New National Endowment for the Arts Research Report Shows Potential Benefits of Arts Education for At-Risk Youth

Youth Have Better Academic Outcomes, Higher Career Goals, and Are More Civically Engaged

March 30, 2012

Washington, DC — At-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement, according to a new NEA report, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. The study reports these and other positive outcomes associated with high levels of arts exposure for youth of low socioeconomic status.

To read more and download the report:

“Child Development and Arts Education: A review of Current Research and Best Practices”

The College Board has done research on several topics for the group that is revising the National Standards for Arts Education, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. The one I have looked at is “Child Development and Arts Education: A review of Current Research and Best Practices.” The charts that start on page 9, “Overview of recommended pedagogical approaches,” struck me as a very useful resource. Dance, music, theatre and visual arts are covered for early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, and college.

From the webpage Introduction:

Although the body of research is growing that links arts participation to ever-widening developmental gains, there appear to be fewer resources available that explain the ways in which the latest research in cognitive, social, and emotional development in children and young adults may inform the instructional practices of arts educators. The following series of literature reviews aims to address the need for this particular type of information: linking current developmental research with recommended best practices for educators of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts students from grades PreK-14. (There is a link to download the PDF file)

In addition are the following research papers and there are also online webinars on the research. (Look under College Board Research in the navigation box on the left of the screen.)
College Standards PDF
International Standards PDF
State Arts Standards PDF
21st Century Gap Analysis PDF

Other topics are planned for the future so check back for them and on the progress of the writing teams.

photo of young girl working on a watercolor of a flower

Improving Arts Learning through Standards & Assessment

Improving Arts Learning through Standards & Assessment: A National Endowment for the Arts Research Roundtable
On February 14, 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) hosted a day-long series of panels and presentations to examine the latest trends, current practices, and future directions for arts learning standards and assessment methods. The press release on NEA’s website states that an archive video of the complete webcast will be available beginning February 21, 2012.

I watched the webcast on February 14th. There was good information shared and lots of food for thought from the conversation among the participants. I recommend finding some time to watch at least the sections that interest you most when the archive becomes available.

Beginning is a short welcome by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the NEA and James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

The first panel (1 hour) begins with an overview of the history of the Common Core Standards.
Followed by information on research (“implementation makes a big difference”, “Be careful to claim 21st century skills in the arts will transfer to other 21st century skills.”), an update on NAEP “nation’s report card” on the arts, and comments from Samuel Hoi, Otis College of Art and Design. Hoi said many things that caught my attention and I will go back and listen to this section again when the archive is posted.

Second panel (1 hour) begins with an overview of the Partnership for the 21st Century Skills.
Followed by an update from the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) (see the end of this post for some links to their wiki site), a report on the research the College Board has done for the NCCAS to help them with their work, and a report on the revision of the arts standards done by Colorado (well worth watching).

There is a 30 minute break which I assume will be edited out of the archive followed by a presentation of the NEA’s latest research report, Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts: State of the Field and Recommendations. Daniel Beattie, Acting Director of Arts Education at the NEA also outlined the next steps for NEA arts education grants in this section. The NEA is especially interested in professional development with “how to design and implement high quality assessment of student learning in the arts” specifically mentioned. (45 minutes) There is a 45 minute lunch break after this  – also assume will be edited out.

Third panel (1 hour) is a conversation about some model assessment practices and potential problems in arts assessment.

The last hour is a conversation between the participants and a few people invited to be in the audience on ideas for moving the field forward.

Links to the archive and the NEA study Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts: State of the Field and Recommendations:
 February 14th webcast archive
Participant bios
National study of arts educational assessment tools and strategies (pdf)

National Coalition for CORE ARTS Standards
A draft preliminary version of the framework is available as a PDF.

There is also a video archive of the revision update on  January 24, 2012. (The image quality is fuzzy but the sound is better.)  Below the video window is an archive of comments made by people watching the live feed (and comments on tech issues). There is a short advertisement at the beginning of both – trade off for free service.

Revising the National Arts Standards Timeline

  • September 2011 Hiring of Project Director
  • November 2011 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) issues guiding principles in the form of a conceptual framework
  • December, 2011 Standards writing teams established by NCCAS
  • Jan 2012-June, 2012 Project Director manages the writing and revision of Standards draft.
  • July, 2012 Release and dissemination of draft version of revised standards document for gathering public comment
  • Sept-Nov 2012 NCCAS review and response to revised arts standards public comment; revisions made to standards by writing teams led by Project Director.
  • December, 2012 Release of revised arts standards

More information about this process can be found at

Take a look at all the notes for the August 30, 2011 meeting. The most recent meeting on November 1, 2011 is archived in video clips which I haven’t had a chance to look at yet.

Arts and the Adoption of Common Core in Montana

On November 4, 2011 the Montana Board of Public Education officially adopted the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math. Due to its unique constitutional requirement, Montana is the only state to incorporate Indian Education for All into the new standards for English Language Arts and Math.

