Whether you’re a parent, an educator or a policy maker, each of us has a vested interest in boosting the overall academic performance of Texas students. These children represent the future of our state, and the impact of the education they receive today will have a positive ripple effect for generations.
One proven strategy that can help our students advance is increasing access to quality arts instruction throughout their elementary, middle and high school years.
It is unlikely that students will ever be evaluated on primary vs. secondary colors, the duration of a quarter note or their ability to memorize and deliver a soliloquy. But this doesn’t mean that fine arts classes don’t have a significant positive effect on students’ performance in all subject areas. Indeed, they do.
Consider this: Based on a new investigation of statewide data, students in Texas public school districts that met the state accountability standard had more than two times as many arts courses to choose from and earned up to 26 percent more arts credits than students in districts that “need improvement.”
We now have easy access to this information because the Texas Cultural Trust recently created and published comprehensive statewide data on access to arts education at the district level. The data, publicly available at www.ArtCanTexas.org, includes demographic statistics about each district in the state, allowing comparisons between them, and breaks down information among elementary, middle and high schools. This data will allow us to identify both bridges and barriers to access to arts education in our schools and to collaborate and share best practices across the state.
For those who aren’t compelled by state standardized testing outcomes, consider that across all grade levels, greater arts course completion was associated with higher attendance rates, with the greatest impact at the high school level. Now that’s a positive outcome that everyone can get behind. According to the 2015 State of the Arts Report, Texas high school students who took three or more arts credits had an attendance rate that was 3.3 percentage points higher than their peers who were not engaged in the arts. That’s the equivalent of an entire extra week of class attendance, which incidentally equals more money in district coffers.
Arts engagement also benefited students who were at risk of dropping out. These students were only half as likely to drop out if they completed a least one arts course credit in the 9th grade, as compared to their at-risk peers who were not enrolled in arts. And graduation rates for students engaged in the arts in the 9th grade were nearly four percentage points higher than their peers who were not. Enrollment in higher education in the fall semester following graduation was 11.5 percentage points higher for arts-engaged students as well.
Put simply, if we can capture a student’s imagination through the arts, whether it be through music, visual arts, dance or theater, they are more likely to attend and participate in school. The evidence couldn’t be clearer: Arts education for Texas students makes a difference — and it’s worth the investment.
So then, what can we do to ensure that more Texas students have access to quality arts education?
A great first step is to get educated about arts opportunities within your local school districts. And the new Art Can website is a tremendous multimedia resource. The comprehensive data set includes information — in both English and Spanish — on arts credits, teachers and courses for each public school district in the state, all visually integrated and overlaid on a map of Texas.
Research shows 80 percent of Texas voters support increased funding for the arts in schools – the Art Can campaign provides a vehicle to turn that support into action. At the click of a button, Texans can reach out to their local school boards and legislators to express their support for continued and expanded access to increased arts education. It is vitally important for our children’s success. And it will help all of us to build a stronger, more creative and prosperous Texas, for years to come.
Find out more about arts education and the Trust’s new campaign at www.ArtCanTexas.org.