Snyder, L., P. Klos and L. Grey-Hawkins. (2014). Transforming Teaching Through Arts Integration. Journal for Learning through the Arts, 10(1).


In four years, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) increased sixth- and seventh-grade student achievement on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) by 20% at a low-performing school. This improvement positively correlates with the implementation of the Supporting Arts Integrated Learning for Student Success (SAILSS) model funded through the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant. This model, offered to teachers across all content areas, incorporates extensive professional development opportunities including: an intensive weeklong workshop for teachers with artists ― followed by a two-week long teaching lab with students; participation in a cohort to achieve an arts integration post-baccalaureate certificate; extensive training, conferences and workshops at local, regional and national schools; museums; arts institutes; and higher education facilities. Qualitative and quantitative data collected by AACPS was assessed through a quasi-experimental design from the treatment and comparison schools utilizing the following instrumentation: state and local standardized testing; School-level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ); Arts Integration: Classroom Observations for Middle Schools; arts integration logs; and parent, student, and teacher surveys. Through this study, researchers found that in addition to increasing student achievement on statewide assessments, implementing this arts integration model positively correlates with a 77% decline in discipline referrals, and overall positive change in school climate based on teacher, staff, student and parent perception.

Key Findings:

  • The school-wide SAILSS model for arts integration positively correlated with increased achievement in reading and mathematics for middle school students.
  • The SAILSS program also positively correlated with an increase in school climate. Teachers’ perception of the school improved over the three years that the SAILSS program was implemented. In addition, when compared to the control school, students in the arts integration school saw a greater decrease in suspensions and a slightly greater increase in attendance.

Significance of the Findings:

As schools across the country turn their focus to technology integration and STEM, research demonstrating the impact of arts integration can play a key role in ensuring students continue to have opportunities to learn through and engage in the arts. This study provides empirical evidence to support the use of school-wide arts integration as a strategy to affect meaningful change. The study details the ways in which the qualities of the SAILSS model ― including increased arts-focused professional development, administrative support, and interactions with art and artists ― transformed teaching at a low-performing middle school and, as a result, student achievement and school climate. Educators and administrators can use these findings to help support the implementation and funding of arts integration programs to improve student performance in their own districts.


The SAILSS program was implemented over three years. An external evaluator used a variety of measures to collect and analyze data. Below is an overview of the data collected, instrument and analysis discussed in the study (as applicable):

  • Student Academic Performance: Annual reading and mathematics MSA results for treatment and control school; comparison of means analysis, effect size analysis and interrupted time series analysis.
  • School Climate – Student Attendance and Behavior Data: Attendance, suspensions, referrals from treatment and control school, and regressive analysis.
  • School Climate – Teacher’s Perception: SLEQ (Fisher & Fraser, 1990).
  • Arts Integration Activities – Annual Teacher Log: Self-reported to track development of curriculum components and activities.
  • Professional Development Activities – Annual Project Director Log: To track intensity of treatment and participation.

Limitations of the Research:

  • The treatment was limited to one school.
  • The design used a matched control and no randomization, meaning that the researchers could not exclude selection threats.
  • The researchers do not address mobility and/or teacher turnover.

Questions to Guide New Research:

  • Which elements of the SAILSS model have the greatest impact on student achievement and school climate?
  • Why did students in sixth and seventh grade see a much greater increase in math and reading achievement than students in eighth grade?
  • What impact would a similar model of arts integration have on elementary or high schools?
  • What is the impact of a school-wide arts integration program on students’ perceptions of the school?