Article: Positive impact of arts on education, behavior and career success

“Arts education has positive impact on student behavior, career success, expert says”

by David N. Dunkle, The Patriot-News

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 1:59 PM

Jonathan Katz doesn’t back down when people question claims that arts education in schools has a beneficial impact on such crucial issues as student behavior, standardized test scores and career success.

The proof for those claims is overwhelming and long-standing, the nationally known arts funding expert told a group of educators and artists gathered in Harrisburg on Thursday for a daylong symposium.

For example, he said, comprehensive studies show that children who have music education do better in math, and economically disadvantaged students who have arts classes are far less likely to drop out.

At a time when American schools are battling to meet new basic education standards, the value of arts education has never been more clear, Katz said. Yet across the country, many financially challenged schools are choosing to cut arts programs aimed at developing the creative talents of children.

“Arts learning should be a core component of schools’ turnaround strategies,” the CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies said in his keynote address at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. “We have increasing evidence over a long period of time that the arts help children to learn more and better.” Thursday’s symposium, organized by the Harrisburg-based Education Policy and Leadership Center, was aimed at finding ways to get that message across to lawmakers, policy makers and school officials as they make decisions about budgets and funding for schools and the arts.

The culmination will be an EPLC Arts and Education Initiative report scheduled to be issued in February. The document will lay out the evidence for the value of arts education as well as recommend programs, strategies and policies that will more strongly incorporate it into school curriculums.

The report is being developed by a study group made of arts and school leaders from across the state. Among the 32 members is Harrisburg actor Anne Alsedek, one of the founders of the Capital Area School for the Arts, former Pennsylvania Department of Education arts adviser Clyde McGeary and Harrisburg schools superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney.

Participants at Thursday’s symposium were able to choose among nine panel discussions offered during the day, including conversations about the role of new technology and social media in arts education, ways to measure and report the effectiveness of arts education, and how to effectively advocate for the arts.

Panels featured well-known experts in arts education, such as Sandra Ruppert, a scholarly author (“Critical Links”) who directs the Arts Education Partnership in Washington, D.C.

Ruppert said that too few states are making serious efforts to study the impact of arts education on overall school performance.

“That’s the sad story in all but a handful of states,” she said during a discussion about setting academic standards for arts education that would mirror similar standards in reading, math and science. “Unless you assess it down to the district level, you have no way of knowing how effective arts education is.”

The event was co-sponsored by Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, Pennsylvania Art Education Association and Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.