Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Arts - A Vehicle to Improve Student Achievement

Our Grant Coach and resident Art Expert, Mary Ellen Bergh, explores the question, "Can we afford to sacrifice arts education in our schools?"

At the beginning of this decade, for the first time in the history of public education in the United States, the arts have been officially recognized as one of the subject areas necessary for all children’s basic education. However, administrators, under pressure to improve test scores, have reduced arts education and arts programming in favor of increasing instructional time in language arts and math. In doing this, they may actually be eliminating critical links to academic success for many students. How does the study of the arts contribute to student achievement and success? And, why is it important to keep the study of the arts strong in our schools?

Brain research and multiple intelligences theories are providing evidence to support including the arts in a balanced curriculum. For example, brain research indicates that studying the arts may lay critical neural pathways important for later development. According to Eric Jensen (neuroscientist and author of many books on brain-based learning), when children learn to play the violin, the drums, or other musical instruments, “they seem to develop strong pattern extraction and develop abilities that are essential to higher brain functions in logic, math, and problem-solving.” Arts education can also offer teachers additional ways to reach all students in a manner that other instruction doesn’t.

A significant body of research provides evidence connecting student learning in the arts to a wide array of academic and social benefits, particularly for young children, students from economically disadvantaged circumstances, and students struggling to achieve standards. Arts activities have been shown to improve reading and language development, math, and cognitive skills (spatial reasoning, problem-solving and creative thinking). Research also shows that learning in the arts provides motivation to learn, positive attitudes toward learning and helps to create a learning environment that is conducive to teacher and student success.

If a broad education that includes the arts can provide students with the skills that positively impact academic success, schools must be given the opportunity to offer these programs. Good arts education programs require ongoing support from administrators, teachers and parents. Ensuring that the arts are part of a school’s culture requires effort, advocacy, and a persistent voice for the importance of arts education. Become an advocate for the arts in education! Contact your local arts organizations to develop partnerships to bring art and artists into your schools and work together to secure funding (grants, fund-raising, etc) to provide arts programs and professional development for teachers.

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.