Students - Policy Implications

Equity and Access

  • Access to Arts Education. Research suggests that access to arts education provides an academic advantage to students. Students in schools with extensive and broad offerings in the arts not only are able to learn the arts—a core academic subject—but also do better on state and district standardized tests and are provided with more opportunities to achieve and succeed than students in schools lacking robust arts programs. Arts-rich schools graduate higher percentages of students, who in turn are more likely to complete college and to be socially active in their communities in adulthood. Studies also find that, in arts-rich schools—particularly schools that offer both discipline-based arts classes and integrated arts instruction—students are more engaged and teachers are more effective. Policymakers concerned with educational equity should consider access to rich arts education programming a significant factor in a high-quality education for all students.
  • Closing the Achievement Gap. Studies finds that arts education engages students who are often underserved in public schools—including students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds, English language learners, and students with special needs—and that these students do better in arts-rich schools than in schools that do not have robust arts programs. These students also show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement when participating in the arts, though they are least likely to have access to arts learning. Studies further find that arts integrated instruction offers a different avenue for students to access and learn information in English language arts and mathematics and may be more effective than traditional remedial programs, thus offering a resource in helping to close the achievement gap. Research suggests that policymakers should consider increasing rather than reducing the role of the arts in schools where an achievement gap persists between students from low-SES backgrounds, English language learners, and other student groups.

College and Career Readiness

  • Twenty First Century Skills. The research base suggests that 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, and adaptability—skills key to tackling the intellectual and professional challenges students will face in high-tech environs. They also include the social skills and capacities demanded in an increasingly plural society and global world—including capacities for empathy and tolerance and skills necessary for collaboration in and among diverse groups. Taken together, the significant body of research connecting arts education to these key skills and capacities recommends that policymakers include the arts as they craft strategies to help public schools graduate college and career ready students.
  • Student Engagement and Motivation. Multiple research studies spanning the education system from pre-kindergarten through high school suggest that arts education develops in students 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, when students are left more to their own devices to complete work and succeed at discrete projects. That arts teach students how to turn barriers into opportunities, to persist in the face of challenges, and motivate students to achieve mastery of skills should be taken into consideration when policymakers are developing strategies to ensure that every child who graduates is ready for success in college or careers.
  • 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. The student outcomes identified throughout the research in ArtsEdSearch are evidence for the deep learning that occurs when students participate in high quality learning in and through the arts. The research suggests that arts education helps students develop the critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication skills; initiative; and mastery of core content knowledge at the heart of deep learning and closely linked with college and career readiness and success. When reshaping the education system to support deeper learning, research suggests that policymakers can benefit from engaging discrete and integrated arts education as vehicles for deeper learning, and from building on the possibilities presented by arts integrated instruction for making the deep learning environment opened in the arts available to other disciplines.

Academic Achievement

  • Literacy and Language Development. A significant body of research demonstrates that arts education helps students, especially English language learners (ELL), learn and refine language and literacy skills—skills necessary to understand all forms of communication, including written, spoken, and image-based modes. A body of studies identifies particularly strong connections between integrated drama and English language arts instruction and students’ acquisition of early and advanced literacy skills. Taken together, these studies recommend that policymakers embrace integrated drama and English language arts instruction among their tools for helping all students, and particularly ELL students, develop literacy skills.
  • School Readiness. Certain emotional, behavioral, and cognitive skills are necessary for students to be able to learn and function effectively in school. When these skills are not developed at home students begin school at a disadvantage and may have an even harder time reaching proficiency benchmarks, beginning a pattern of low achievement. Studies find that arts education assists in preparing students for success in school by developing early language abilities, social skills, self-regulation, and sustained focus and attention, suggesting that policymakers include the arts when developing strategies and services to prepare students for learning in school and to ensure equity of educational outcomes.