In an educational system strapped for money and increasingly ruled by standardized tests, arts courses can seem almost a needless extravagance, and the arts are being cut back at schools across the country and are routinely one of the first things cut to save money and resources. Since 1993, when legislators imposed revenue caps on public schools, school districts have been forced to make some hard decisions about ways they distribute spending. Music and art programs were usually those which become expendable programs.
The American boards of education have dictated that the emphasis in education should be on math, science, and reading, and therefore they cut back on other programs. The intense focus on the basic skills is a sea of change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and particularly art (Dillon, 2006). The federal government through the U. S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts has maintained a consistent connection with arts education in the public schools over the last 10 years.
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This has occurred in part through targeted funding for programs—often involving partnerships between schools and community organizations; professional development for teachers and teaching artists; and research and evaluation. The two agencies have cooperated as well in the data collection efforts of the National Center for Education Statistics, which provide important insights into the status and condition of arts education in the country. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is arguably the most significant federal action to affect arts education, and education generally, in the last decade—if not the last 40 years.
This legislation, as with the Goals 2000 law, is an update of the basic federal education law originally enacted in 1965. No Child Left Behind was signed into law in January 2002. It expanded the federal role in education in order “to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. ” To comply with the law, states have developed plans to increase student achievement and have set performance goals, which all students are expected to meet by 2013-14 in reading and mathematics.
In almost every section of the law, NCLB stresses that decision about the allocation of federal resources for education should be grounded in “scientifically-based research. ” The intent, as interpreted by the Department of Education, is to “transform education into an evidence-based field. ” In education, high test scores means higher budget. But in a failing economy, schools have to decide what is more important: well flushed out art classes that cannot gather empirical data as to their progression, or having test scores that meet NCLB standard.
The crisis of money is real, so because music and the arts aren’t government-tested like reading, writing and math are, school districts are pressured into cutting them first. It puts decision makers in a very uncomfortable position because they see the advantages of the arts, but when the students are being tested in some areas and not others, the resources and money tend to follow the testing. The arts programs tend to be cut first for this reason. Most every school where the arts programs are cut, show a decrease in morale and attendance.
There is also an increase in vandalism and disruptions, so within a few years, most of them have had to add additional disciplinary staff to handle the problems that were created by not providing a full gamut of knowledge that human beings need. These staff additions cost more than keeping the arts programs in the schools and are hurting testing scores in the process. Usually created by commercial test publishers, standardized tests are designed to give a common measure of students’ performance. Because large numbers of students throughout the country take the same test, they give educators a common yardstick or “standard” of measure.
Educators use these standardized tests to tell how well school programs are succeeding or to give themselves a picture of the skills and abilities of today’s students. However, the results from these tests can only help teachers develop programs that suit students’ achievement levels in specific subject areas, such as reading, math, language skills, spelling, or science (Dillon 2006). These are the tests that encourage teachers and administrators make decisions regarding the instructional program. They help schools measure how students in a given class, school, or school system perform in relation to other students who take the same test.
Using the results from these tests, teachers and administrators evaluate the school system and the funded school programs. As schools increasingly shape their classes to produce high test scores, many life skills not measured by tests just don’t get taught (Hetland, ; Winner, 2007). The student that is then subject to this manner of instruction is situated in the idea that knowledge only comes from the subjects tested, and is then narrowed into only those areas of professionalism. It seems plausible to imagine that art classes might help fill the gap by encouraging different kinds of thinking.
While students in art classes learn techniques specific to art, they’re also taught a remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school. Such skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes (Dickinson, McKean, & Oddleifson, 1997). All are important to numerous careers, such as Business Management, Entrepreneurship, Politics, and Teaching, but are widely ignored by today’s standardized tests. What’s more, most of the habits picked up within arts education actually help in preparation for standardized tests.
The relationship between arts learning and the SAT is of considerable interest to anyone concerned with college readiness and admissions issues. The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly known as the SAT I) is the most widely used test offered by the College Board as part of its SAT Program. It assesses students’ verbal and math skills and knowledge and is described as a “standardized measure of college readiness. ” Many public colleges and universities use SAT scores in admissions. Nearly half of the nation’s three million high school graduates in 2005 took the SAT.
Multiple independent studies have shown increased years of enrollment in arts courses are positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores. High school students who take arts classes have higher math and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes. Arts participation and SAT scores co-vary—that is, they tend to increase linearly: the more arts classes, the more educational habits are picked up, and the higher the scores. One of these habits is persistence: Students work on projects over sustained periods of time and are expected to find meaningful problems and persevere through frustration.
