The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention
Barry, N., Taylor, J., Walls, K. & Wood, J. (1990). The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention. Center for Music Research, Florida State University, Tallahassee.
The Arts and High School Dropout Prevention project was designed to investigate arts teachers’ claims that students identified as being at risk of dropping out of school attend and perform well in their art classes. Employing a qualitative approach, the study found that significant numbers of students identified as at-risk of dropping out attributed staying in school to arts participation. The study also revealed some of the aspects of effective arts classes that support increased engagement, motivation, and learning. While limited by sampling issues, this study makes a contribution to our understanding of how to document and describe the processes and outcomes of arts education.
Of the 40 total students surveyed, 22 students who responded said that they had seriously considered dropping out of school; six (27%) said that they remained in school because they liked the arts or music; and three (14%) said they stayed because they wanted to go on in an arts field. Out of the 22 students who responded to the survey, 41%41said that the arts played a role in keeping them ins chool. In another survey question, thirty-six of the students were asked directly whether participation in an arts course affected their decision to remain in school. Of these, 30 out of 36 (83%) said yes. When asked how the arts course influenced them, seven (23%) cited job opportunities. Field observations of 11 at-risk students revealed that in arts classes, these students were “on task” 84% of the time, as compared with only 73% of the time in non-arts classes. From this study it appears that academically at-risk students are more often engaged in arts classes than in academic classes. Whether such engagement is what led students not to drop out cannot be determined from this study.