A longitudinal study of low-income students in Florida – who were tracked from kindergarten to eighth grade – assessed the impact of choosing to study the arts on reading and maths scores, finding those who had taken these classes had better grades, and social and language skills, than their peers.
"Middle School Music and Theatre Students Get Better Grades"
New research presents the best evidence yet that taking arts classes benefits kids academically - Arts and music training has been shown to have academic benefits.
A rigorously designed, decade-long study of more than 30,000 Florida students suggests the exact opposite is more likely.
It found students who took an elective arts class in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade had significantly higher grade point averages (GPAs), and better scores on standardized reading and math tests, than their peers who were not exposed to the arts. This held true after the researchers took into account "all the ways that students who did and did not take the arts in middle school were initially different."
The new study, in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, addresses that issue by following a large group of low-income students from kindergarten through eighth grade. This allowed the researchers to create a baseline level of each youngster's academic accomplishments, and determine if arts classes boosted their achievement level.
The short answer is they did.
The research team, led by George Mason University psychologist Adam Winsler, using data from the Miami School Readiness Project, tracked the progress of 31,322 ethnically diverse, primarily low-income students. They noted each child's level of school readiness at age four, including cognitive, language, and social skills, as well as their scores on standardized math and reading tests in fifth grade.
They then recorded whether the student had taken a dance, drama, music, and/or visual arts class in grades six, seven, or eight. Forty percent had done so; of those, 65 percent took such a class for only one year. Finally, the researchers looked at how those kids then did academically.
Not surprisingly, they found students who chose an arts elective "not only had better grades in elementary school," than their peers, "but also showed stronger social, behavioral, language, motor, and cognitive skills seven years earlier in preschool." This supports the aforementioned thesis that more capable kids are more likely to gravitate to the arts.
"Those who experienced arts electives in middle school went on to earn significantly higher GPAs and higher standardized math and reading scores, and were less likely to get suspended from school, compared to students who were not exposed to arts classes," they write. "These are meaningful, important, and ecologically valid measures of actual student performance."
Given these findings, access to arts education "can be seen as an issue of social justice," the researchers write. They note that, in their sample, black students were less likely than white or Latino students to enroll in an arts class, for reasons that are unclear but should be explored.
Read the full article here: https://psmag.com/education/middle-school-music-and-theater-students-get-better-grades.