An ethnographic study of seventh grade boys in special education revealed use of the visual arts helped them become more sophisticated, less reluctant readers. Described as learning disabled, the boys were encouraged to use visual forms of expression to convey their understanding of reading assignments. After a nine-week course of “visualization training,” they also took a more active role in reading and began to interpret text rather than passively reading it. Another is expression: Students are urged to move beyond technical skill to create works rich in emotion, atmosphere, and their own personal voice or vision.
In an experimental research study of high school age students, those who studied dance scored higher than non-dancers on measures of creative thinking, especially in the categories of fluency, originality and abstract thought. Whether dancers can use their original abstract thinking skills in other disciplines is an important area of exploration. A third is making clear connections between schoolwork and the world outside the classroom: Students are taught to see their projects as part of the larger art world, past and present.
Each of these habits clearly has a role in life and learning, but we were particularly struck by the potentially broad value of four other kinds of thinking being taught in the art classes we documented: observing, envisioning, innovating through exploration, and reflective self-evaluation. Though far more difficult to quantify on a test than reading comprehension or math computation, each has a high value as a learning tool, both in school and elsewhere in life. We don’t need the arts in our schools to raise mathematical and verbal skills – we already target these in math and language arts.
We need the arts because in addition to introducing students to aesthetic appreciation, they teach other modes of thinking we value. For students living in a rapidly changing world, the arts teach vital modes of seeing, imagining, inventing, and thinking. If our primary demand of students is that they recall established facts, the children we educate today will find themselves ill-equipped to deal with real-world. A group of 162 children, ages 9 and 10, were trained to look closely at works of art and reason about what they saw.
The results showed that children’s ability to draw inferences about artwork transferred to their reasoning about images in science. In both cases, the critical skill is that of looking closely and reasoning about what is seen. Those who have learned the lessons of the arts, however – how to see new patterns, how to learn from mistakes, and how to envision solutions – are the ones likely to come up with the novel answers needed most for the future. A Literature Review The issue and argument against said cuts has been an ongoing conversation since the early 1990s.
Research in arts education has consistently shown that the arts are a distinct form of knowledge requiring sustained and demanding work and yielding kinds of empathy, understanding, and skill both equal to and distinctive from those available in chemistry, civics, and mathematics. In 1997, Dr. Bobbi McKean, an Associate Director and Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of Arizona, came together with Eric Oddleifson of Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum and Dee Dickinson of New Horizons for Learning to put together a piece dedicated to learning through the arts.
The report presents a “synthesis of the research on the contribution of arts education to learning” (Dickinson, McKean, & Oddleifson, 1997). It exhibits information on schools that have incorporated the arts successfully and discusses the relationship between the arts and cognition and the ways each art form promotes unique ways of knowing. They include such associations as: visual arts instruction and reading readiness; dramatic enactment and conflict resolution skills; traditional dance and nonverbal reasoning; and learning piano and mathematics proficiency.
The report also presents research on what the arts offer to the preparation of students for the world of work. Furthermore, the authors consult studies given by neuroscientists from Berkley and psychologists from the International Center for the Development of Learning to discuss scientific studies and information gathered on the influence of educational theatre, music, dance, and the fine arts on the human mind. The discussion continued ten years later when author Sam Dillon of the New York Times researched both sides of the educational argument.
In his piece “Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math”, Dillon addresses the response from thousands of schools to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law: reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it. Similar to the argument presented by Dr. McKean, the article highlights areas within the education of adolescents that are diminished when the artistic education is removed from schools.
However, the article also highlights the difficult situations that educators and face when narrowing the curriculum. For example, Dillon discusses 125 of the school’s lowest-performing students are barred from taking anything except math, reading and gym, a measure that Samuel Harris, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army who is the school’s principal, said was draconian but necessary. “When you look at a kid and you know he can’t read, that’s a tough call you’ve got to make,” Mr. Harris said.
In their piece “Art for Our Sake”, Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland from The Boston Globe agree more with the position presented by Dr. McKean. The reporters analyze studies and research done on arts integrated schools in the Boston area where that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the curriculum – and that far from being irrelevant in a test-driven education system, arts education is becoming “even more important as standardized tests like the MCAS exert a narrowing influence over what schools teach) (Hetland, & Winner, 2008).
The continual point made throughout the piece is that as schools cut time for the arts, they may be losing their ability to produce not just the artistic creators of the future, but innovative leaders who improve the world they inherit. The last article examined takes a different approach to examining arts education. In fact, it reviews the policy of art education as a whole. Jane Remer Author, Researcher, and Arts and Education Consultant in New York explores the process of using lessons learned about high quality, effective arts education programs to help local educational leaders and practitioners create their own policy statements.
