Reprinted with permission from "The Parent's Guide: Getting the Most
Out Of Your Child's Band or Orchestral Experience" published by The
Selmer Company.
This article comes from a review of the federal report "Champions of Change."
The author of this review is N.M. Weinberger. The "Champions of Change"
report was released in 1999 by the Arts Education Partnership and
the President's Council on the Humanities.
The Impact of the Arts on Learning
"The ultimate challenge for American education is to place all
children on pathways toward success in school and in life.
Through engagement with the arts, young people can better begin
lifelong journeys of developing their capabilities and contributing
to the world around them. "Champions of Change: The Impact of
the Arts on Learning" also shows that the arts can play a vital role
in learning how to learn, an essential ability for fostering
achievement and growth throughout their lives. (It) provides
new and important findings of actual learning experiences
involving the arts. (It) presents these research findings, complete
with ground-breaking data and analysis, as articulated by
leading American educational researchers. Perhaps what makes
their findings so significant is that they all address ways that our
nation's educational goals may be realized through enhanced arts
learning. As these researchers have confirmed, young people
can be better prepared for the 21st century through quality
learning experiences in and through the arts."
-- Richard Riley, Secretary of Education
These quotations from Dr. Riley, Secretary of Education, are taken
from the introduction to a remarkable report that was issued in
October of 1999. This "Champions of Change" document ["COC"]
was funded by The GE Fund and The John D. and Catherine T.
Macarthur Foundation under the auspices of The Arts Education
Partnership and The President's Committee on the Arts and the
The COC report is not restricted to music or any single subject
within arts education. However, music education forms a major
part of arts programs included in this document. It contains the
reports of seven major projects in arts education. The present
article will first list some of the major findings. After this, we will
discuss the results of some of the studies in greater detail.
Overview: The Arts Change the Learning Experience in Special Ways --
- The arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached.
- The arts reach students in ways that they are not otherwise being
- The arts connect students to themselves and each other.
- The arts transform the environment for learning.
- The arts provide learning opportunities for the adults in the lives
of young people.
- The arts provide new challenges for those students already
considered successful.
- The arts connect learning experiences to the world of real work.
- The arts enable young people to have direct involvement with the
arts and artists.
- The arts support extended engagement in the artistic process.
- The arts encourage self-directed learning.
- The arts engage community leaders and resources.
The Findings of Specific Projects
In the main section of this article, we will report the findings of
three specific projects from the COC report. They might be
considered in any order but I have chosen a particular sequence to
highlight a special aspect of the findings, the local school
environment for learning. I believe this is particularly important for
at least two reasons. First, it has been largely ignored. Second, the
effects of arts education take place within real walls, as an
interaction between students and teachers. We need to appreciate
this ongoing educational dialogue to fully understand why and how
the arts have such a beneficial effect on students. While all the
reports are extremely important. I think you will find that the
information obtained within specific school setting provides a
uniquely valuable resource.
The first project concerns the broadest report of academic
performance, the relationship between involvement in arts
education and academic performance for 25,000 students across
the United States. It provides an interesting contrast for the second
project, which is the most specific type of program. This is the
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) which brings
professional arts practitioners from various disciplines to certain
schools. The final - and longest - report, is about schools in which
arts are an important and continuing part of the normal curriculum.
It concerns the performances of students, teachers and their
interactions. This report brings new and important insights into
how and why arts education facilitates intellectual and personal
development in students. It has major implications.
"Involvement in the Arts and Human Development"
The first report is that of James S. Catterall, Richard Chapleu and
John Iwanaga of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and
Information Studies. They analyzed the extensive database from
the National Educational Longitudinal Survey [NELS.88]. This
survey obtained information on more than 25,000 secondary
school students over a period of 10 years. The very large sample
size is noteworthy because it avoids problems encountered with small
populations, such as a few classes in a limited number of
school settings. The authors studied both the arts in general and
then focused on music and theater arts. They were particularly
interested in how arts education impacted students from families of
lower socio-economic resources (low SES), compared to those from
higher levels (high SES).
