by Corianna Lee, Director, Coolidge Performing Arts Center
As budget cuts continue to be part of the norm of public education, often the first areas affected by cuts are arts programs such as visual arts, music, dance and theater.
When this occurs, students are greatly affected because these opportunities are more than “frills” in the curriculum. They are, in fact, some of the most necessary courses a student can take, especially in this day and age when students are exposed to so much screen time.
In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that replaced the term “core academic subjects” with “well-rounded education” that expanded to 17 subjects, including the arts. This addition facilitated Title 1 schools with additional funding to ensure arts education is available and supported, after findings of multiple studies indicating Title 1 schools often lack quality arts programs.
Studies by the “Americans for the Arts” indicates many benefits for students involved in arts programs including, increased problem solving and creativity, motor skills, visual learning, decision making, perseverance, accountability and overall academic performance. According to PBS,
“A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”
As parents and community members we want to see our students, who are our future workforce, improve academic achievement, which can be accomplished through a well-rounded education that includes arts education.
A well-rounded education that includes the arts will give students the necessary soft skills such as creativity, decision making and accountability that employers seek. There are a myriad of studies that indicate that higher performing schools create a stronger workforce and ultimately lead to improved economic development. Schools with established arts programs pre-K through 12 can deliver that future workforce and enhance the economics of the communities they serve.
Arts education is also a “human right,” according to Dustin Loehr, Director of Arts Education & Title IV-A at the Arizona Department of Education. As standardized testing brought more “teaching to the test” and drained the creativity out of curriculum, we owe it to our students to ensure they have access to a “well-rounded education” at all levels.