Federal Funding Priorities: What is the Effect of the Arts on Academic Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations

I am now working on the four-year compendium report: “Measuring the Effect of the Arts on Academic Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations.” Through a rigorous, randomized, experimental design including two trials, one three-year trial and one four-year trial, we have measured the effects of arts integration on student achievement in Rochester, NY’s disadvantaged population. We measured student achievement on New York State ELA and MATH tests and we also measured the rigor of arts integration implementation, professional development for teachers, skill acquisition for students, and the exact skills that the arts helped contribute to increased student achievement. I will post the executive summary from this work in about a month.

In the third year of the second trial, the latest for which we have numbers, we found the average effect size was 0.40 in ELA and 0.39 in Math which exactly replicates meta-analyses of the effect of integrating curricula (Hattie, 2009, p. 298; integrated curricula effect size = 0.39). This research found that it is possible to develop significant arts integration with disadvantaged urban populations. We could not have done this without the support of federal funding through the US Department of Education’s AEMDD grant.

Over the last 13 years, the US Department of Education has been awarding grants to arts integration studies all over the country. Through the Arts in Education Model Demonstration and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant competition, the US DOE asked, “could more rigorous designs help to measure the effect of the arts on academic achievement especially in disadvantaged populations?” What is the purpose of the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program?

The purpose of the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant is to support the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that are based on research and have demonstrated that they effectively: (1) integrate standards-based arts education into the core elementary and middle school curricula; (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) strengthen standards-based arts instruction in these grades; and (Bresler) improve students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts. Projects funded through the AEMDD program are intended to increase the amount of information on effective models for arts education that is nationally available that integrate the arts with standards-based education programs. In this case, “integrating” should be understood both as encouraging the use of high-quality arts in the course of other academic instruction and strengthening the place of arts as a core academic subject in the regular school curricula (; May, 2012).

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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