In the News: How Extra Arts Education at School Boosts Students’ Writing Scores — And Their Compassion

A study released by the Houston Education Research Consortium finds that students whose schools participated in “school-community arts partnerships” sponsored by the Houston Arts Access Initiative benefited in a variety of ways. Participating schools were compared with schools which had been interested in participating in the partnerships but which were not randomly selected to participate.

As Matt Barnum explains,

Schools [participating in the partnerships] were encouraged to provide some exposure to theater, dance, music, and visual arts, and that took the form of on-campus performances, field trips, artists in residence, and other programs outside of school hours.

When the researchers compared the two groups of schools, they looked at academics but also responses to surveys that asked students whether they agreed with statements like, “I want to help people who get treated badly,” “School work is interesting,” and “I plan to go to college.”

The positive effects on writing test scores, discipline, and compassion were small to moderate. Students’ disciplinary infraction rates, for instance, fell by 3.6 percentage points. But these results are particularly encouraging because the cost to schools was fairly small — about $15 per student. (This did not include costs borne by the program as whole or by the cultural institutions that donated time.)

The authors of the new Houston study, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen, were co-authors, with Jay P. Greene, of an earlier study looking at the benefits to students of culturally-enriching school field trips, like visits to art museums. That study, “The Educational Value of Field Trips,” appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Education Next.

In that article, the authors wrote,

The research presented here is the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum.

We find that students learn quite a lot. In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.

— Education Next

Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College