Making the Case for Art Education
The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) recently announced a report detailing the state of arts education in the the U.S. The report was based on eighteen months of research and school site visits throughout the country and looked at the current condition of arts education.
The study found that a high-quality arts education led to student achievement in other areas, such as reading and mathematics. Performance improved on high stakes tests and art education helped transfer skills like spatial-temporal reasoning developed from music instruction to other areas of education. Further, a high-quality arts education provided motivation, improved attendance, focused attention and heightened intellectual risk-taking. Creative thinking also led to habits that improved problem solving, critical and creative thinking, dealing with ambiguity and complexity and self-confidence.
The PCAH report highlights a conundrum, posing solid evidence on the benefits of arts education at the same time that this very area is under attack from budget cuts. The committee proposes five solutions. These include building collaborations among different approaches, developing the field of arts integration, expanding in-school opportunities for teaching artists, utilizing federal and state policies to reinforce the place of the arts in K-12 education; and broadening the focus of evidence gathering about arts education.
Over the past decade, arts programs–including drama, art and music–have been cut due to budget constraints. For many, even those in policy making positions, these programs invoke a pre-conceived notion that the arts, and therefore arts education are extraneous rather than critical activities to be included as part of a core education. Low-income schools are often the hardest hit when it comes to cuts in arts programs.
Arts integration is a new area of advocacy and entails classes where subjects like science and math are integrated into art programs. The Washington Post recently profiled one elementary school with an arts integration program that incorporates creative thinking into science and math classes. Teaching kids how to analyze objective subjects like math and science from a nonjudgmental art framework helps them better grasp the concepts.
A blog from Education Week broke down current statistics on art education compiled from the National Center for Education Statistics. In key findings from the 2009-10 school year, most public elementary schools offered instruction for music (94 percent) and visual arts (83 percent). In most cases, arts instruction was incorporated with other subject areas, or as part of art integration rather than taught as a separate disciplines.
With the release of PCAH findings, legislators will no doubt pay more attention to the area of arts education.