She raises questions about policy implications from those lessons and connects them to the readers’ own experience. She provides an “intellectual framework and an action agenda for developing local policy at the classroom, school, or district level that supports high quality arts education for every student” . She argues that effective arts education programs must be supported by responsive policy and ongoing tax levy funds to have a greater chance for providing quality arts teaching and learning that endures.
The Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education, edited by Elliot Eisner and Michael Day, further examines the claims made by arts advocates and defends arts education through the integration of arts within schools. Sponsored by the National Art Education Association and assembled by an internationally known group of art educators, this 36-chapter handbook provides an overview of the remarkable progress that has characterized this field in recent decades.
Organized into six sections, it profiles and integrates the following elements of this rapidly emerging field: history, policy, learning, curriculum and instruction, assessment, and competing perspectives. This handbook provides researchers, students, and policymakers (both inside and outside the field) an invaluable snapshot of its current boundaries and rapidly growing content. It describes in nontechnical terms what the research says about how study of the arts contributes to academic achievement and student success.
It offers impartial, to-the-point reporting of the multiple benefits associated with students’ learning experiences in the arts. In short, it “makes the case for the arts” based on sound educational research. In a nutshell, it provides much needed definition and intellectual respectability to a field that as recently as 1960 was more firmly rooted in the world of arts and crafts than in scholarly research. In the back and forth argument of which programs should have precedence within schools, the arts are often the first to go in order for others to have more time.
There are reasonable explanations on each side as discussed earlier. There are discussions based on numerical value in test scores, but also the physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual effect on human minds. The arguments will still continue as many discuss students stability in education coming through foundation in the visual arts, music, dance, and drama, and the belief that through these art forms most students will not only find the means for communication and self-expression, but the tools to construct meaning and learn almost any subject effectively.
A Projected Solution In the current climate of educational accountability, arts educators must answer two fundamental questions so that the arts will retain a place within public education: What kinds of thinking skills do arts teachers strive to instill? How can students learn these skills? It is not enough to say that the arts teach “how to paint or draw” or that the arts teach creative expression. We need to go beneath the surface and discover what underlying cognitive and social skills are imparted to students when the arts are taught well.
The problem is this: educators are making more room for specific subjects that they believe hold higher precedence over the arts and are, therefore, cutting back the arts programs within schools (Winner, 2006). Unaware of the deleterious effect this could have on students and of how this move could actually hinder their further growth in sciences, math, and history, the following information has been gathered based on research of integration of arts into classrooms and the effect they had on learning.
There are many arguments made for the arts and reinstating their influence within the educational society. Though the argument is understandable that educators are focusing on having students well versed in mathematics and literacy, the arguments made for the arts programs are strong enough that they should be considered by said educators (Dickinson, McKean, & Oddleifson, 1997). The case is constantly made for the fluentness in scientific language without the consideration that art, in all of its forms, has another language all on its own.
A language that needs study and discipline to master just as any other science equation needs to be memorized so it can be applicable and useable. Through this ongoing conversation, there is only the belief that there either is or is not enough room within a curriculum to have full arts programs as well as focus on the core math and sciences and literary studies. It is not taken into consideration the integration of the two and the effect that it would have on learning as a whole (Winner, 2006).
Though researchers are able to make valid arguments to keep arts programs, the instruction can still be taught where both forms of education (aesthetic and practical) can be treated equally and utilized together for greater effect. Music has also been claimed to be a way to improve reading and math skills. Most research with the Arts Education Partnership that when children are trained in music at a young age, they tend to improve in their math skills. The surprising thing in this research is not that music as a whole is enhancing math skills. It is certain aspects of music that are affecting mathematics ability in a big way.
One particular study published in the journal ‘Nature’ showed that when groups of first graders were given music instruction that emphasized sequential skill development and musical games involving rhythm and pitch, after six months, the students scored significantly better in math than students in groups that received traditional music instruction, possibly because of the effect of learning to read music notation. In terms of reading, listening to music trains the kind of auditory discrimination skills needed to make phonological distinctions.
Furthermore, several programs set up in New York City, such as the Guggenheim Museum’s Learning to Read through the Arts, Reading Improvement Through the Arts, and Children’s Art Carnival, where children with reading difficulties are given experience in the visual arts integrated with reading and writing, consistently report that remedial readers improve their reading scores due to the integration of arts studies and visual stimulation (Hetland, & Winner, 2008). In 1993, the journal, Nature, reported that spatial-temporal reasoning is temporarily enhanced in adults after listening to Mozart for 10-15 minutes.
