Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Arts & Education PCAH Summary


President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) Reinvesting in Arts Education. Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools
 (May 2011)

A decline in arts education
‘At this moment in our nation’s history, there is a great urgency around major transformation in America’s schools.  Persistently high dropout rates (reaching 50% or more in some areas) are evidence that many schools are no longer able to engage and motivate their students.  Students who do graduate from high school are increasingly the products of narrowed curricula, lacking the creative and critical thinking skills needed for success in post-secondary education and the workforce’ (p vi)

‘arts instruction in schools is on a downward trend …………… sadly this is especially true for students from lower-income schools, where analyses show that access to the arts in schools is disproportionately absent’ (p vi)

‘In the global economy, creativity is essential ……………This report shows us the link between arts education and achievement in other subjects.  It documents that the process of making art – whether it is written, performed, sculpted, photographed, filmed, danced or painted – prepares children for success in the workforce not simply as artists, but all professions.  Most importantly, it makes compelling argument for creating arts-rich schools and engaging artists in ways that complement the study of other subjects such as literature, history, science and mathematics’ (p2)

This ‘is the optimal moment for the federal government to make a major statement about the value of bringing high quality arts teaching to more schools’ (p10)

‘Almost every community – indeed, almost every school that tries to address the vexing challenge of how to get more arts into schools does so differently …….. there is no one model that works best for every community’ (p10)

‘Recent analyses revealed that the schools with students who could most benefit from the documented advantages of arts strategies are often those that either do not recognize the benefits of arts education or do not have the resources to provide it to their students.  Current budgetary crises as well as the narrowing of curricula have forced some schools to curtail arts programs when they are most needed’ (p11)

Research evidence about the relationship between involvement in the arts and academic performance

‘Champions of Change (Fiske, 1999) reported seven correlative studies that show the pattern of linkage between high levels of arts participation and higher grades and test scores in math and reading.  Included was the well regarded Catterall study that first examined data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS) about the relationships between involvement in the arts and academic performance.  The quantitative results (e.g standardized test scores, academic grades, and dropout rates) showed that the probability of having more arts experiences in school was greater for economically advantaged students than for low-socio economic status students.  However, students with high involvement in the arts, including minority and low-income students, performed better in school and stayed in school longer than students with low involvement, the relative advantage increasing over the school years.  Low-income students involved in drama showed greater reading proficiency and more positive self concept compared to those with little or no involvement’ (p17)
‘Anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath studied no-school youth organisations in low-income neighbourhoods.  Her research showed that those students who were involved in arts education for at least nine hours a week were four times more likely to have high academic achievement and three times more likely to have high attendance (Heath, 1998)

‘In 2009, James Catterall was able to follow the original cohort of NELS students into their mid twenties and found the persistence of strong connections between arts learning in earlier years and overall academic success…………. Most strikingly, arts-engaged low-income students are more likely than their non-arts engaged peers to have attended and done well in college, obtained employment with a future, volunteered in their communities and participated in the political process by voting.  In the many types of comparisons that Catterall tracks, arts engaged low-income students tend to perform more like average higher-income students.’ (p18)

‘In a study released last year, Dallas’ Big Thought program found that sustained engagement in a fine arts discipline gave high school students substantial advantage in reading achievement when compared to students who took fewer arts courses, and that all students who participated in clubs or groups that focused on creative activities had an advantage in reading and math achievement (Bransom et al., 2010) (p19)

‘Studies have documented significant links between arts integration models and academic and social outcomes for students, efficacy for teachers, and school-wide improvements in culture and climate…….. Most important, the greatest gains in schools with arts integration are often seen school-wide and also with the most hard-to-reach and economically disadvantaged students…….. (Fiske, 1999) reported that arts integration approaches were successful in producing better attendance and fewer discipline problems, increased graduation rates, and improved test scores; motivating students who were difficult to reach otherwise; and providing challenges to more academically successful students.  Studies from Minnesota (Ingram & Reidel, 2003; DeMoss and Morris, 2006) demonstrated particular benefits from arts integration for economically disadvantaged students and English learners in the form of reading achievement gains – not surprising given the similarities between effective language instruction techniques and visual arts and theatre skills’ (p19)

CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnership in Education) and A+ Schools
‘School-wide achievement gains have been observed when arts integration has been applied as a school reform and improvement strategy’ (p20)
‘The 19 Chicago elementary schools operating the CAPE arts integration model showed consistently higher average scores on the district’s reading and mathematics assessments over a six year period when compared to all district elementary schools (Catterall and Waldorf, 1999).  Moreover, in the CAPE schools there were associated positive changes in school climate, e.g leadership, focus on instruction, teacher colleagueship and participation in decision making’ (p20)

‘A+ Schools are a comprehensive education reform model that is based on using arts-integrated instruction, incorporating Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, recent brain research findings, and dance, drama, music, visual art and creative writing.  More than twelve years of research about the A+ Schools in North Carolina tracked consistent gains in student achievement, the schools’ engagement of parents and community, and other measures of learning and success.  Most notably, the A+ Schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged and minority students performed as well on statewide reading and mathematics assessments as students from more advantaged schools.  This is doubly impressive considering that while other schools have focused on basic skills in response to high stakes testing, the A+ Schools have been able to achieve reading and mathematics gains on statewide accountability tests without narrowing the curriculum (Corbitt, McKenny, Noblit and Wilson, 2001)’ (p21)

Brain research
‘Increasingly, researchers are finding evidence that early arts education is a building block of developing brain function.  Examples of findings, some of which corroborate earlier findings include:
·          Music training is closely correlated with development of phonological awareness – one of the most important predictors of early reading skills
·          Children who were motivated to practice a specific art form developed improved attention and also improved general intelligence.  Training of attention and focus leads to improvement in other cognitive domains.
·          Links have been found between high levels of music training and the ability to manipulate information in both working memory and long-term memory’ (p22)

‘Studies that not specifically about arts education have identified types of learning experiences that have implications for arts education.  For example, reading researchers have found that visualisation can produce significant gains in reading comprehension (Shanahan, et al, 2010).  Visualisation means that children can create mental images as they read – clearly a skill that could be supported by helping students draw or paint pictures or demonstrate with movement or acting what they imagine from a story.’ (p23)

Education system in crisis
‘By some estimates, approximately 50% of male students from disadvantaged minority groups leave school before graduation ……An estimated 2 million students attend a high school in which fewer than 50% of students graduate’ (p28)

‘Studies about the reasons for these trends provide a remarkably consistent picture: students report being bored, almost half saying that classes are not interesting (this is true even of those with high grades who drop out) and over two-thirds say they are not inspired to work hard and that too little was expected of them (Bridgeland et al, 2006) (p28)

‘The narrow focus on only teaching the basics clearly has not been the answer.  Many high school graduates lack the skills to make them successful in post-secondary education and later in the workforce.  These are sometimes referred to as 21st Century skills, or habits of mind, and include problem solving, critical and creative thinking, dealing with ambiguity and complexity, integration of multiple skills sets, and the ability to perform cross-disciplinary work.  Leaders worry that the United States is losing its competitive edge in creativity and innovation, and that the call for ever more rigorous academic standards is insufficient without a concomitant focus on developing creativity and imagination’ (p29)

‘The implications for educators are daunting. They must find ways to reach and motivate more students and, at the same time, teach more challenging content and 21st Century skills.  The expectation is that they must create an exciting climate of relevant learning tasks for students who are increasingly turning to digital devices and not teachers, texts, or each other for learning new information and expressing ideas.  For teachers and principals who continue to be constrained by rigid curricula, the pressures of standardized testing and ever-increasing budget cuts, the demands seem overwhelming.’ (p29)
‘Reformers are calling now for transformation of learning that is, fundamental change in what and how students learn’ (p30)

‘Tight school budgets are a major problem but some also blame the narrowing of the curriculum as a result of emphasis on accountability for basic skills’ (p30)

Inequity in Arts Opportunities
‘There is increasing evidence that the students in schools that most challenged and serving the highest need student populations often have the fewest arts opportunities’ (p32)

‘In schools identified as needing improvement and /or with higher percentages of minority students, teachers were much more likely to report a reduction in time spent in arts instruction’ (p32)

‘The most frequently cited reason for the lack of arts education opportunity was inadequate funding followed by a focus on improving test scores (Center for Education Policy, SRI International, n.d.) (p33)

Allies in Creativity
‘Last year’s IBM 2010 Global CEO Survey found that CEOs in 60 countries believe creativity is the most important leadership quality and that creativity helps employees capitalize on complexity (IBM 2010)’ (p38)

