If you needed another reason to run to your child’s school and hug their art teachers, here’s a big one: according to a new study, arts education has a significantly positive impact on children’s lives.
Whether it’s theater, dance, visual arts or music, the study demonstrates that students with access to these classes in school are more likely to show compassion to others, less likely to receive disciplinary action, and overall will perform better on written tests.
Research took place in Houston, where 10,548 students were selected from 42 schools. The reason the Houston area was selected was because almost a third of elementary and middle school students in the district don’t have access to a full-time arts teacher.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. There is still a steady decline of arts programs nationwide.
In the study, researchers compared schools with eight “school-community arts partnerships” to other schools with just three. The students that were selected for these extra programs were given things like field trips, lectures with artists-in-residence, and even things like puppet show performances for the younger kids to understand concepts like bullying.
Then, the study compared the group of students who were given additional opportunities to those who weren’t. Researchers looked at their academic performance, disciplinary records, and answers to survey questions, which included prompts like: “I want to help people who get treated badly” and “I plan to go to college”.
The results? Students who were given additional access to arts-programs had higher test scores, less disciplinary action taken against them, had higher written test scores, and demonstrated more compassion in the way they answered test questions.
One of the coolest parts of researching the positive effects of arts programs is that they can actually help students who are struggling in their classes. “Some students who don’t excel academically, they’re more engaged, because it gives them a different way to learn,” Tiffany Thompson, a first-grade teacher at Codwell Elementary, told KQED.
So, in short, arts programs are good for all students: those who are on a solid trajectory towards higher education, and those who are struggling a bit. To those who are having trouble in a traditional classroom environment, the arts give a different way to learn and excel.
This conclusion goes hand in hand with other studies that have been conducted in the same vein, which demonstrate, for instance, that field trips to the theater and museums boost political tolerance, interest in the arts, and more. Sadly, in lower-income areas, families may not have access or resources to bring their children to places like this on their own. That is why it is so important for schools to make a push for these programs within their walls.
Our hope is that this type of research will reinforce what educators already know: the arts are an integral part of our children’s education. We need them to continue growing our children into well-rounded individuals.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.