Art Beyond the Art Room

I realize I am long overdue for a new post, I started this one early in the semester, but as I got caught up in my school work I did not complete and publish it. So now I am getting back on track and posting.

This fall I am taking Art 300: ART INTEGRATION FOR THE ELEMENTARY TEACHER, I am excited to learn from this class about ways to bring the arts into the general classroom.

Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement
This article gives a detailed argument for including Arts education in the curriculum and not letting it fall to the wayside with budget cuts, or for any other reason. The introduction discusses recent events that show support for the arts in education; from No Child Left Behind identifying the arts as a core subject with reading, math, and science, to polls showing that the general population of America supports arts education. Sadly the very next paragraph reports the shrinking of the arts from schools due to budget cuts when schools just do not feel able to provide this important topic, or not as much as they should be.
Arts have been federally recognized as an important subject since the Educate America Act of 2000. In 2001 that commitment of the federal government to support the arts was reiterated by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). As stated above this gave the arts the value of being a core subject. The disadvantage of NCLB is that it measures school achievement through “scientifically-based research” and provides financial support based on that research; it is challenging to test scientifically how a student is progressing in the arts, therefore it has often become a too low of a priority in schools that are short on funds and need to receive those federal resources.
Statistics show that the American public has voiced strong support for arts education with 93% agreeing that the arts are a vital part of providing a well-rounded education to our students. Studies have backed up the opinion of the American people, such research has shown that what is learned in the arts may help students to master other subjects, including the cores of reading, math and social studies. High School students who have had courses in the arts show significant patterns of high performance when looking at SAT scores.
More then 65 distinct relationships between the arts and academic and social outcomes are documented, including visual arts instruction and reading readiness; dramatic enactment and conflict resolution skills; traditional dance and nonverbal reasoning; and obviously many others.
Six major types of benefits associated with arts education and student achievement are identified and explained in the paper. They are:
1. Reading and language skills
2. Mathematics skills
3. Thinking skills
4. Social skills
5. Motivation to learn, and
6. Positive school environment
The benefits of arts experiences are further detailed in academic achievement (reading, language, and math), basic skills (thinking, social, and motivation to learn), and comprehensive (the positive school environment).
The final topic of the article is a marching call declaring the need for action by the public to ensure that the arts are not taken out of school, but remain forever for the benefit of all students.

Personal Reaction
I feel empowered by the Critical Evidence report. I could not tell you just why, but I was certainly aware that arts are valuable to education and academic achievement. The first thing that I would have told you is the motivation factor. It is my belief that the arts have a humanizing effect, and when we encourage our students to participate in the arts we are reaffirming their personal worth. Although worksheets and long lists of mathematics problems have their place in school, the completion of one of these assignments is not often a personal achievement to for the student, but the mastery of a musical piece, or the completion of a good painting have an inner value for the student who has done it. Worksheets are sometimes mindless busy work for the student, but the student will not complete a truly creative art assignment mindlessly.
The fact that art education has shown benefits across the curriculum is not surprising to me, as it is my understanding that any exercise of the mind will be beneficial beyond the obvious outcome. I am happy to read that there are so many identified benefits, and it is good to know some of the direct correlations between specific art activities and specific academic subjects. This is something that I will look into further for specific application in my classroom.
I am very excited to find ways in which I can help my students reap the greatest possible rewards from their arts activities.
“Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement”. Editorial. Ruppert, Sandra S.. National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. 2006. Monday Sep 14, 2009.

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