‘employers rate creativity and innovation among the top five important skills for workers and believe that the most essential skills for demonstrating creativity are the ability to identify new patterns of behaviour or new combinations of actions and integrate knowledge across different disciplines’ (p38)

Arts Integration – a solution?
‘Arts integration is the practice of using arts strategies to build skills and teach classroom subjects across different disciplines………When implemented effectively and with rigor; students receive both high quality arts instruction and subject matter instruction in reading, math, science and other subjects within an integrated lesson plan……….The possibilities for learning other subjects through the arts are limitless: young English learners practice English adverbs by following the directions of a dance instructor; algebra teachers help students create digital designs that demonstrate their understanding of mathematical relationships; and middle school students create and play musical instruments in the process of learning about sound and wave forms’ (p39)

‘Professional development for classroom teachers, arts specialists and teaching artists is crucial to an effective arts integration program’ (p40)

‘Teaching artists are clearly a critical part of the solution for meeting the goal of expanding high quality arts experiences in underserved schools through extended placements’ (p42) 

‘The lessons from successful endeavours like Teach for America’ [show] ‘there is truly an opportunity to take advantage of the arts to achieve significant and last benefits for students, teachers and schools.’ (p43)

‘The arts are a vital part of the culture and life of this country and all students deserve access to the arts in school as part of a complete education.  Just as science and social studies are deemed essential subjects independent of their value to other learning outcomes, the arts merit a similar unambiguous place in the curriculum’ (p48)

‘We urge the leaders of professional associations to work with federal and state agencies to support connections among the different  approaches to arts education’ (p49)

‘Too often advocates focus on the method of delivery of arts instruction, rather than the quality of that instruction and the flexibility to adapt to the needs of the community.  …… We recommend efforts that demonstrate how teams of classroom teachers, arts specialists and teaching artists can work together on building curricula, delivering instruction, and learning from each other…………… We agree that the arts will have a more secure place in the curriculum when teachers experience firsthand the deepening of learning in their subjects that comes from incorporating arts teaching strategies and working in collaboration with arts specialists and teaching artists’ (p50)

The PCAH envisions schools in cities and towns across our nation that are alive with the energy of creative thinking and fresh ideas, full of art, music and movement.  All of the research points to the success of schools that are ‘arts rich’ – in which students who may have fallen by the wayside find themselves re-engaged in learning when their enthusiasm for film, design, theatre or even hip-hop is tapped into by their teachers………. We would like to see classrooms where teachers develop new ways of working with students and collaborating with their colleagues to motivate the best performance from their classes.  We want to create schools where every student feels he or she is good at something and where all teachers feel they have the tools they need to reach their students’  (p55)


Ashby,C.,& Rich,B. (Eds.). (2008) Learning, arts and the brain: The Dana Consortium report on arts and cognition.  New York: Dana press

Bransom,J., Brown,A. Denson,K. Hoitsma,L. Pinto,Y. Wolf,D.P. & Wolf,T. (2010) Creative Learning: People and Pathways. Dallas: Big Thought

Bridgeland,J.M., Dilulio,J.J., & Morison,K.B. (2006) . The silent epidemic: Perspectives of high school dropouts. Washington,DC: Civic Enterprises

Catterall,J.S. (2009). Doing well and doing good by art: The effects of education in the visual and performing arts on the achievements and values of young adults. http://tiny.cc/Oprbg

Corbett,D., McKenney,M., Noblit,G., & Wilson,B. (2001). The A+ schools program: school, community, teacher and student effects. (Report #6 in a series of seven policy reports summarizing the four-year pilot of A+ schools in North Carolina). Winston-salem, NC: Kenan Institute for the Arts

DeMoss, K. & Morris,T. (2002). How arts integration supports student learning: Students shed light on the connections. Chicago, IL: Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE)

Fiske, E.B. (Ed.). 1999 Champions of change: the impact of the arts on learning. Washington DC: The Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities.  Retrieved from http://www.aep-arts.org/files/publications/ChampsReport.pdf

Heath, S.B, Soep,E.,& Roach,A. (1998) Living the arts through language-learning: A report on community-based organisations.  Americans for the Arts 2 (7), 1-20

Ingram,D. & Reidell,E. (2003). Arts for academic achievement: What does arts integration do for students? Minneapolis, MN: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement

Shanahan,t., Callison,K., Carriere,C., Duke,N.K., Pearson,P.D., Schatscheinder,C. & Torgeson,J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington,DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education

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