Promises Kept: Arts Education Buoys NJ Student Success

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 9:45am

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project released Keeping the Promise—Arts Education for Every Child: The Distance Traveled—The Journey Remaining, a comprehensive study on arts education access across school districts in New Jersey.

The report provides an interesting benchmark of the impact of arts education within the context of “whole-student” education.  Among its key findings, the report states arts education is accessible to 97% of students in New Jersey, with “music and visual arts nearly universally available.”

What does this mean in the long run for New Jersey students?  According to Keeping the Promise, it means more New Jersey students are achieving success within and beyond high school.  While four years of arts participation is linked to increases in standardized test scores, the study also links arts participation to employment success, identifying “creativity and innovation” as two skills essential to the American workforce.

Accessible arts education has a significant impact on low income students.  The study links higher test scores in eighth grade writing and science with “high levels” of arts involvement.  Additionally, high schoolers with “arts-rich experience” achieved GPAs higher than peers without those experiences.  “Arts-rich” students dropped out of school at a much lower rate.  Finally, students with strong arts education backgrounds in their youth were three times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than other students.

Keeping the Promise, while full of good news about the impact of arts education in one state, also cautions that New Jersey’s journey isn’t complete just yet.  The study identifies six areas in which the state must show improvement, from increasing the number of schools offering access to all four arts disciplines (Visual Arts, Music, Dance, and Theater) to the number certified arts specialists used to provide arts instruction to schools.

As other states, including California, consider the impact of daily access to arts education on every student, the New Jersey study offers a compelling take on the lifelong value of early arts education.

To read coverage of the report, visit San Diego’s CBS 8.  To read the full report, visit the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership.