Research Paper Topic: The Effects of Arts Education on Student Achievement

Chapter I



Arts in the public education realm have long been a topic of debate among educators. In both past and current discussions, courses in the arts have been scrutinized and, in many cases, deemed unnecessary. This increased focus on high stakes testing has led to budget cuts for the arts and the elimination of art programs throughout the country (Wilkins et al., 2003, 722). However, by taking away art courses, schools are not providing their students with their rightful exposure to all areas of education. Some educators argue that this is creating an unfair access gap (Baker, 2012, 17). To combat this mode of thinking and attempt to provide an equal education to all students, researchers and educators are insisting that the inclusion of art in schools and the integration of art and core subject curricula will actually help students perform better in all areas of study. The purpose of this research is to investigate whether or not there is a statistical advantage to maintaining art programs in schools and integrating art curriculum with other subject areas. The views on this topic are as varied as they are in any issue, but two sides of the debate can be generalized into the following: arts education is unnecessary in today’s schools or arts courses are significantly important in education.

The independent variable at work will be the participation in a comprehensive arts education course that integrates content from other subject areas.  The dependent variable will be student achievement as evidenced by test scores in math, science, and English courses as well as reading levels. The major questions to be answered by this research are as follows:

  1. Is there a difference in student achievement between those students who are enrolled in an arts course and those who are not as evidenced by end of course exams in math?
  2. Is there a difference in student achievement between those students who are enrolled in an arts course and those who are not as evidenced by end of course exams in science?
  3. Is there a difference in student achievement between those students who are enrolled in an arts course and those who are not as evidenced by end of course exams in English?
  4. Is there a difference in student achievement between those students who are enrolled in an arts course and those who are not as evidenced by achievement in reading and literacy levels?

Definition of Terms

  • Achievement: an increase in student testing scores, grades, motivation, and participation.
  • Arts Education: courses in theater, music, visual arts, creative writing, and dance. For the purposes of this research, music and visual arts are being referred to mainly, with the occasional addition of theater.
  • End of Course Exams: state mandated standardized tests and teacher designed in class finals.
  • Arts Integration: the combination of any discipline of art that has been previously stated and core subject content such as mathematics, English, science, reading, and social studies.


The next chapter will summarize and review previous research and other relevant reports.



Chapter II


The purpose of this research is to examine the effects that involvement in an arts education course has on student achievement in math, science, reading, and English. This literature review is designed to examine the research and literature that is relevant and useful to the purposes of this project. This researcher found that much of the information regarding the relationship between arts education and student achievement was not as recent as one would hope to include in a review of literature. However, these sources proved essential in an assessment and analysis of the literature in existence because they laid a foundation for the work that has been done in recent years. In nearly every article or report reviewed, the dated resources from the 1990’s and early 2000’s were cited and deemed important to analyze. Therefore, this researcher concluded that the information would be integral in this review as well. Some of the information found did not specifically study the relationship that this project is addressing, but the conclusions drawn from it is important to discuss in order to create a basis for the need of the current research.


The first set of reports to be reviewed investigates the relationships under question in this project in the most similar ways. In 2012, Richard A. Baker reported on research he conducted to determine whether enrolling students in extra math or English courses in lieu of arts courses actually helped to improve student achievement. The sample for this study was 37.222 eighth graders in Louisiana who were in one of two groups: those that were enrolled in music or visual arts courses and those who were not. This research was designed in response to students being pulled from arts courses due to falling scores in math and English on the Louisiana standardized LEAP test. In this ex post facto study, the instrument used was the LEAP test since it was already in place. This test measured cumulative mastery levels of language arts and mathematics from grades 5-8. The researcher listed that the study and its conclusions were limited to the curriculum decisions for grades 5-8, but the general scope of the information lends itself to the aims of the research being presented in this paper (Baker, 2012, 18).

