Arts advantage: Attendance boosts and 3 more benefits

Participation in arts classes translated to nine additional days of instruction
By: | May 17, 2021

Creativity pays off, says a new study that found higher attendance among Boston Public Schools students enrolled in arts courses.

Participation in arts classes translated to nine additional days of instruction for a class of 25 students in a standard school year, according to the authors of the study, “The Arts Advantage.”

“As schools reopen, educators, policymakers and administrators need to take a holistic approach to addressing the pandemic’s impact on students,” says co-author Daniel H. Bowen, an assistant professor in the College of Education & Human Development at Texas A&M University. “That includes incorporating arts instruction and other means to assess and address the impacts on students’ school engagement and social-emotional well-being.”

One goal of the study is to provide administrators and policymakers with ways to measure student achievement beyond standardized testing, Bowen and co-author Brian Kisida, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs,

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A unique aspect of the research is that, rather than comparing students enrolled in arts classes to those who aren’t, the study compared students to themselves when they were and weren’t enrolled in an arts course.

Arts can also play a major role in the social-emotional learning initiatives that will be key to helping students recover from COVID. “This research provides evidence for what we already know: arts education engages students, builds community, expresses our shared humanity and experience, and contributes to joyful learning environments,” Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said a news release.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • Positive effects on attendance were notably stronger for students with a history of chronic absenteeism and students on individualized education plans.
  • Parent and student engagement were higher when more students in a school were enrolled in arts courses. Teachers were more likely to report that students put more effort into their work and parents were more active at the school.
  • There were significant test score improvements in grades 6-8 in both English language arts and mathematics, but no impact in the elementary grades.