Panel: Arts Education in the United States: National Education Policies for Arts Education and Studies on the Impact of Arts Education Experiences for Youth Development

Friday, November 9, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
8219 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Melissa M. Menzer, National Endowment for the Arts
Discussants:  Thalia R. Goldstein, George Mason University and Akua Kouyate-Tate, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Even Controlling for Large Selection Effects, There Are Academic Benefits from Art Elective Courses in Middle-School for Low-Income, Ethnically Diverse Youth
Adam Winsler1, Alenamae Alegrado1 and Taylor V. Gara2, (1)George Mason University, (2)University of California, Irvine

Causal Effects of Arts Education: Experimental Evidence from Houston’s District-Wide Arts Access Initiative
Daniel Bowen, Texas A&M University and Brian Kisida, University of Missouri

Does Art Make You Smart? A Longitudinal Experiment of the Effects of Multiple Arts-Focused Field Trips
Jay P. Greene, Heidi Holmes, Angela Watson and Molly Beck, University of Arkansas

Did the Frequency of Early Elementary Classroom Arts Instruction Decrease during the No Child Left behind Era? If so, for Whom?
Taylor V. Gara, Liane Brouillette and George Farkas, University of California, Irvine

As parents, we want our children to participate in activities beyond the classroom and athletic field to give them another outlet of expression, and to prepare them for a multicultural world. So we encourage them to play an instrument, take a photography class, or join the drama club, with the notion that engagement and enriching experiences in the arts are important in and of themselves for mastery and appreciation in the arts (Kisida, Bowen, & Greene, 2017), but also for the potential influences these experiences may have for other developmental domains, such as literacy skills (Anvari, Trainor, Woodside, & Levy, 2002), math and science skills (Brown, Benedett, & Armistead, 2010), social-emotional skills (National Endowment for the Arts, 2015), and physical health (NEA, 2004).


Researchers, funders, and policymakers have started to place importance on studies that provide evidence for how arts participation is related to youth outcomes. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent United States federal agency, has supported many descriptive and experimental/quasiexperimental studies on the value and the impact of the arts for human development and the economy through its research funding initiatives.


The four papers included in this session describe new findings regarding the predictors of and outcomes of arts participation for children. The first paper uses longitudinal methods to describe how taking arts course electives is associated with academic outcomes for predominately at-risk middle school students, while taking into account the availability of arts courses in schools. Papers 2 and 3 integrate experimental methods to examine the causal impacts that increasing arts learning opportunities has on student school engagement and academic outcomes (Paper 2); and the impact that arts-based fieldtrips have on students interests in the arts and academic outcomes (Paper 3). And the last paper describes the impact that national education policies have on arts education in classrooms prior to and after the implementation of No Child Left Behind; this study includes two cohorts of data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS).


To round out the session, we propose two discussants. The first discussant is a developmental psychologist and research methodologist who has expertise in research focused on arts and child development. The second discussant is an arts education practitioner from a national organization who oversees a national program that provides arts integration opportunities to teach young children science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The pairing of these two discussants will allow for discourse regarding research, arts education practice, and the intersectionality and interdisciplinary nature of research, practice, and policy.


As a set, these studies highlight the need for more research that use rigorous research methods and replication to build evidence regarding the impact that arts experiences have on child outcomes. Results from highly fine-tuned studies may lead to evidence-based decision making by policymakers as they consider the cost-benefit of including arts programming in and out of formal education, and what programmatic and/or curricular characteristics are optimal in fostering opportunities for children to flourish.

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