Critics of arts education point to a lack of skilled American workers in critical industries and ask, ‘why is art education important in schools when all the good jobs are in math and science?’ These days, the data is beginning to show that the importance of arts education goes way beyond a paint brush.
The debate over whether art delivers real world benefits, and is even necessary in primary education, is not new. The amount of hours a child can spend in a classroom is limited and precious, and primary school curricula are often the laboratory in which people choose to cure our country’s ills. Yet, the importance of arts education is coming further into focus.
What is new, is a large set of empirical, peer-reviewed studies that can inform us of what science has to say about the importance of art education for young people.
Here are four assertions made by these studies on the real life benefits and importance of art education.
- Arts education can improve proficiency in reading, writing, and math
A 2002 report by the Arts Education Partnership looked at over 62 different studies from 100 researchers and found that students who received more arts education did better on standardized tests, showed better development in social skills, and were more motivated than students who had reduced or no access.
The AEP admitted that art education is not a panacea for all struggling schools or students, but emphasized that art can be a uniquely valuable asset for students from poor communities who need added remedial education. An updated report in 2010 yielded similar results.
- There is a link between arts education and improved literacy
A 2006 Guggenheim Museum study sent artists into schools to help students create their own masterpieces. Students who participated performed better in six different categories of literacy. Researchers believed the improvement came from students thinking critically about art in a way that could be applied to other subjects.
- Greater arts education can lead to better discipline, attendance, test scores and graduation rates.
This study by the Missouri Department of Education surveyed its public school system and found that arts education had a significant effect on the academic and social success of their students, including being more likely to come to class and to graduate, and less likely to be expelled. Similar studies in other states have yielded nearly identical results.
- Art education can help connect students to the larger world and improve community cohesion.
A 2005 Rand Corporation report titled “A Portrait of the Visual Arts” showed that arts education did much to close the achievement gap between students from divergent socio-economic levels and gave a boost to children who lacked certain enrichment experiences available at more competitive schools.