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Education Reform Must Include the Arts

Arts education can increase student achievement and improve behavior for at-risk students, according to one study.
Students at Natomas (Calif.) Charter School in Sacramento perform at an Autism Speaks fundraiser in December 2010. A new report says arts education is needed to keep at-risk kids engaged in school. Photo credit: Bruce Patt Photography

Arts education is being left out of the national conversation about how to reform schools, according to a report released May 6 by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

The report acknowledges that tight budgets and high-stakes testing has placed arts education on the back burner, but it affirms that there are cost effective models to incorporate the arts across the curriculum that, when done properly, can raise student achievement, attendance rates and behavior.

"Waiting for Superman, Race to the Top, i3 grants--we've seen all these solutions that have been charted as the magic bullet in education. It seemed to us that arts education is a solution that's been hiding in plain sight," says Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President's Committee. Arts curricula, says Goslins, helps not only art-savvy students, but particularly, at-risk students as well.

"It's the only place they feel like a success. There's no right or wrong answer. It gives them a sense of connection with their school," says Goslins. Cash-strapped states can find ways to incorporate the arts into their curriculum, according to the report. One math teacher had students create mobiles to help demonstrate linear equations.

In Chicago, one dance instructor had students reciting physics terms, such as "momentum" and "center of gravity," while learning different dances. A principal in the Bronx noticed such high levels of student engagement with the arts that he moved the school's art courses to Mondays and Fridays to encourage more kids to come to school and help counteract truancy. "There's a diverse patchwork of approaches," says Goslins.

"Different communities can build different models based on the resources that are available to them." To read the full report, visit