As we look at the future of our national education system, many questions are looming as the inclusion of arts education and its importance to the scholastic achievement of our students. Do the variables of socio-economic status, school location and parent and administration support for the arts play apart in answering these questions? What does previous research on the subject say about the matter? How has NCLB affected the full implementation of arts curriculums nation-wide? This study will look at the effects of arts education on student success on high stakes testing and how school administrators have taken a stand to ensure the arts are given their proper place amongst the other subjects taught within their schools.
Introduction and Purpose
The objective of this study is to seek out those education programs within Central Ohio that have strived for full inclusion of arts education in hope of answering the following: Do students, in schools that embrace and implement a discipline-based approach to arts education, score significantly higher on state mandated assessments? If so, what administration mandated policies helped to ensure student success and arts education’s place as core subjects within the curriculum? It is my belief that this study will help to give arts education a level playing field and help to bring about some change in the way that the arts are implemented within our public school systems.
It is also my belief that the pressures of high stakes testing have given many principals the motivation to either cut back and completely eliminate the arts within their respective schools. A report published by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2002, shows that among public elementary schools, 94% had music programs, 87% had visual arts programs, and alarming 20% had dance programs, and a mere 19% had drama/theater programs. These statistics are very alarming and almost pathetic. Are we really taking into consideration the artistic needs of the children that we have sworn to educate?
Taking these statistics into account, a heightened level of concern rises with in me. What is the role of the arts in our educational system? Where do they belong? This long debated topic has ensnared the support of countless research and advocacy groups across the United States since the establishment of what is now our national educational system. But, when will these questions be answered? What is the purpose of teaching music, visual art, dance, and drama? Do they have a place within our public schools or should they merely be subservient to their tested counterparts? Studies done since the 2001 passing of No Child Left Behind have demonstrated two major issues with the realm of arts education: (1) Policies concerning arts education are flawed and in great need of revision (Hatfield, 2007) (2) Arts education programs within our schools are becoming secondary to “core” subject areas that are included on national and state mandated tests (Mishook, 2006).
It is the purpose of this study to help identify arts education’s role within public education and determine how No Child Left Behind has affected that role. It is also the purpose of this study to determine the effect the arts have on overall academic achievement, in the context of state mandated testing. This long debated topic has ensnared the support of countless research and advocacy groups across the United States including The Endowment for the Arts and Americans for the Arts. Each of these groups has one purpose in mind: to find a home for the arts within the realm of education.
Taking into account the purpose of this study, the research question is do students, in schools that embrace and implement a discipline-based approach to arts education, score significantly higher on state mandated assessments? Research done may show that students who are immersed in a discipline-based approach to arts education score significantly higher than students who are not enrolled in such programs.
The purpose of a correlative study is to determine the relationship between two or more phenomena taking into account several variables. ” A study qualifies as correlational if the data lend themselves only to interpretations about the degree to which certain things tend to co-occur or are related to each other.” (University of New England, 2000) In look at the arts education and scholastic achievement it is important to determine the correlation between the two in hopes of establishing a purpose by which arts education can be used to enhance general education.
The design for this particular study uses a survey to determine possible variables that may affect student achievement. Some questions will resemble those from the NCES 1999-2000 study (Carey, 2002) and from the NAEP Arts Report Card (Persky, 1999). Because of the nature of the previous studies done within this realm of arts education, survey research offers a high level of consistency and validity, taking into account the amount of response to the survey. The following measures will be taken to ensure a high response rate and the validity of the results received:
- Principals from within the Columbus School District will be contacted by phone prior to receiving any form of information by mail. This is in an effort to obtain initial consent for participation in the study.
- Once initial consent has been obtained by phone, each principal will then receive a consent form by mail which they will need to return prior to receiving the survey.
- A letter confirming their participation in the study, which will include a link to the online survey, will be sent to all participants. They will be given a 2-3 week time period in which to complete the survey.
A random selection of 150 schools will be chosen from within Columbus City Schools. Administrators and Arts Instructors from these schools will be asked to participate in a survey which asks questions concerning student population, grade levels, poverty level, the number of hours of arts instruction, presence of arts education facilities and school wide test results. The results will then be stratified according to the following categories:
4. School Size
a. Small (Less than 500 students)
b. Medium (500-699 students)
c. Large (700-899 students)
d. Very Large (900+ students)
5. Poverty Level (measured by number of students on free or reduced price lunch)
a. Minimal Level Poverty (Less than 200 students)
b. Average Poverty Level (200-399 students)
c. High Level Poverty (400+ students)
6. Number of Hours of Arts Instruction (weekly per student)
a. Less than 5 hours
b. 5+ hours
7. Grade Levels
a. Elementary (K-4)
b. Middle School (5-8)
c. High School (9-12)
8. Presence of Arts Education Facilities
9. School Wide Test Results
a. Annual Yearly Progress Percentage
b. Number of AYP Standards Met
Data collected from these surveys will be analyzed to determine if there is a significant difference between the schools test results in schools that have 5+ hours of arts instruction and those that do not. If there is a significant difference, a random sample of schools will be chosen from schools with 5+ hours of arts instruction. The administrators at each of these schools will be asked to participate in a directed interview. The purpose of the interview is to inquire about administrative policies about arts education and its importance in the lives of the students. A second directed interview will be conducted with the arts educators to discuss their philosophies about arts education.