The next week I received an email from a high school teacher who teaches one of the performing arts.

Can you read through this stuff and either call me the villain, or educate me on how this is going to make my job of encouraging the next generation of Artists to be what our culture needs?  If not can the arts council through the NEA make a statement that will help us to see the arts not as a “technical subject” but as a core area of human thought and interaction.

Disturbed to the “Core”

This was triggered by an email from the district administration saying:

Yes, the Fine Arts is in the category of “Technical Subjects” specifically defined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  . . . .  I plan to review at our meeting how basically all subjects who have a specific content vocabulary, like the Fine Arts, are considered “Technical Subjects” within the CCSS requirements.

What I shared with the teacher is the following:

P21 Common Core Toolkit: A Guide to Aligning the Common Core State Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills – see page 35 – arts are listed as a core subject here

You also might take a look at the 21st Century Skills Arts Map

FAQs re Common Core from

Why are the Common Core State Standards for just English-language arts and math?
English-language arts and math were the first subjects chosen for the common core state standards because these two subjects are skills, upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.

Of course, other subject areas are critical to young people’s education and their success in college and careers. However, the NGA Center and CCSSO will not be developing standards in other subjects and are now focusing on implementing the standards in ELA and mathematics.

Technical subjects – A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music  (p. 43 of Appendix A of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects)

So I would say from the above information that “technical subjects” only refer to “technical aspects” of an arts course. This doesn’t mean the arts are technical subjects they are just included in that section of the English language arts or math common core. So perhaps your course or section on (xyz) will need to be aware of the requirements for “technical subjects” but that isn’t the definition of the whole study of (xyz) in high school. It doesn’t have anything to do with other aspects of (your discipline.)

Why the parenthesis and the general reference to the teacher who wrote to me?  
“I can probably get fired for sharing this info, . . . .” Whether this is true or not this arts specialist and surely others feel betrayed and vulnerable. What will they be teaching in their courses – a rigorous study of a centuries-old art form or will they just be a hand maiden to English language arts and math?

As the NORC Report on the Teaching artist Research Project states, “This is certainly a challenging moment for education in America. After three decades of effort to improve schools, three decades in which arts education has substantially declined, there has been too little progress in too few schools, particularly those serving low-income children. Now the recession has imposed harsh new constraints on school budgets. Arts education will continue withering in American schools if policymakers are unwilling to rethink the strategies that have dominated school reform. Or it could become a focus of bold new efforts to develop valuable resources that engage students, deepen learning, and enliven school cultures.” pp17-18

I don’t think the requirement that “technical subjects” address the Common Core Standards is a dire condemnation. I think there are tough times ahead for arts education in K-12 schools and I think we are “creative/innovative problem solvers” who will meet the challenge with style and grace.

Teaching Artists and the Future of Education

A Report on the Teaching Artist Research Project
By NORC at the University of Chicago August 2011

“Prior studies have provided strong evidence that arts education has powerful positive effects on student achievement and outcomes. NORC’s new study offers hope to schools struggling to preserve arts education programs and to policy-makers searching for effective education strategies to improve schools.”


By 1982 65% of 18 year olds had taken any classes or lessons in any art form during their childhood. By 2008, and throughout a period of heightened concern and effort to improve schools, particularly those serving low-income children, it had dropped below half again, and the decline shows no sign of abating.

Among the art forms, the decline has been most serious in music and visual art, the two disciplines most commonly taught in schools. Theater and dance, which are taught rarely in schools, are actually up slightly since 1982.

It would seem logical that any strategy to reverse the broad decline in arts education, any effort to distribute arts education more equitably in American schools, or any effort to extend the successes of arts education programs in schools would include teaching artists (TAs) as a critical element.

Schools need full-time arts faculty, and those that have arts specialists need TAs as well. Provision of a reasonable dose of arts education for all students is clearly beyond the capacity of the low numbers of specialists in most schools. They need to be supplemented. It is time to move beyond the either/or choice between arts specialists and TAs. There is simply no way to expand arts education for all children in schools without the development of TAs as a resource.

There is a section on “What is good teaching?” that points out the characteristics of good teaching are what teaching artists and arts specialists are doing in the classroom. I highly recommend this report to everyone involved in arts education for the background info, research findings and the recommendations.
Executive Summary and Final Report are available at this link.

Barry’s Arts Education Blog Forum
barry’s blog
Introduction to the Arts Education Blog Forum

Four Part Intensive Dialogue and Discussion on Arts Education and the whole range of attendant issues -hosted by myself and Julie Fry from the Hewlett Foundation – featuring 30+ leaders from across the field. I believe this will be a very important forum and exchange of ideas and hope you will follow along over the course of the next month. The conversations among the participants will be along these four broad categories (one per week – with subtopics and specific questions): Practice, Field Building, Policy and Research. (Stared Sunday, July 24th)