Baker’s findings were based on two objectives. The first was to determine if enrollment in music affected students’ scores on either parts of the LEAP test. The results were split into four categories: low socioeconomic status (SES), high SES, black, and white students (Baker, 2012, 19). Findings indicated that students of all categories who were enrolled in music education courses did in fact achieve significantly higher scores on the LEAP test in mathematics and English than those who were not enrolled in music education courses. The second objective was to determine the effect of being enrolled in visual arts courses on the test scores in question. The “no arts” students actually performed better on the test at p=.05. The only exception was for white students on the mathematics test where visual arts students scored higher than “no visual arts” students (Baker, 2012, 19). Based on the lack of research found on the effects of visual arts and the inconclusive results of his study, Baker suggests that more research be done in this area because something else may be the cause for the difference in the students’ scores (Baker, 2012, 21-24). The current project aims to pick up and research the area where Baker recommends more investigation.

In a similar study done by Wilkins, Graham, Parker, Westfall, Fraser, and Tembo (2003), research was done to determine if there is an inverse relationship between time in arts education courses and success on standardized tests. The researchers set out to determine the amount of time Virginia elementary schools allotted for arts education per week and the levels of mastery the schools’ students achieved on the Standards of Living tests (SOLs). To determine time devoted to the arts, surveys developed by the researchers were distributed to 1167 principals, 547 of which were returned and usable (Wilkins et al., 2003, 723). To determine student achievement, results from the 1999-2000 SOL tests were obtained from the Virginia Department of Education. The test results being analyzed were those of third and fifth graders on the four core subjects: math, English, science, and history (Wilkins et al., 2003, 723). The average amount of time that students spent in art and music was 30-60 minutes a week. Across the board, there was no significant correlation between reducing time spent in art or music and improvement in test scores. One limitation of the study was the option of using a survey to gather information from principals. The researchers state, “one might conclude that the Virginia principals who responded to our survey may be intuitively aware of these conclusions,” so they were willing to participate in the study because of their previously established interest in the arts. While this study did not prove the causal relationship between increased time in the arts and increased test scores (as the current research aims to investigate), it does build a case against reducing the time allotted for arts courses in hopes of raising standardized test scores (Wilkins et al., 2003, 731).

While the research done by Baker and Wilkins et al. is not conclusive on the relationship between arts involvement and student achievement, it does help support the purpose of the current research. No findings were reported that caused one to conclude that involvement in the arts was detrimental to students’ grades, and some of the findings showed the exact opposite. What this researcher aims to do is further investigate the variables that may cause student achievement and determine if arts involvement is among them. What should be taken from these first sources of information is that a greater need for control of extraneous variables and documentation of these controls is warranted.

The next set of studies involves the integration of the arts and core subject content. Walker, Tabone, and Weltsek (2011) conducted research to determine the extent to which integrating theater arts and language arts improved sixth and seventh grade students’ academic performance. The students being studied were all from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The researchers selected four schools each for both the experimental and control groups and fourteen teachers from each school. The experimental group consisted of 540 students and the control group, 480 students (Walker et al., 2011, 366).  Several lesson plans were created that helped to integrate the two subjects. The teachers in the integrated group were then trained and worked collaboratively with teaching artists on how to best implement the lessons in the classroom. The various strategies were practiced, evaluated, and critiqued. Once the content had been taught, students’ scores in math and language arts on the New Jersey Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment were analyzed to assess student achievement. Researchers “controlled for students’ gender and socioeconomic status, and conducted logistic regression analyses in which passing the state assessments in language arts and mathematics were the dependent variables” (Walker et al., 2011, 369-370). The only differences in scores that proved to be statistically significant were those between those students who were in the integrated classrooms and those who were not. Those who participated in the integrated, experimental group increased their odds of passing the exam by 77% and 42% for language arts and math respectively.

In 2008, an action research study was done by Kosky and Curtis to show the effects of an arts integrated, social studies classroom. The purpose of the study was to integrate the two subjects to see how student motivation, participation, and achievement were affected. This sample’s study consisted of one sixth grade classroom in which Kosky was a student teacher and Curtis was the mentor teacher. The specific demographics of the classroom were not noted, however the school as a whole was made up of 95% white students and 22% of its students received free and reduced lunch (Kosky and Curtis, 2008, 23). Four class periods were taught social studies while integrating arts and employing several domains of the multiple intelligence theory such as kinesthetic, verbal, logical, and visual. After utilizing lesson plans that concentrate on vocabulary, background information, and arts integrated activities, the researcher would interview students and conduct observations. Students would also use a likert scale to rate the lessons. Kosky and Curtis found that student participation was very high on days in which the arts were integrated into the content and students rated these lessons highly. From this increased motivation and participation “student grades were higher during the implementation of the action research” (Kosky and Curtis, 2008, 25).

