During this year’s National Arts in Education Week celebration, we’ve heard hundreds of #BecauseOfArtsEd stories from students, parents, and educators about the transformative power of the arts in education. The stories we share demonstrate the social and emotional impact of the arts, and are a vital part of effective advocacy.
Great stories should be paired with compelling data and facts to help round out your advocacy strategy. In honor of the 10th anniversary of National Arts in Education Week, we’ve put together 10 new fast facts—exclusively featuring data collected within the last five years—illustrating the benefits of, support for, and challenges facing arts education in America today.
- Arts education promotes academic achievement: A 2020 study of over 112,000 public school students, the largest of its kind to date, showed that “highly engaged instrumental music students were, on average, academically over one year ahead of their peers.” These results were independent of students’ language/cultural background, neighborhood, or socio-economic status.
- Arts education is correlated with higher standardized test scores: High schoolers with more than four years of art and music classes scored an average of 166 points higher on the composite 2016 SAT than high schoolers who took half a year or less of art and music classes. Based on their composite scores, arts students averaged in the 62nd percentile of all test takers while non-arts students averaged in the 44th percentile.
- Arts education reduces disciplinary infractions: A 2018 randomized control study of over 10,500 3rd through 8th graders found that arts education experiences reduced the proportion of students in a school receiving disciplinary infractions by 3.6 percentage points. This study, which followed Houston’s Arts Access Initiative, also found statistically significant evidence that arts education experiences improve writing achievement and increase students’ compassion for others.
- Arts education and arts integration increase a variety of other outcomes: According to a 2020 metanalysis of 27 arts integration studies and 20 arts education studies by the National Association of State Boards of Education, “an average child could expect to gain 4 percentile points in relevant outcomes as a result of participating in arts integration intervention and 15 points as a result of participating in arts education intervention.”
- The public supports arts education: According to Americans for the Arts’ public opinion survey Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018, 91 percent of Americans believe the arts are a part of a well-rounded education for K-12 students. This near-unanimous support for arts education remained true whether asked about elementary school (94 percent), middle school (94 percent), or high school (93 percent) education.
- Districts support arts education: A 2019 survey of over 1,000 superintendents found that 19% used the Title IV well-rounded education provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to fund music and the arts. This is more than the percentages who used Title IV to fund physical education, foreign language, and civics combined!
- States support arts education: According to the Arts Education Partnership, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Arts Education standards as of 2020, with at least 27 states adopting or adapting the 2014 National Core Arts Standards. Additionally, 44 states require that school districts or schools provide arts education in elementary, middle, and high school; 29 define art as a core academic subject; and 27 have arts requirements for high school graduation. While ideally these numbers would be 50 across the board, they are still indicative of the high value that many states place on arts education.
- Arts education remains understudied: Only 19 states include arts as a key area of their state accountability system, and just 13 have done a statewide report on arts education in the last 5 years. The last comprehensive national report by the U.S. Department of Education focusing on arts education is from the 2009-2010 school year, making that data over 10 years old. Comprehensive, statewide or national data collection about the accessibility of arts education is essential in order to understand, create, and evaluate arts education policy.
- Arts education remains inequitable: An academic outcomes report published by the US Department of Education in 2018 revealed that “white students earned more credits in fine arts (2.0 credits) than Asian students (1.8 credits), and both groups earned more credits than Hispanic students (1.6 credits) and Black students (1.5 credits).” A 2019 longitudinal study following a diverse sample of over 30,000 students found that “Black students, males, those with disabilities, those in poverty, and those not yet fully proficient in English are not getting the same opportunities for exposure to the arts in public middle schools as are other groups.” These findings reflect broader inequities and access gaps apparent in both the K-12 education system and the arts & culture sector as a whole.
- Arts education remains underfunded: During the Great Recession (2008-2009), public school per-pupil spending fell by about seven percent nationally. As a result, districts around the nation saw drastic reductions in their art and music offerings; in Georgia, for example, 42 percent of schools eliminated art and music due to the Recession. While it is too early to have extensive data on how COVID-19 will affect public school arts education, many districts have already seen programs eliminated and arts educators laid off due to budget constraints.
You can put these facts to good use as part of your personal advocacy plan to support arts education. The Arts Education Action Kit is a one-stop shop to access Americans for the Arts’ numerous advocacy resources, as well as helpful resources from our national arts education partners, to help you make the case for arts education in your local schools and communities.