The overall findings were quite clear. Performance in a wide range
of academic subjects and on standardized tests was significantly
higher for students involved in sustained arts education. Statistical
analyses of academic performance from the 8th through 12th grades
further showed that the beneficial effects increased over time. Of
particular importance, low SES students also showed significant
improvements if they were involved in arts education. In fact, their
relative gains were as great or larger than the high SES students.
Given these findings, it is somewhat troubling to note that the
authors also found a significant decrease in arts education
involvement from grades 10 to 12. For example, the percent of
students taking lessons outside of school hours decreased from
11% to 3%.
An analysis that focused on instrumental music and mathematics
was also quite revealing. Dr. Catterall and his associates
discovered that music students were far more likely to achieve the
highest levels of proficiency in math tests than non-music students.
Again, low SES students also benefited. In fact they not only
scored higher in math than low SES students who were not
involved in music but also better than the average of all students.
The positive effects of instrumental music instruction also
increased from the 8th to the 10th grades. For example, 21% of
eighth grade music students from low SES households scored high
in math compared to 11% of non-music low SES students. By
grade 12, these figures were 33% and 16%, respectively.
Do these findings definitely show that consistent involvement in
arts education, particularly in instrumental music education, causes
the high levels of general academic and math performance? Dr.
Catterall and his colleagues are quite aware of the challenges that
must be met to be able to draw a causal connection. However, they
point out that there is good reason to suspect that arts education
helps cause the findings because other studies have reported "
that children are more engaged and cognitively involved in school
when the arts are part of, or integrated into, the curriculum."
Nonetheless, it might be argued that better students select arts
involvement. However, the authors also emphasize that
improvements are greater within the same students over time, from
the 8th to the 12 grades. This is difficult to explain if the higher
performance levels were not caused by continued involvement in
the arts.
Learning In and Through the Arts
"We conclude this review by considering an extensive study
performed by Judith Burton, Robert Horowitz and Hal Abeles, of
the Center for Arts Education Research at Columbia University. It
involved 2046 children in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 in 12 public schools
in New York, Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina. Instead of
focusing on academic test performances and arts involvement,
these researchers dug into the basic intellectual processes and
personal attributes that are at the foundation of cognitive
development and resultant enhanced test performance. They also
studied the school situation, the effects of arts curricula on teachers
and on their interactions with students.
Creative Thinking -- Students involved in high arts schools were
superior to those in low arts schools in each of the following
- Solutions: a greater number of ideas or approaches to solve
- Originality: more innovative approaches to solving problems
- Elaboration: mentally constructing more detail in formulating
- Resistance to Closure: tendency to keep an open mind, to avoid
rushing to premature judgements or being satisfied too quickly
with a possible solution
General Competencies -- Students in the schools with high arts
involvement were superior to students in low arts schools in other
important areas.
- Expression: better able to express their thoughts and ideas to
teachers and peers and to do so in different ways.
- Risk-taking: they were more willing to take a risk, showing an
increased willingness to try new things, use new materials and
approaches, even at the risk of failing; more willing to risk
expressing their own novel ideas to peers and parents
- Cooperation: they worked better with peers and with teachers
- Synthesis: better at unifying divergent thoughts, feeling and
Perception of Self as Learner -- High arts students also had better
self concepts regarding school:
- Higher self-concept in reading, math and general academics
- Teachers rated them as having more self-confidence.
The Perspectives of Teachers -- As noted above, the teachers also
participated in the testing. Those in schools with high levels of arts
education identified five effects of arts learning.
- The ability to express ideas and feelings opening and
- The ability to form relationships among different items and
arrange them to solve problems.
- The ability to imagine a problem from different points of view
and work toward a resolution.
- The ability to organize thoughts and ideas into meaningful
- The ability to engage in sustained and focused attention. "




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