For this study, it is important to note some of the downfalls that may have occurred. First, surveying and interviewing students about their attitudes towards the lessons were done by the student teacher and students therefore may have been influenced in their answers. Second, reliability and validity were not addressed as they should have been in this study. There may have been multiple factors affecting the improvement of students’ grades, one being the fact that the researcher was not their normal teacher. Lastly, the majority of the data was deduced from surveys created by the researcher which were not pre-tested or checked for validity. For the purposes of the current study being conducted, it is important to take note of the increased motivation and participation where arts integration was present.

In 2003, Ingram and Seashore reported their findings from research on the Arts for Academic Achievement (AAA) initiative in Minneapolis Public Schools. The goal of the AAA was to implement a system of collaboration between teachers and artists to create curriculum aides that integrate the arts and core subjects in the classroom. Initially, 31 schools participated and were comprised of elementary, middle and high schools. By the third year, the project grew to encompass 45 schools. The method of the research was varied in that there were no specifications for how the teachers and artists worked together or which arts and non-arts disciplines were integrated (Ingram and Seashore, 2003, 1). The researchers observed each of the participating teachers’ classrooms, and then classified and compared the models of implementation used. The results showed a “significant relationship between arts integrated instruction and improved student learning in reading and mathematics” (Ingram and Seashore, 2003, 3). The researchers analyzed “gain scores” which showed the differences in students’ test scores from one year to the next. This type of measurement was already being used by the district to tract students’ progress, and it was utilized in order to reduce the potential for bias. Some examples of student gains were for third graders where reading scores increased by 1.02 and mathematics by 1.08, fourth grade reading scores that increased by 1.32 points, and fifth grade math scores that increase by .71 points (Ingram and Seashore, 2003, 4). There were instances of gains across the board for all grade levels, but some were not considered significant. In those cases, arts integration still contributed towards students’ achievement when compared to students who were not a part of an arts integrated classroom.

Similar to Kosky and Curtis’s study of arts integration into social studies curriculum, Deasy reported in the 2002 collection of findings Critical Links, a study done by Karen DeJarnette in 1997 on the use of art in a sixth grade history classroom. This study sought to determine whether an understanding of course content could be assessed through a combination of writing and drawing and whether this type of assessment allows students to communicate their knowledge more fully. The sample for the study was ninety-eight sixth graders taught by two separate teachers. Both teachers gave assessments at the end of specific units in either writing form only, or writing and drawing so that all students participated in both forms of assessments (as cited in Deasy, 2002, 152). The results showed that all students scored higher on assessments in which both drawing and writing were utilized. The research has significant limitations however. No statistical tests were run to determine the significance of the results, and the researcher was the person who scored the tests. Both of these combined generate a definitive need to investigate the validity of the study. However, this research opens up avenues that should be explored more fully. This type of arts integration in assessments is different than studies that have previously been discussed, but it further demonstrates the general trend of including the arts in education and improving student achievement (Deasy, 2002, 152).

For all of these studies that investigate the effects of arts integration with core subjects, the general direction of student achievement was positive when arts integration was at play. While these studies provide a general idea of the relationship between arts integration and achievement, they do not break the process down and take a more detailed look. For the current study, this researcher wants to investigate the specifics from subject to subject on if these instructional strategies benefit student performance. Also, notation of specifics on how confounding variables come into play will also help to inform future conclusions. Still, these studies help to form a foundation for later research to build on.

