Doing WELL and Doing GOOD by Doing ART (Part III)

Photo courtesy KY Governors School for the Arts

Photo courtesy Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts

My last post talked briefly about the major findings of a new longitudinal study published in early October 2009 called Doing WELL and Doing GOOD by Doing ART, by UCLA researcher Dr. James Catterall.  My first post noted the study’s findings in three areas: 1) Involvement in the Arts and Academic Success; 2) Music and Mathematics Achievement; and 3) Theatre and Human Development.

Involvement in the Arts and Academic Success

The study found that students (middle and high school) engaged in the arts, in what he terms “arts-rich schools” show positive academic development at each stage of the research (between grade 8 and 10 as well as between grade 10 and 12).  The gains for arts-involved students generally become more pronounced over time and most importantly, according to Catterall, this pattern holds for students from low socioeconomic status (low SES) backgrounds.

Music and Mathematics Achievement

Middle and high school students with consistent and high levels of arts involvement showed significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12 (this observation held for both the general study population as well as for the sub group of low SES students).  There was found to be significant growth over time in mathematics proficiency among those students consistently involved in instrumental music versus those not involved in music.

Theatre and Human Development

The study’s analysis of theatre arts was undertaken for low SES students only in an attempt to remove the influence of SES from the comparisons.  An assumption was made on the part of researchers that financially advantaged students would be able to experience theatre and drama in more affluent schools and that their family would be able to afford more theatre and drama experiences in the private or community sectors.   The research found that sustained low SES student involvement in theatre arts associated with a variety of positive developments including gains in reading proficiency, gains in self-concept and motivation, and higher levels of empathy.

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