New Evidence Bolsters the Argument for Arts Education

Investigating Causal Effects of Arts Education Experiences,”  reports on a first-of-its-kind arts education experiment from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

The authors, Daniel H. Bowen of Texas A&M, and the University of Missouri’s Brian Kisida, find measurable academic, social, and emotional outcomes associated with arts education for elementary and middle school students.

Bowen and Kisida studied data and survey results from schools participating in the first two years of the Houston’s Arts Access Initiative, an ambitious program that aims to increase access to arts education, particularly for disadvantaged students, through partnerships with local artists and cultural institutions. Because the initiative was oversubscribed in its first two years, Kisida and Bowen had the opportunity to compare outcomes among students at participating schools to those who applied but were deferred-a study group comprising more than 10,000 students in forty-two schools. The results is the first ever, large-scale, randomized controlled trial study of such a program. The arts educational experiences had “remarkable impacts” on academic, social, and emotional outcomes.

Compared to students in the control group, kids exposed to the various arts opportunities in the Houston study experienced “a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others.” Among elementary school students, arts education also enhanced school engagement, college aspirations, and empathy with others.

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