Burton, Horowitz, and Abeles (2000) conducted research concerning the concept of knowledge transfer. The purpose of the study was to determine if skills that were learned through arts education were in fact valuable in other subject matter, and thus having an affect on student achievement. The sample for the study included over 2000 students from grade 4, 5, 7, and 8. A combination of 12 elementary and middle schools were studied despite what type of arts program or what disciplines of art were taught. This mixed-method study examined two sets of variables: “potential indicators of effects from arts learning and characteristics of teaching and learning that might lead to effects from arts learning” (Burton et al., 2000, 233). Researchers used interviews with teachers and students as well as a creativity test (TTCT-figural) and a self-concept test (SDQ-I). In all instances, students’ with high arts involvement scored higher on the creativity and self-concept tests than students with little or no arts involvement. Researchers stated that all of these measures sought to produce results on arts education in general. They saw that the previous research had been, in their opinion, too narrow for quality assumptions about art education to be made, so they wanted to arrive at results that spoke to knowledge transfer in general. By showing the increase in creative thought and qualities such as self-esteem, Burton et al. sought to prove that the skills learned through arts education would transfer to other subject areas and increase student achievement. However, this researcher feels that results from this research would be very difficult to generalize to a larger population because of the breadth of arts education programs being studied. Also, validity of the study would be questionable since so many variables are at play. The results from this research do not seem to prove or even exhibit a probable causal relationship between arts education and transferrable knowledge.

Another study that investigates the relationship between arts involvement and student learning is one done in 2011 by Melnick, Witmer, and Strickland. Their research included a look at in and out-of-school involvement in the arts and how these factors affected reading and math proficiencies. The sample for the study came from data from 8,048 students who were a part of The Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). The data that was being analyzed was from the fifth grade data of these students that the authors collected in 2004. The sample consisted of 48.6% males and 51.4% females who were 60% white and 40% non-white (Melnick et al., 2011, 14). Teachers rated students on a 5-point scale of proficiency for each skill being learned. T-tests were then ran to determine differences of scores for students who were involved in the arts in and out of school and for students who did have arts involvement and students with no arts involvement.

The researchers found that students who participated in the arts outside of school outperformed students who were only exposed to arts involvement during school. The researchers concluded that the more intensive and in depth arts involvement, the higher the academic scores. For the question whether there were any significant differences in students who were involved in the arts and students who were not, the research indicated that students who received arts instruction scored significantly higher in all categories except for two objectives in mathematics (Melnick et al., 2011, 16-17). This study concludes by noting that the biggest difference in the scores of groups of students was whether or not the students were involved in the arts outside of school. This presents the possible confounding variable of parental involvement. Also, the researchers recognize the limitations of the instrument. They state, “this process does not take into account the possibility of teacher biases which may be present within this reporting process” (Melnick et al., 2011, 22). Also, the combination of all disciplines of the arts limits the findings. Further investigation into the background of the student who engages in the arts and the separation of data based on the different disciplines of the arts is recommended for future studies.

Catterall, Dumais, and Hampden-Thompson created a report for the National Endowment for the Arts that compiled findings from four longitudinal studies in 2012. The four studies being reported were the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K), the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1997 (NLSY97). The first three of these studies were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the fourth by the U.S. Department of Labor (Catterall et al., 2012, 8). The benefit of looking at this article is the compilation and concise nature of the findings from all sources. Catterall and his colleagues were able to compare each study and draw conclusions about multiple age groups over a longer range of time.

The sample for the NELS:88 study was 24,599 eighth grade students at baseline. This study collected data during specific years from 1988-2000. Surveys, aptitude tests, and transcripts were all used to collect data. For the ECLS-K study, 22,666 kindergarten students from across the U.S. participated in interviews, assessments, and questionnaires. The years of data collection were from 1998-2007. The ELS:2002 studied 15,361 10th grade students from the years of 2002 to 2006. Interviews and transcripts were utilized in this study. Finally, the NLSY97 collected information form 8,984 12-16 year olds. The study initially started with a survey in 1996, and then followed up with annual interviews yearly. High school transcripts were collected in 2000 and 2004. For each of the four studies, parents, principles, and educators also participated in surveys and interviews. The four studies used a point system to rate the students as high-art or low-art, meaning that they had much or little involvement in the arts. Points were applied for all activities in which students were exposed to and participated in arts related programs, except for the NLSY97 in which points were only given for in school arts involvement (Catterall et al., 2012, 25-26).

