Arts Integration Results in Higher
Elementary Test Scores
A four-year study involving six teachers and more than 600
students at Rosemont Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, has
proven what academicians, educators, and cultural community
supporters have been saying for years: An integrated arts
curriculum can dramatically improve overall student achievement.
The scientific study-the Partnership Assessment Project -was
conducted by the non- profit Partnership for Arts, Culture and
Education, comprised of more than 50 arts and cultural
organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. The
project was begun in 1992 in an attempt to determine the impact of
community-based arts and cultural enrichment, integrated into a
school's core curriculum, on student achievement in the language
arts. The study was based on the assumption that elementary
students in socioeconomically deprived settings, who exhibited
minimal success in standardized testing situations, would benefit
academically from exposure to community arts and cultural
programming integrated into the curriculum.
Three elementary schools in the Dallas area were chosen for the study
on the basis of 12 variables: ethnicity; socioeconomic status;
standardized test scores; criterion-referenced test scores; free lunch
programs; enrollment; attendance; use of community programming; and
the presence of music, art, drama, or dance specialists. Over the
four-year course of the study, one school- Rosemont Elementary-was
provided significant community arts and cultural programming which was
fully integrated into the core curriculum. The second school
benefited from community arts and cultural programs without
integrating them, while the third had no community arts or cultural
programming at all.
The project design used at the first school included training
teachers in using the arts in the classroom, transferring art
experiences into the core curriculum, and assessing the success of
the transfer through student portfolios and performance
assessment. Representatives from arts and cultural organizations
also received training in designing presentations to complement the
school district's curricula.
By the third year of the study, the project teachers had the skills
and knowledge needed to integrate the community arts and cultural
programs. Core subjects were vertically aligned through thematic
units, and these units served as keys for the teachers to select
community programming for their students. For example, second-
grade students used dance to learn basic geometric shapes, while
third graders used dance to understand the relationship between the
body's muscles and bones. Fifth-grade students combined the study
of acoustics with a trip to a symphony hall, where they simulated
and described the path of sound waves from several instruments.
At the conclusion of the project last year, a comparison of the three
schools showed significant differences in language arts achievement.
The Rosemont School, which had integrated the programs into its
curricula, maintained dramatically higher average scores than the
other two schools. According to the assessment report, "the results
of this study overwhelming support the premise that integrating
community [arts] programming into the classroom enhances learning."
So what does it all mean? Put simply, it demonstrates quantitatively
the remarkable value of integrating arts experiences into the
curriculum. It means, too, that teachers who use arts and cultural
programming in the classroom can bring more enthusiasm to the core
curricula. As one teacher said, "The children really started to see
connections...and it's been fun seeing them respond to that....Once
they get started, they just find similarities all over the place."
Although the project's comparisons were limited to language arts
achievement, it can be inferred that such programming could have a
significant impact on student achievement generally. Art experiences
can no longer be perceived as pleasant fluff compared to more
substantive areas of instruction: math, science, reading, and writing.
When used in an integrated manner, with teachers trained in the
techniques of incorporating arts programming into the core curriculum,
art becomes a vital tool in increasing a child's understanding and
academic achievement.
Stephen C. Stapleton, Chairman
Partnership for Arts, Culture and Education
Dallas, Texas


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