Recent studies paint art as key to core

By: Mikaela Mallin

In both elementary and secondary schools, recent studies are showing that recess, art and music may not getting the credit or attention for improving educational benefits that they deserve.

According to National Association for the Education of Young Children, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act has caused 20 percent of elementary schools across the country to cut back on the time allotted for recess, art and music to allow for more in-class instructional time. Administrators in such schools believe students’ test scores will improve if they spend less time in recess, art and music classes and more time on their school work.

New studies, however, provide evidence of the contrary. No research can be found that supports administrators’ assumptions that keeping children in the classroom all day helps achieve No Child Left Behind required test scores. In fact, schools that devote a substantial portion of their day to nonacademic activities, including art, music and physical activity actually see an increase in student test scores and academic attitude, even though less time is spent academically.

The Des Moines Register recently published an article reporting the results of a “Turnaround Arts” program. Des Moines’ Findley Elementary School has participated in the program since 2011, introducing new art, music, dance and theater classes to their students. The report highlighted the increase the incorporation of art and music with core classes such as math, reading and science had on student math and reading scores, academic ambition, attendance rates, and overall school environment. Art and music classes also provide children with lessons not as readily available in the classroom.

Orchard Hill Elementary music Instructor Kim Kranz represents her early education music program online by posting, “Students are encouraged to appreciate music by learning music basics, along with lifelong skills such as:  teamwork, self-discipline and creativity. Our classes use singing to not only learn musical skills, but to further our understanding of the value of music of the past, present and future.”

Just as elementary students are pressured to achieve certain test scores in order to advance to the next grade level, high school students are often pressured to fill their schedule with high-level AP and honors classes in order to advance to their next “grade-level”: college. Secondary-level core classes such as math, English, science and social studies receive much more attention than elective classes such as art, music, drama and dance.

The truth is, those secondary-level art and music classes, the ones that get pushed to the wayside, can benefit students just as much as core classes can. They often provide high school students with different methods of thinking, analyzing and problem solving, and they have been shown to improve high schoolers’ test scores and academic attitudes just like they do at the elementary level.

CFHS art teacher Lisa Klenske shares the benefits of taking artistic classes, confirming that “It’s been shown across the board that students who engage in artistic endeavors such as music and visual arts do better on tests. I took a course through St. Thomas University … all about how classes about the arts, whether they be theater, dance, orchestra, band or visual arts help the brain and creativity. It gets kids thinking in a different way.”

For example, she notices first year art students always limit themselves to one way of thinking about a project, but by the end of the year have learned the biggest lessons from an art class they can: “There are multiple ways to get to a finished product.” This is an academic lesson that not many core classes can provide.

The benefits art and music can have when enrolling for 2015-2016 classes are clear from last year’s trends. Enrollment in CFHS art and music classes have begun to increase over the past year. Sophomore enrollment in beginning drawing has reached an all-time high, and women’s choir has nearly doubled in size. Let’s keep it up, taking advantage of the benefits art and music classe offer, and finally giving them the credit and attention they deserve.

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