Catterall combines the findings from all four studies and finds that they draw some of the same conclusions. Students with high arts involvement, whether from low or high socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, went on to perform better in all grade levels. They also participated in more extra-curricular activities, had a higher level of civic engagement, and went on to graduate college at a higher rate. Catterall et al. does note however that the results “do not support a cause-and-effect relationship between arts involvement…and academic or civic achievements” (Catterall et al., 2012, 11). There is need for further research in this area that controls for more confounding variables. Still, the conclusion that students from low-SES backgrounds with high arts involvement exhibit “more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers” can be drawn based on the information in these studies (Catterall et al., 2012, 24).

In 1999, Catterall, Chapleau, and Iwanaga reported their research from the NELS:88 in Fiske’s Champions of Change (1999). Catterall et al. studied the developments of the students between the 8th and 12th grades. Two phases of the research studied general involvement in the arts across all disciplines and extended and in depth involvement in one specific discipline. The researchers wanted to extend the NELS:88 study to the 12th grade in order to show the prolonged effects of arts involvement. Their findings reported a growth of achievement from the 8th to the 12th grade level. That is to say, students with high involvement in the arts performed increasingly higher than their peers in all subjects the longer they were involved in the arts (Catterall et al., 1999, 6). This held true for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds (Catterall et al., 1999, 7). The study also investigated specific findings in music and theater involvement. Students who studied music consistently showed higher levels of proficiency in math. This differences between students who studied music and those who did not also grew significantly through the years (Catterall et al., 1999, 12-13).  With theater, students who stayed involved in the art over time grew consistently in reading proficiency.

For all of the longitudinal studies being reviewed, the evidence of a causal relationship between involvement in the arts and student achievement should not be assumed. In each of the reports, the researchers make notes about whether they can draw the conclusion that causality is present. In Catterall’s 1999 report from the NELS:88 study, he presents three factors that support the conviction that causation is involved. These are “sound theory, supportive evidence, and ruling out rival explanations” (Catterall et al., 1999, 16). The main thing that is noted in all four studies is that the belief in a causal relationship is deepened with the accumulation of studies and knowledge. This fact is what supports the basis for the current research that is being undertaken. The goal is to add to and broaden this accumulation of knowledge.

In the next group of studies being reviewed, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) did multiple studies throughout the past twenty years that were designed to collect data on the status of arts education in public elementary and secondary schools. Some of these studies are not as recent and may not be as relevant as they once were, but the change in the status of arts education is an important element to take note of. In each of these studies, schools were surveyed about four areas of arts education: music, visual arts, dance/theater, and creative writing. For the purpose of this study, only results pertaining to music and visual arts will be examined.

In the first study being reviewed from the NCES, Carey, Sikes, Foy, and Carpenter (1995) surveyed elementary and secondary schools across the nation about. Their main goal was to gather information about schools’ policies and attitudes towards arts education in order to develop policies and programs designed to meet state and national education goals (Carey et al., 1995, 1). For this study, two surveys were created: one each for elementary and secondary schools. 751 schools were randomly selected for each survey and were stratified by geographic region, metropolitan status, and school size. The questionnaires were completed by principals (67% and 57% for elementary and secondary schools respectively), teachers and arts specialists (24% in each category), and office staff (8% and 18%) (Carey et al., 1995, 39). Questions were designed to determine if specific arts specialists were present in the school, what arts education courses were offered, how many courses were offered in each discipline, and to what extent the arts were being integrated with non-arts curriculum.

In elementary schools, the study determined that while both percentages are high, more schools offer music courses than visual arts (97% vs. 86%). In the cases where they were offered, about two thirds of schools had a music specialist while only half had visual arts specialists. However, a higher percentage of visual arts specialists (90%) integrated core subjects in their teaching than music specialists did (75%). For secondary schools, the findings were similar in that 94% of schools offered music and 89% offered visual arts (Carey et al., 1995, 13). According to this study, the statistics had remained relatively the same for the five years previous to the study, but enrollment in the arts had increased. The researchers in this study concluded that the respondents to the surveys valued arts education. This was evidenced by the quantity of schools that offer courses in the arts and the extent to which they integrate other subjects (Carey et al., 1995, 30). However, the researchers noted that “other data obtained from the surveys suggest that arts education may not be receiving the kind of emphasis that would reflect such views (Carey et al., 1995, 31).

