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Arkansas State University

The Value of Teaching Fine Arts

Artistic expression has always been an intrinsic part of how humans move about in the world and record stories, achievements and deceits. Some of the oldest signs of the presence of homo sapiens on Earth involve art. And the people in ancient societies of all continents highly emphasized the importance of art instruction. When putting this into perspective, it seems peculiar that artistic disciplines are often the first ones to be discarded or underfunded in K-12 education, especially in the public school system.

To give room to standardized testing and other STEM subjects, considered more “serious” or “necessary,” art classes are sometimes scrapped from curricula or perceived as mere extracurricular activities. An article by Teach & Kids Learn (TKL) states that “in recent years, many school districts … cut art programs (drama, music, visual arts, photography, etc.), due to budget cuts and based upon state/national academic priorities that are more focused on math and English student achievement. The decline of arts education also has raised equity and access issues because budget cuts have fallen along economic lines,” and low-income schools are often hit hardest by cuts to art education. The interesting contradiction is that students more immersed in the arts seem to do better on tests.

The Arts Lead to Academic Success

Grace Chen from Public School Review confirmed this relationship between the arts and academic achievement, writing that various “studies support the notion that students who engage in the study of the arts perform better in math, reading, and writing. The Arts Education Partnership performed a meta-analysis of 62 studies that revealed that students who study music had increased achievement and proficiency in math. Reading and cognitive development were found to increase, as were verbal SAT scores.”

Teachers are finding that combining the arts with other subjects is a great solution to increase students’ interest and information intake levels. Assigning students to write a comic book about a history subject, using music and tempo to teach math concepts and taking examples from Sci-Fi films to explain physics are just a few ways to incorporate the arts in the classroom. Programs like the online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) – Art K-12 at Arkansas State University allow teachers to craft creative solutions to teach the arts, merging theory and practice.

Improving Student Lives Through the Arts

While academic improvement is an excellent reason to offer art classes, it doesn’t replace the need to teach actual artistic disciplines, such as painting and drawing, drama, music, creative writing and dance. In fact, as stated in the Public School Review article, students involved in these classes have shown lower levels of violence and behavior problems, higher attendance rates, improved understanding of complex texts and ideas and even a better grasp of social relationships and empathy.

However, the biggest group benefitting from arts education are students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. According to Chen, “students with a low socioeconomic status (SES) that have a history of involvement in the arts have better long-term academic, occupational, and social outcomes than their peers. Specifically, high arts involvement led to more students planning to attend college and increased the likelihood that students would apply to a moderately or highly selective college.”

School boards and educators finally seem to understand that the arts need their place in the curriculum as much as math, science and literature. With a Master of Arts in Teaching – Art K-12 from A-State, teachers can learn to use the arts to benefit students’ academic outcomes and lives in general.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online Master of Arts in Teaching – Art K-12 program.

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