Monograph: Involvement in the Arts and Success in Secondary School
This paper describes relationships between student involvement in the arts and academic achievement. The analysis is based on a longitudinal study of 25,000 secondary school students sponsored by the Department of Education. This national data collection project launched in 1988 has supported leading research on student achievement in recent years, including studies addressing school organization, curriculum, and the problems of students at risk. This paper presents the first reported analysis of information in this national survey about student participation in the arts. Here the focus is arts involvement and its potential ties to academic success in the middle and high school years. The analysis is straightforward and largely descriptive. Yet despite the simplicity of the approach, the results seem unprecedented in their grasp of how arts-rich versus arts-poor youngsters do in school. The first section describes student participation rates in eighth and tenth grades in various school and community-based arts activities such as school band or drama productions, arts classes in school, and art-related lessons outside of school. The second section describes academic performance levels and selected behaviors and attitudes of students at grades eight and ten, for two student groups with different experiences with the arts: one group is students reporting high levels of overall involvement in the arts; the other is students with low arts involvement. A different analytical strategy is used in the third section. Here, relationships between involvement in the arts and achievement are examined, this time for children from homes in the lowest quartile of the family income and parent education spectrum. The achievement differences between high and low-arts youth within this economically disadvantaged group remain significant. Moreover, the importance of consistent involvement in the arts shows up in increased advantages for arts-rich (even though economically poor) youngsters by the tenth grade. A substantial case for the importance of the arts in the academic lives of middle and high schools is the primary implication of this research.
Americans for the Arts’ Monograph series featured in-depth issue papers on topics that were of the greatest interest to our members and arts professionals at the time. They often still serve as excellent resources for best practices and historic reference for today’s issues. Monographs were produced from 1993–2010. Monographs from 2001-2010 are available for downloadable in PDF format our online store at a nominal fee for nonmembers but free to members. All monographs from 1993-2000 are available for free download via the National Arts Administration and Policy Publications Database.