The NCES conducted another study during 1999-2000 that investigated the same information. Again, from 2009-2010, Parsad and Spiegelman surveyed public elementary and secondary schools using the same format as the 1995 study. They reported their results in 2012 by comparing the 99-00 and 09-10 studies.  The purpose of both studies was also to gather information about the status of arts education in America. Parsad and Spiegelman’s sample in 2009-2010 included 3.430 elementary and 2,660 secondary arts educators and principals (Parsad and Spiegelman, 2012, A-1). The schools were stratified in very similar ways as the 1995 study with the addition of enrollment percents based on race and those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The study included seven surveys that were a combination of teacher and principal level surveys for both elementary and secondary schools. In contrast to the Carey et al. study done in 1995, this NCES research focused more on arts education in secondary schools. More diverse arts courses were offered in each school. Also, more districts offered curriculum guides for the visual arts and music departments (Parsad and Spiegelman, 2012, 10). Percentages also increased for the amount of schools that offered music and visual arts courses. However, percentages for schools that offered these arts education courses stayed relatively the same in elementary schools since the first study being reviewed by Carey et al. in 1995. Despite this lack of change in elementary schools, the researchers concluded that the data about district support and course availability showed an increase in the support for arts education.

What should be noted from both of the studies being reviewed is that more resources, specialists, courses, and spaces are designated for music than any other arts discipline. This may be in part due to the fact that more research has been done on the impact of music education on student achievement in core subjects. This lack of research done on the effects of all arts education courses is a driving force for the study that is being reported. Another factor in the two NCES studies that must be taken into account is the instrument being used. In both cases, surveys were utilized in the collection of information and therefore the validity of the studies must be examined. Both studies pretested their questionnaires with principles and art specialists that were similar to those being surveyed (Carey et al., 1995, 39). Even with this precaution taken to control for non-sampling errors, bias may be a factor here. It can be argued that principals and arts specialists that responded to the survey may already be supportive and passionate about the arts and were therefore more likely to cooperate. This may have an influence on the statistics being reported on the amount of schools that offer arts education and the depth of courses provided.

In the next part of this literature review, articles that survey others’ findings and draw conclusions that support the foundation for the current research will be discussed. Rabkin and Redmond’s The Arts Make a Difference (2006) takes a look at the research done on the effects of arts education on students in the “lowest-socioeconomic-status quartile.” The research that was found supports the conclusion that the greatest gains can be found for such students. They reference Catterall and Waldorf’s study (1999) of 23 schools in Chicago that employ arts integration. In these schools, student achievement on standardized tests rose twice as fast as those students’ scores in non-integrative schools. Rabkin and Redmond go beyond noting just academic evidence of the benefits of arts integration. A look at the previously reviewed research by Ingram and Seashore (2003) shows that parents became more involved when their students were involved in the arts, teachers were more motivated when teaching arts-integration material, and assessment strategies in the participating schools shifted emphasis to student work rather than solely looking at standardized testing scores (Rabkin and Redmond, 2006, 61). The researchers note that arts education and integration allows students to connect their work to their lives. Through this they can draw deeper meaning from education and create products that are important to them, and not just the teacher. Rabkin and Redmond describe this as one of the most important reasons for arts education by itself and when it is integrated with core subjects (63).

In an article describing the effects of the No Child Left Behind act on arts education, Ruppert (2006) further discusses he effects of arts involvement on academic achievement. In particular, the relationship between SAT scores and arts learning is investigated. According to 2005 results of the test, the more arts courses taken during students’ high school careers, the higher their scores on the verbal and math components of the SAT were. On both parts of the test, students who were highly involved in arts education scored an average of 30 points higher than the general population of SAT test takers (Ruppert, 2006, 9). Ruppert then looks at studies in the research compendium, Critical Links. According to the research, arts education and integration increased reading comprehension, spatial temporal reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Ruppert also contributes social skills and motivation to learn to arts education. She states that, “integration of the arts as a critical component of the school curriculum affords student a complete and well-rounded education” (Ruppert, 2006, 15).

