This paper was presented at the national conference of the American Education Research Association (AERA) in San Antonio on April 28, 2017.
The purpose of this rigorous research and evaluation design was to measure the effect of arts integration on student achievement in a disadvantaged K-6 population in Rochester, NY, the ninth poorest city school district in the United States. The goals established by USDOE Arts in Education Model Demonstration and Dissemination [AEMDD] grant were accomplished by the Rochester Arts Impact Study Enhancement (RAISE) MODEL. The goals of the grant are to:  integrate standards-based arts education into the core elementary and middle school curricula;  strengthen standards-based arts instruction in these grades; and  improve students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.
RAISE Model: The Rochester City School District (RCSD) Project RAISE MODEL is an elaborated residency that builds the capacity of teachers and students to improve academic achievement. It included integrating the arts into the 10 K-6 elementary schools Common Core curricula by strengthening the use of high-quality arts in academic instruction, strengthening the place of arts as a core academic subject in school curricula and strengthening arts instruction. The RAISE MODEL uses teaching artist residencies to share concepts and skill acquisition across multiple Common Core curriculums. The overarching description of the model is that it builds the capacity of classroom teachers and students to use arts integration that reveals student thinking, enhances student memory and improves student achievement especially in disadvantaged populations.
Research and Evaluation Design. This study collected approximately 1.2 million quantitative data points: 4,500 treatment and 12,000 control students/year, four years of data, across 11 treatment schools, 28 control schools, and 6 standardized assessments: New York State English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies, CTB Terra Nova, North West Evaluation Association, and Hi/Scope Child Observation Record. This study collected thousands of qualitative data points to measure the effect of arts integration and the acquisition of learning transfer skills: approximately 80 school visits in four years; 120 classroom visits all with two district arts administrators and two researchers present; Interviews with teachers and students conducted after or during the observations; Interviews—approximately 100/year with students, teachers, school administrators and district level personnel; 612 teachers surveys and 1711 arts standards assessment rubrics.
Academic Results: This rigorous research evaluation shows that Rochester’s RAISE Model succeeded in integrating arts strategies through elaborated residencies that built the capacity of regular teachers and students to increase student achievement in disadvantaged populations. The average effect size in year 3 was 41.4% more students receiving arts integration passed the ELA Test, and 38.0% more students passed the Mathematics Test. This closely replicates the 40% average of the effect of integrating any type of curricula (Hattie, 2009, p. 298).
Teaching and Learning Results: This scientific research establishes a logic chain of evidence between sustained teacher learning of how arts integration can be useful as a teaching methodology in Common Core elementary classrooms. A variety of benefits from this transformation in teaching methodology include long-term retention of content (Rinne, Gregory, Yarmolinskaya, & Hardiman, 2011), learning about skill sets that overlap in arts disciplines and non-arts disciplines. Arts transfer in this study was identified as overlapping skill learning in multiple contexts (Gardiner, 2008). Students experienced cross-fertilization of the skill sets through analogous thinking and mental stretching (Gardiner, 2008). The outcome of this research is a refined definition of arts integration as a teaching and learning methodology that uses skill learning in the arts integrated with skill retention in curriculum resulting in improved student and teacher learning.
New Arts Education Policy Needed. The current research on integrating the arts into core curriculums has at least two implications for defining policy in arts education and school reform:  Disadvantaged students who experience quality arts integration in ELA and Math are likely to perform better intellectually and  teachers who experience job-embedded arts integration teaching strategies with their own students are more likely to improve their teaching practice. It is by deliberate practice, the amount of deliberate effort to improve performance through arts integration, that learning is enhanced and teaching matters (Hattie, 2012, p. 123).
Equity. In the American Education Research Association’s (AERA) 2017 call, these questions are posed: “What are the pathways to achieving equal educational opportunity? How do we transform the power of knowledge and scholarly discourses into public will, engaging practice, and responsive policy?” (American Educational Research Association, 2016, p. 1).
Multiple Pathways to equal educational opportunity. The power of this knowledge research reveals that arts integration through job-embedded peer-to-peer professional development offers multiple pathways to equal educatonal opportunity, improves content retention and skill learning and raises student achievement scores. The results of this study are significant given the potential to help disadvantaged populations raise student achievement and close gaps in student performance but they are also significant because they open up multiple pathways to learning for a variety of previously disenfranchised student learners through skill acquisition and application in different curriculum contexts. The results of this scholarly discourse about an engaging practice may help influence state education policy to become more responsive and reinforce the importance that the state has placed on arts integration programs as a district-wide intervention that are cost-effective.
- Southworth, R., Gardiner, M., & Westervelt, N. (2017). Measuring the Effectiveness of Arts Integration on Instructional Improvement and Student Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations. San Antonio, TX: Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting.