Thursday, March 25, 2010

Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art

Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art is a new arts education study just recently released and summarized well by the Arts Education Partnership in their AEPWire publication. Seems to be a problem on their Web site now - maybe too many people trying to access the study! - so I would suggest also going to their Facebook page for more info.

The study, by James S. Catterall, is essentially a continuation of the research he (along with some colleagues) contributed to the landmark "Champions of Change" study, released in 1999. This new study looks at 12,000 young people who were studied as high school students in that earlier study. Ten additional years of data have now been gathered to follow these young people through the age of 26. The bottom line is that arts learning is found to be strongly connected to both general academic success and "pro-social outcomes."

Most significant about this study for me is that it attempts to look specifically at the impact an "arts rich" learning environment has on socio-economic-status (SES) challenged students. An example - 37.1% of those studied from arts-rich high schools went on to earn a BA, compared with only 17.3% of those who went to arts-poor schools. Similarly dramatic results were seen for English Language Learners.

The study finds significant advantages for arts-engaged low‐SES students in college going, college grades, and types of employment, e.g. jobs with a future—and strong advantages in volunteerism and political participation.

All research is imperfect, and I am sure one could find holes in this as well, but it seems to me to be pretty powerful and persuasive stuff. If policy makers need proof that investing in arts learning must be an important component of efforts to ensure our most challenged young people have a chance at success in life and as citizens, they need look no further than this research.

Thanks to Eric Booth for passing this along to me!

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