In 2008, Gullat conducted a literature review for the same purposes as the research that is being undertaken in this paper. He begins the review by describing studies that take differing views on the purpose of arts education. J. Davis (1999) takes the stance that art should be used to emphasize what must be learned in schools, and act as a support system for other subjects. His view is that there should be a complete integration between art and other subjects. M. Davis (1999) acknowledges this fact as well, but notes that the separation of subjects in school is often a symptom of the separation of instructors. That is to say, that with little cooperation between educators in the arts field and educators in the core subjects, there is no significant and worthwhile integration of their respective subjects. Gullat summarizes both researchers thoughts by saying, “without this type of integration, students may view school as a place where they learn isolated unrelated content facts and miss the opportunity for infusion of art into the learning process” (Gullat, 2008, 15). Gullat then presents views from Eisner (1998) and Aprill (2001) that contrast the idea of complete subject integration. He draws the connection between the two saying that they both believe that the “arts should be taught for their own merit” (Gullat, 2008, 15).

In regards to the role of the arts in American Education, Gullat describes the mindset that many educators in our nation have that art is simply a “time filler” (Gullat, 2008, 16). In paraphrasing the research done by Collins and Chandler (1993), he makes the point that education in America uses art as a “color sheet for early finishers.” (Gullat, 2008, 16). As a rebuttal to this mode of thinking, he refers to the improvement in students’ mathematics and spatial reasoning scores in Cossentino and Shaffer’s research (1999) involving the integration of visual arts and mathematics. Gullat goes on to mention other forms of arts integration affecting student achievement in language arts with the research of Smith and Herring (1996) and Morado, Koening, and Wilson (1999). Gullat sums up his collection of information by stating that research has proven time and time again that the arts enable students to synthesize information in new ways, and by doing so, they are able to become more deeply involved in the learning process (Gullat, 2008, 23).


While there is much research on the topic, not enough conclusive evidence can be drawn to form a definitive causal link between arts involvement and student achievement. While results such as those that Baker and Wilkins et al.’s research produced do give some support to the belief that arts education is essential, all researchers encourage more comprehensive studies. Even without authoritative answers to the questions raised, this researcher found the literature to be helpful and indispensable to forming a basis for the need of the current project.



Baker, R. A. (2012). The effects of high-stakes testing policy on arts education. Arts Education Policy Review, 113(1), 17-25.

Burton, J. M., Horowitz, R., & Abeles, H. (2000). Learning in and through the arts: The question of transfer. Studies In Art Education, 41(3), 228-57.

Carey, N., Sikes, M., Foy, R., & Carpenter, J. (1995). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools. National Center for Education Statistics.

Catterall, J. S., Chapleau, R., & lwanaga, J. (1999). Involvement in the arts and human development. In E. B. Fiske (Ed.), Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning. Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership.

Catterall, J. S. (2012). The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies. Research Report #55. National Endowment For The Arts.

Deasy, R.J. (Ed.). (2002). Critical links: Learning in the arts and student achievement and social development. Washington, DC: The Arts Education Partnership.

Gullatt, D. E. (2008). Enhancing student learning through arts integration: Implications for the profession. High School Journal, 91(4), 12-25.

Ingram, D., & Seashore, K. (2003). Arts for academic achievement: Summative evaluation report. Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota.

Kosky, C., & Curtis, R. (2008). An action research exploration integrating student choice and arts activities in a sixth grade social studies classroom. Journal Of Social Studies Research, 32(1), 22-27.

Melnick, S. A., Witmer, J. T., & Strickland, M. J. (2011). Cognition and student learning through the arts. Arts Education Policy Review, 112(3), 154-162.

Parsad, B., Spiegelman, M. (2012). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10. NCES 2012-014. National Center For Education Statistics.

Rabkin, N., & Redmond, R. (2006). The arts make a difference. Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, 63(5), 60-64.

Ruppert, S. (2006). Critical evidence: How the arts benefit student achievement. Washington, DC: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the Arts Education Partnership.

Walker, E., Tabone, C., & Weltsek, G. (2011). When achievement data meet drama and arts integration. Language Arts, 88(5), 365-372.

Wilkins, J. M., Graham, G., Parker, S., Westfall, S., Fraser, R. G., & Tembo, M. (2003). Time in the arts and physical education and school achievement. Journal Of Curriculum Studies, 35(6), 721-734.