The purpose of this work is to research and examine the connection to and effect upon the academic performance of K-8 students who are provided the opportunity to exposure to the arts.
Certainly the connection between violence on television and increased violence among teenagers has been documented as well as other influences in the surrounding environment that influence and impact individuals in the adolescent years. There also must be influences and exposures that affect adolescent aged individuals in a positive manner that assists them in their growth and assists as well through positive influence the academic performance of the adolescent individual. It is the contention of this work in research that exposure to the arts is a positive influence on the academic performance of K-8 students.
The method of research in this work will be through review of relevant academic peer reviewed literature both library and internet resources.
I. Curriculum in Schools that Fosters Academic Performance
According to the 2004 Fritsche Vision Report from G.A. Fritsche Middle School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in order to provide students with a learning environment that is both positive and challenging the curriculum offerings must be inclusive of exposure to the arts through classes such as theatre, orchestra instrument training, band, chorus, multicom lab (geared toward graphics arts) and web publishing lab as well as other such curriculum options. The school is a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award winner, and the state assessments are higher than most middle and K* schools. Furthermore Fritsche has the highest percentage of 8th grade students scoring advanced on the state mathematics assessment (inclusive of K8 schools). (Fritsche 2004 Vision Report)
According to Americans for the Arts website young individuals who participate in the arts "for at least three hours each week for a full years are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their school, 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance, and 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem." (Americans for Arts, 2005) The report further states that arts education "makes a tremendous impact on the developmental growth" and that it has been proven that arts "help level the 'learning field' socio-economic boundaries." (Catherall, 1998) Furthermore the YouthARTS Development Project (1996) states that arts education "has a measurable impact on youth at risk in deterring delinquency, and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance for those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programs geared toward delinquency prevention."
Finally stated in the Americans for Arts report is that businesses have come to understand that arts education:
Builds a school climate of high expectations, discipline, and academics which attracts businesses relocating to the community.
Strengthens student's problem-solving and critical thinking skills, overall academic achievement and school success.
Helps students develop a sense of craftsmanship, quality task and goals-settings -- skills needed to succeed in the classroom and life.
Can help troubled youth, providing an alternative to destructive behavior and another way for students to approach learning.
Provides another opportunity for parental, community and business involvement with schools including arts and humanities organizations
Helps students develop a positive work ethic and pride in a job well done. (Business Circle for Arts Education in Oklahoma (1999) Arts at Learning Initiative.
Seven separate academic studies have revealed that the arts are able to reach students that have not otherwise been reached as well as reaching students in ways that other initiatives have failed. Exposure to the arts connects students to not only themselves but to each other as well and "transforms the environment for learning." (Americans for Arts, 2005) Furthermore the learning experiences are connected to the real world in terms of work and career and the young people are enabled to have "direct involvement with the arts and artists" and "extended engagement in the artistic process" is supported through arts education.
II. The "Champions of Change (1999) Report"
A research initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice and the YouthARTS Development Project in association with Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation through their offering of arts opportunities in three cities to youth considered to be 'at risk' found: "decreased delinquent behavior and improved cooperation and attitudes about school. Some of the findings reveal that in Portland, while on 43% of the program participants demonstrated an ability to cooperate with each other at the start of the program -- a full 100% did so by the end of the 12-week program." (Champions of Change, 1999) Other improvements were 31.6 improvement noted in attitudes toward school in the arts participant group compared to 7.7% improvement for the non-arts group. A 16.4% decrease in delinquent behavior was noted for the arts group while only a 3.4% decrease in delinquent behavior was noted for the non-arts group. While this is not specifically 'academic' improvement, it is certain that without these improvements academic improvement and achievement cannot occur.
III. Ten Lessons that Art Teach
The report "Learning and the Arts: Crossing Boundaries (2000) reported by Elliot Eisner of Stanford University states that there are "Ten Lessons that Arts Teach" as follows:
1. To make good judgments about qualitative relationships
2. That problems can have more than one solution
3. To celebrate multiple perspectives
4. That in complex forms of problem-solving, purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstances and opportunity.
5. That neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know
6. That small differences have large effects
7. To think through and within a material
8. Constructive ways to say what cannot be said.
9. That the arts offer experience that we can have from no other source.
10. That the arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Department at the University of California and reported in Educational Leadership Journal in the work entitled "The Music in Our Minds" written by professor of Psychobiology, Norman M. Weinberger, "A student making music experiences the simultaneous engagement of senses, muscles and intellect. Brain scans taken during musical performances show that virtually the entire cerebral cortex is active while musicians are playing. Different areas of the brain perform different functions from directed movement, to thinking, to feeling to remembering including many sub-regions within those areas that relate to more specialized activities. Making music engages, and is increasingly seen to strengthen, a vast array of brain power."
The Champions of Change (1999) Project revealed that students who were participants in after-school art related organizations "showed greater use of complex language than their peers in activities through community-service or sports organizations." It was further stated by linguistic anthropologists that "the influences of participation in the arts on language show up in the dramatic increase in syntactic complexity, hypothetical reasoning, and questioning approaches taken up by young people within four-to-six weeks of their entry into the arts organization." (Champions of Change, 1999) Further stated is that "Generalized patterns emerged among youth participating in after-school-arts groups; a five-fold increase in use of if-then statements, scenario building followed by what-if questions, and how-about prompts, more than a two-fold increase in the use of mental state verbs (consider, understand, etc.) a doubling in the number of modal verbs (could, might, etc.)" (Champions of Change, 1999)
Very important were the findings that the rates of students who drop out of school are "co-related to levels of arts-involvement among students, even when controlled for socioeconomic status (SES) and high-arts involvement, low SES students close the drop out gap with higher SES but low-arts-involved students Low SES students in general have a higher drop out rate than higher SES student but 3.5% of low SES, high-arts involved 8th grader studied dropped out by the 10th grade whereas 3.7% of higher SES but low-arts involved 8th graders dropped out by the 10th grade."(Champions of Change, 1999)
It was found by The National Assessment for Educational Progress (1997) National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department for Education that "students in the U.S. receive different degrees of instruction in the various art forms but not a high degree of instruction in any of them."
The National Assessment of Educational Progress made a determination in 1997 that "3% of the nation's eighth-graders attend schools that reported that the typical eighth-grader receives instruction in dance at least three or four times a week. For theatre the comparable figure is 10%, for music it is 43% and for visual arts, 52%." The same report states that "Instruction and participation in the arts affects students' abilities to respond to, perform, and crate in the arts. Students who played instruments almost every day scored almost twice as high in music performance (on average 53%) as…