Out-of-School Policy Implications

Equity and Access

  • Access to Opportunities for Positive Youth Development. Studies find that out-of-school arts learning programs exemplify the kinds of learning environments that support positive youth development. Researchers have found, they provide a safe space within which youth take risks, explore new ideas, develop their sense of self, express themselves, and support others in doing the same. They also often provide youth access to relationships with positive adult role models and opportunities to work alongside mentors, engage in critical dialogue and learn decision-making and strategy-development. Further, studies show effective out-school-arts programs provide a medium for young people to become visible, to matter in their communities, to effect social change, and to develop self-efficacy and self-awareness. Policymakers should consider the positive benefits out-of-school arts education realizes not only for youth, but also for their communities, in providing environments that support positive youth development and opportunities to make a positive contribution.

College and Career Readiness

  • Twenty-First Century Skills. The research base indicates that out-of-school arts education develops a set of skills and capacities closely aligned with those that policymakers and education leaders believe are necessary for success in the 21st Century. These skills include critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration—skills key to tackling the intellectual and professional challenges youth will face in high-tech environs. They also include the social skills and capacities demanded in an increasingly plural society and global world—including empathy and tolerance and skills necessary for collaboration in and among diverse groups. Taken together, the significant body of research connecting out-of-school arts education to these key skills and capacities recommends that policymakers include the arts as they craft strategies to increase out-of-school opportunities that assist youth to be prepared to enter college and succeed in a chosen career.
  • Engagement and Persistence. Research at elementary through high school levels, suggests that out-of-school arts education develops in youth the engagement, attention, motivation, and persistence necessary to succeed independently in college and careers. Sustained attention and engagement in learning or in completing tasks are vital skills for college and the workforce. Studies show, when students are left more to their own devices to complete work they succeed at discrete projects. The arts teach students how to turn barriers into opportunities, to persist in the face of challenges, and they motivate students to achieve mastery of skills. The evidence from this research base should be taken into consideration when policymakers are developing strategies for out-of-school learning opportunities to ensure that every child who graduates is ready for success in college or careers.
  • Positive Youth Development. There is a strong research base that demonstrates out-of-school arts learning, particularly in performing and other collaborative art programs, helps youth to understand and express themselves more effectively and cultivates empathy for others. Self-awareness, emotional development, self-efficacy and confidence are essential for youth to develop strong communication skills that contribute to personal development as well as enabling social and civic success. The research demonstrates out-of-school arts programming empowers youth and helps them to develop social capital and agency. Policymakers should consider out-of-school arts programs’ positive impact on youth development indicators when crafting policy to ensure youth are fully equipped adults capable of being positive contributors to society.

Civic Capacity

  • Civic Engagement. Research shows, participation in out-of-school arts programming contributes to increases in participants’ civic engagement, understanding of local issues, self-efficacy, and ability to contribute to creative solutions that address local and global issues. In community-based arts programs youth work in the arts as a medium to create community and social change. In addition, research provides evidence to demonstrate those who engage in arts education throughout their youth are generally more involved in their community through volunteerism and political activism as adults as well as more likely to continue or return to participating in the arts as artists or lifelong arts patrons. Policymakers concerned with community development related to civic engagement should take into consideration the breadth of arts education research with outcomes that point to community building and other economic and civic success indicators.
  • Cross-Cultural Understanding. Out-of-school arts programs contribute significant strategies for fostering cross-cultural learning. Research shows that out-of-school arts programs provide youth with opportunities to learn about cultural connections and interpretations through the historical and contemporary social context of an art form. This provides a context within which youth are able to negotiate and articulate their own cultural values. Attaining cultural competence involves both learning about one’s own cultural values and having a greater understanding and empathy for those cultural values different from one’s own. In addition, studies demonstrate arts programming, particularly out-of-school drama programs, effectively teach communication and conflict resolution skills. Youth who have tools to solve conflicts without violence, not only increase their own safety and communication skills, but are able to take on leadership among their peers to help others solve conflict peacefully. Out-of-school arts-based collaborations create an environment to highlight and value diverse perspectives and backgrounds leading to peaceful critical dialogue. Policymakers should consider the research on out-of-school arts education when crafting policy related to increasing skills for cross-cultural understanding and conflict resolution.