This finding, which became known as the “Mozart effect,” captured the attention of the media. Studies have also examined whether children who learn to make music in the classroom improve their spatial reasoning abilities. A meta-analysis was conducted over 19 studies in which young children were taught to make music in the classroom by improvising, composing, experimenting with rhythm instruments or moving to music, or by learning to play a particular instrument, and found that the children who learned to make music significantly outperformed those who did not on a range of spatial temporal tasks.
Furthermore, in 1999, a study published in Neurological Research reported that piano keyboard training along with computer-based spatial training led to greater improvements in mathematics than when spatial training was combined with computer-based English language training. This being said, consider then the use of theatre and dance within the classroom, and other dramatic arts. In Chicago, a program called Whirlwind had sought to improve basic reading skills in young children through dance. One of the activities that children in this program engage in is “dancing” their bodies into the shapes of letters.
By virtue of this activity, these children in fact improved their beginning reading skills significantly more than did a control group which did not get the same kind of “dance” instruction. Classroom drama refers to using acting techniques within the regular classroom curriculum. In 2000, the Journal of Aesthetic Education found 80 studies that assessed the effect of classroom drama on verbal skills. In these studies, children who enacted texts were compared to those who simply read the same texts.
Classroom drama significantly enhanced memory for and understanding of the texts, raised reading readiness and reading achievement scores, and improved oral language skills. The most important finding of these meta-analyses on classroom drama is the demonstration that drama not only helps children to master the texts they enact, but also often helps them to master new material not enacted. However, the transfer of skills from one domain to another is generally not thought to be automatic: it needs to be taught (Hetland, & Winner, 2008).
According to the Kennedy Center, arts integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives. With the overwhelming amount of knowledge a child must learn today, it is often difficult for teachers to form a lesson plan that will engage their students. The techniques of pedagogy have evolved to stress learning over memorization. The inclusion of the arts can be an excellent way to encourage students to fully absorb their lesson.
Educators can think of their rooms as a staging area for the students’ creative minds (Dickinson, McKean, & Oddleifson, 1997). It is helpful to encourage students to be active and move around their classrooms, rather than sitting for hours at a small desk. Students want to think in new ways, and look for moments where they can take advantage of creativity. When studying history, for example, students can be divided into groups and encouraged to enact a drama of the events they are studying. This can create a close connection to the material through research in a way that simply writing an essay might miss.
The students can exercise their ability to express themselves by performing what they learn. Furthermore, one can employ the senses more inventively by introducing music and the visual arts to the class discussion. For instance, a teacher could bring in a copy of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony when beginning to study Napoleon to show an artist who was disillusioned by the horrors of Napoleon’s reign. Then have a slide or poster of Jacques-Louis David’s “Coronation of Napoleon” to show the adoration of others during hat time. The facts can be presented in a way that encourages debate and fosters the interests of the students. Throughout the conversation of budget and cuts to programs that seem erroneous, the arts have been jeopardized consistently. Educators focus on the numbers and test scores for math, reading, sciences, and those subjects that are considered core in an educational setting. Many advocates have brought up valid arguments fighting for the arts in schools and how they are a necessary part of educating young minds.
Arts integration is teaching and learning that uses the fine and performing arts as primary pathways to learning (Hetland, & Winner, 2007). Arts integration differs from traditional arts education by its inclusion of both an arts discipline and a traditional subject as part of learning (e. g. using improvisational drama skills to learn about conflict in writing. ) The goal of arts integration is to increase knowledge of a general subject area while concurrently fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the fine and performing arts.
The force for arts integration is a growing body of research that demonstrates how learners experience success when taught why and how to use music, visual art, drama/dance, and theatre to both express and understand ideas, thoughts and feelings. References Dickinson, D, McKean, B, & Oddleifson, E. (1997). Learning through the arts. New Horizons for Learning, Retrieved from http://www. marthalakecov. org/~building/strategies/arts/dickinson_lrnarts . htm Dillon, S. (2006, March 26). Schools cut back subjects to push reading and math. The New York Times, Hetland, L, & Winner, E. 2007). Art for our sake. The Boston Globe, Retrieved from http://www. boston. com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2007/09/02/art_for_our _sake Hetland, L, & Winner, E. (2008). Cognitive transfer from arts education to nonarts outcomes: research evidence and policy implications. In E. W. Eisner (Ed. ), Handbook of research and policy in art education (pp. 135-162). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. , Publishers. Winner, Ellen. (2006). Studio thinking: how visual arts teaching can promote disciplined habits of mind. New Directions in Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 1-19