Educators Policy Implications

Highly Effective Teachers

  • Meeting the Needs of All Students. The research indicates that the arts provide an array of tools for meeting the needs of students who are most often underserved by public schools—particularly students from low socio-economic backgrounds and English Language Learners. The arts allow teachers to present material in a multitude of ways and provide students of all needs multiple points of access to curriculum and numerous avenues for expressing their knowledge and personal understanding. Studies note that teachers who integrate the arts into their curricula find that they are better able to understand and meet the needs of all of their students. Policymakers concerned with closing the achievement gap should consider the role of arts integration as an instructional strategy for helping teachers teach all students effectively.
  • Teacher Retention and Engagement. With increasingly more teachers retiring, coupled with the departure of nearly half of new teachers from the field within their first five years of teaching, public schools face significant challenges in hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers. Studies show that teachers in K-12 schools who integrate the arts into their curricula find their teaching becomes increasingly dynamic and effective and as a result are more engaged in and satisfied with their teaching. Teachers report that these shifts have helped them resist burn out and recommit to the teaching profession. In one study, when arts were infused in the whole school, researchers found teachers decreased their rates of absenteeism. These findings suggest that policymakers explore the role that arts integration can play in initiatives and programs that target teacher retention.
  • Teaching for Deep Learning. Policymakers and education leaders have called for new curriculum standards that require more creativity, deeper levels of cognitive engagement, and more robust connections to real-world contexts. This requires teachers to think about teaching and learning in more complex and different ways. Studies find that when teachers integrate the arts into their curricula, they employ more innovative, dynamic, flexible, and creative approaches in their teaching—approaches which are student-centered and embody the qualities of what many policymakers and education leaders refer to as deep learning. Through the arts, teachers can also use alternate forms of assessment to gauge students’ understanding—including portfolios, student performances, process documentation, the collection of lesson plans, and observations of lessons. These can in turn help teachers become more reflective about and understand effectiveness of their own teaching. Policymakers should incorporate the arts in new standards and assessments, as well as teacher preparation programs that accompany new curriculum, to meet the needs of 21st Century learners.