Demographics and Population
Students participating in this research project are students in grades 3-8 from Columbus Public Schools. Each year, during the month of April, they take the Ohio Achievement Assessment. This test is designed to measure their mastery of the Ohio educational content standards for math, reading and science. Students from within these schools come from various socio-economic backgrounds and represent a plethora of races and nationalities. There is even a greater diversity in the way different communities are involved in the lives of the schools. My hope is that through the qualitative portion of this research, I will be able to dissimilate the policies that administrators use in the involvement of the community-at-large.
There is a fluid consistency in the research pertaining to academic achievement and arts participation. Several studies demonstrate a positive correlation between standardized test scores and an increased number of hours in which a student receives instruction in the arts. (Graziano, 1999; Catterall, 1998, Dupont, 1992; Vaughn, 2000) Other studies have shown that students involved in the arts have a heightened ability to construct their own meanings of academic subject matter while finding enjoyment and releasing tension. (Wolf, 1999; Harland, 2000; Grace, 2002)
Nick Rabkin (2006), in the article The Arts Make a Difference, cites a study conducted by J. Catterall and L. Wolford. In this study, students from 23 inner-city Chicago schools doubled their test scores faster than students that attended schools where the arts were absent. He also cites a study conducted by Ingram and Seashore, in which arts integration had the greatest effect on disadvantaged learners. Rabkin seeks to give context to the improvement by noting:
“Gains in arts-integrated schools went well beyond the basics and test scores. Arts-integration energized teachers and led to broader school changes. Schedules shifted to accommodate planning and sustained classroom attention to pursuing questions in depth. Parents became resources for student projects, and they came to school more often to see their children’s work in performances or exhibitions… Assessment strategies became less consumed by standardized tests and more attentive to student work.”(2006, p. 61)
The arts are often dismissed as being merely emotional. “Their emotional content is part of what makes them powerful.” (Rabkin, p. 60, 2006) It is the relationship of the arts to the various other subjects that helps to make the cognitive process easier for students thus improving academic achievement. (Boyes, 2005; Dupont, 1992; Gadsen, 2008; Gullatt 2007; Mills, 2001; Minton, 2000; Rabkin, 2006; Stuht 2007).
Studies done since the 2002 passing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have demonstrated two major issues within the realm of arts education. The first issue is that arts education programs within our schools are becoming subservient to “core” subject areas that are included on national and state mandated tests (Carey, 2002; Mishook, 2006). Secondly, policies concerning arts education are flawed and in great need of revision (Hatfield, 2007). I believe strongly that there is a relationship between the arts and scholastic achievement and they will not be respected until this is acknowledged as true to all stakeholders in the education process.
Prior to No Child Left Behind
Prior to 2001, the NCES conducted two major studies concerning arts education and its prevalence within public elementary and secondary schools. The first of the two studies, conducted in 1997, was designed to “measure the content specifications described in the arts framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)” (Persky, 1998). This framework included the areas of creating, performing, and responding and took into account several variables including frequency of arts instruction, staffing, and facilities dedicated to the arts subjects.
The second study, conducted during the 1999-2000 school year, was designed to provide a national profile of the status of arts education in the nation’s regular public schools (Carey, 2002). It provided pertinent data concerning the characteristics of public elementary and secondary school arts education programs including availability of instruction, staffing, funding of supplemental programs and activities, and administrative support of arts education.
Between the two studies, there is a consistency in the data dealing with the areas of availability of instruction, staffing, and dedicated facilities. Both studies found that a high percentage of schools nationwide offered programs in music and visual arts which were taught by full time or part time specialists. Also, a low percentage of schools offered programs in dance and theatre. Finally, a high percentage of schools that offered music and visual art had facilities that were dedicated to those particular subject areas.
Even more interesting is that the 1999 study also provides information concerning administrative support of arts education. Questions from this particular section of the study probed concerning inclusion of the arts in school mission statements and improvement plans, reform initiatives for the arts, evaluation of arts staff and programs, participation of arts staff in site-based management teams, presence of a district coordinator for the arts and non-arts staff and parents views of arts education in the schools. The findings of this study were as follows:
Figure 1: Meta-Analysis of Findings from NCES 1999-2000 Arts Education Study: Administrative Support of the Arts in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
Inclusion of Arts in School Mission Statements and Improvement Plans
55% of schools included the arts in the school mission statement and school improvement plan
Arts inclusion in Reform initiatives
44% of schools included the arts in school or district reform initiatives
Arts specialists included in site-based management
73% of schools included arts staff in site-based management teams and school leadership
Evaluation of Arts Staff and Programs
87% of school principles evaluated arts staff in the same manner as other staff members
82% of principles evaluated arts programs in the same manner as other programs
20% of schools conducted standardized arts assessments
District Coordinator Present
55% of schools had a district coordinator in the arts
Administrators, non-arts staff and parents view of arts education.
