Arts Education

March 16, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 11
Does arts training improve social and academic skills?
By Beth Baker


A proud artist shows off her artwork at Inner-City Arts (Inner-City Arts)
A proud artist shows off her artwork at Inner-City Arts, which provides a wide range of arts activities — during school hours and after school — at a modern campus in the heart of Los Angeles' Skid Row neighborhood. (Inner-City Arts)

Arts education faces serious challenges, even as teachers and business leaders recognize its value to students as never before. A growing body of research suggests that the arts offer students a unique, valuable way to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally. Some researchers suggest high-quality arts education helps improve test scores and reduce tardiness and truancy. Others argue that even without such benefits, the arts are inherently good because they help children grow into creative, problem-solving adults with skills necessary for the 21st-century economy. But arts education — on the decline for more than two decades — is now threatened by shrinking school budgets and a narrowing of the curriculum because of federal and state testing and accountability mandates. Meanwhile, a small but growing number of schools are integrating the arts into academic courses and using the arts to help students overcome learning disabilities.