Research that Suggests Art Can Close the Achievement Gap Between Low and High Socioeconomic Groups
Posted on: Apr 5, 2012
"Arts education doesn't take place in isolation," said National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman. "It has to take place as part of an overall school and education reform strategy. This report shows that arts education has strong links with other positive educational outcomes." The report Landesman mentions known as The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies was released this March. It was prepared for the NEA by James S. Catterall, University of California Los Angeles, with Susan A. Dumais, Louisiana State University, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, University of York, U.K.
Catterall has previously published similar longitudinal studies, such as the 2009 book, “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art.” That book also showed a correlation between high arts involvement and better academic outcomes. The new NEA report extends Catterall’s analysis to three additional databases: the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1997, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (Kindergarten Class of 1998-99), and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. Each of these studies followed children for a number of years tracking their activities in high school and then measuring their life achievements into early adulthood.
UCLA education policy analyst, James Catteral led his team of researchers in comparing the four longitudinal studies; below are key findings. They caution that the following data only shows statistical correlation between high arts involvement and high achievement and not causal links between the two.
- Low-SES (socioeconomic status) students who had arts-rich experiences in high school were ten percent more likely to complete a high school calculus course than low-SES students with low arts exposure (33 percent versus 23 percent).
- High-arts, low-SES students in the eighth grade were more likely to have planned to earn a bachelor's degree (74 percent) than were all students (71 percent) or low-arts, low-SES students (43 percent).
- High-arts, low-SES students were 15 percent more likely to enroll in a highly or moderately selective four-year college than low-arts, low-SES students (41 percent versus 26 percent).
- Students with access to the arts in high school were three times more likely than students who lacked those experiences to earn a bachelor's degree (17 percent versus five percent).
- When it comes to participating in extracurricular activities in high school, high-arts, low-SES students are much more likely also to take part in intramural and interscholastic sports, as well as academic honor societies, and school yearbook or newspaper -- often at nearly twice or three times the rate of low-arts, low-SES students.
- High-arts, low-SES college students had the highest rates of choosing a major that aligns with a professional career, such as accounting, education, nursing, or social sciences (30 percent), compared to low-arts, low-SES students (14 percent) and the overall SES sample (22 percent).
- Half of all low-SES adults with arts-rich backgrounds expected to work in a professional career (such as law, medicine, education, or management), compared to only 21 percent of low-arts, low-SES young adults.
- High-arts, low-SES eighth graders were more likely to read a newspaper at least once a week (73 percent) compared to low-arts, low-SES students (44 percent) and the overall SES sample (66 percent).
- High-arts, low-SES young adults reported higher volunteer rates (47 percent) than the overall sample and low-arts, low-SES young adults (43 and 26 percent respectively).
- High-arts, low-SES young adults voted in the 2004 national election at a rate of 45 percent, compared to 31 percent of low-arts, low-SES young adults.
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