92% of administrators believed that the arts are important
89% of non-arts staff believed that the arts are important
83% of parents believed that the arts are important
A simple interpretation of these results would lead anyone to assume that prior to the inception of NCLB, arts education was moderately to highly important to administrators, teachers, and parents alike throughout public districts and schools across the nation.
The Accountability Movement
In 2002, the passing of NCLB brought about a shift in educational reform. High stakes testing became a major portion of accountability for schools nationwide. Terms, such as, ”Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) and “Value Added”, became commonplace. Though students were tested yearly prior to NCLB, these tests took on a different flavor. Schools were expected to meet a certain number of standards in the areas of Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies. Meeting or not meeting these standards placed a school or district into categories based on the previous year’s scores.
A key point in NCLB is that the US Department of Education gives power to each state to devise statewide plans for standards and achievement in at least the areas of math and reading. The act itself does not limit the areas in which states can build systems of accountability. In fact, Tile IX, Part A, Section 9101 (1)(D)(11) of NCLB (2001) gives very specific definitions of “Core Academic Subjects.” They include English, Reading or Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Language, Civics and Government, Economics, The Arts, History, and Geography. It would seem that this law would give these subjects a level playing field when it comes to instruction and funding, but looks can be deceiving. In order to understand where the arts fit into the Ohio educational plan, we must look at the plan itself. The accountability plan for the State of Ohio makes no mention of the arts (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). One can only hope that the implementation of Academic Content Standards for the arts, in recent years, is a foretelling of things to come and the reforms that our state will make in the area of arts education.
Finding a Balance
Matthew Arnold, a major figure in 19th Century education, “connected democracy and morality with an education that taught us how to understand the world and to find our best selves.”(Pratt, 2007) He was known for his work as a School Inspector within in the British school system and his emotional and intellectual commitment to the cause of good public education. He felt that the arts were “useful in balancing a curriculum so that the strain of mastering a variety of bodies of knowledge could be alleviated by the pleasure creative activity afforded.” His beliefs and practices have set the tone for much of what we see in our education system here in America.
Currents trends, following the passing of NCLB, have demonstrated that our educational systems here in the United States are no longer seeking that level of balance for our schools. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Education Policy (CEP) in 2007, 62% of school districts reported increases in instruction time for English Language Arts and Math since 2001. 44% of these districts reported cutting time from one or more of the other subject areas and activities including social studies, science, art and music, and physical education. The study also showed that at the elementary level alone, 84% of districts nationwide changed their curriculum to put greater emphasis on tested content. (McMurrer, 2007) A second study, released by the Council for Basic Education (von Zastrow, 2004), reported that 25% of principles in the states of Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, and New York reported a decrease in the number of hours dedicated to arts instruction. “These findings subvert the stated intent of NCLB by creating or exacerbating unequal access to the arts, which are considered a core academic subject.” (Mishook, 2006)
The research makes it evident that there is a significant difference in the level of arts education received by students prior to NCLB. A decrease in instruction time, a shift in administrative policies at the state and district level, and the lack of arts programs demonstrates that the value of arts education has decreased as a whole. Though the areas of music and visual arts continue to thrive, dance and drama are taking major hits in what schools see as relevant to the academic attainments of their students. Thus arts education is becoming subservient. For the students who thrive from these subjects, there seems to be an air of unfairness.
The arts have the ability, in themselves to push students above the line of mediocrity. They positively impact the emotional and cognitive processes and give students the opportunity to be creative and enjoy themselves. They even have the ability to shift the atmosphere and overall attitude of teachers and parents alike. But is there enough evidence to compliment the question of the arts positive effect on academic achievement? The answer is a resounding “Yes.”
What is to be done to stop this retrograde in arts instruction? Major arts organizations have begun to compile research studies that prove without a shadow of doubt that the arts have their place within our school curriculums. Groups such as the Music Educators National Council and the Kennedy Center for the Arts are now working to give arts education it’s due.
The Kennedy Center for the Arts has established an initiative entitled “Any Given Child” which is designed to ” bring access, balance, and equity to each child's arts education, using an affordable model that combines the resources of the school district, local arts groups, and the Kennedy Center.” (2011) Programs such as this help to bring arts education back to prominence and are working to counteract the effects of No Child Left Behind. As advocates for the arts move to establish a name for arts education, their relationship to other academic subjects will come to the forefront. It is the hope of arts educators that principals across the nation will begin to change policies and apply funding to develop comprehensive arts programs that help to support student achievement.
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Appendix A: Project Timeline
August 2011 Obtain initial consent from school principals to conduct the research project and distribute link for the online survey. Monitor results as they are submitted.
September 2011 Send a second link to principals that have not yet submitted results of the survey. Begin analysis of results submitted.
October 2011 Send final link to principals that have not yet submitted results of the survey. Analyze research and select candidates for the qualitative portion of the project. Conduct qualitative interviews.
November 2011 Compile results and integrate into the research proposal to produce the final project.