


"The Congress finds that the arts are forms of understanding and ways of knowing that are fundamentally important to education." The United States Congress drew that conclusion, among others, about arts education in the re-authorization of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (H.R.6, Title X, section D, 1994).
United States Congress, 1994


The arts develop skills and habits of mind that are important for workers in the new "Economy of Ideas" (Alan Greenspan). The SCANS 2000 Report links arts education with economic realities, asserting that young people who learn the rigors of planning and production in the arts will be valuable employees in the idea-driven workplace of the future." (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) was established in 1990 by the Secretary of Labor with the goal of encouraging a high-performance economy characterized by high-skill, high-wage employment. It defined critical skills that employees need in order to succeed in the workforce and, indeed, in life. In addition to basic literacy and computation skills which workers must know how to apply, they need the ability to work on teams, solve complex problems in systems, understand and use technology.)

source: Champions of Change, p. 32
Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
study: Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts During Nonschool Hours


A summary of findings from seven separate academic studies revealed that the arts:

  • reach students in ways that they are not otherwise being reached;
  • connect students to themselves and each other;
  • transform the environment for learning;
  • provide learning opportunities for the adults in the lives of young people;
  • provide new challenges for those students already considered successful;
  • connect learning experiences to the world of real work;
  • enable young people to have direct involvement with the arts and artists;
  • require significant staff development; and
  • support extended engagement in the artistic process.

source: Champions of Change, 1999
pp. 9–11