How an Arts Education Improves Academic Achievement

4-year-old boy starts painting Revell model of...

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One of the biggest differences between my oldest son’s preschool education and his elementary school education lies in the arts. When he was enrolled in preschool he brought home fantastic art projects. Every year our family looked forward to the art open house where we were invited to the gallery (i.e. transformed classroom) for a showing. Many of the students would dress up in formal attire to proudly walk their parents through the gallery. On the long awaited day, the teachers would hand out index cards with open-ended questions parents could ask to start a dialogue about their child’s work. And, at the end of the year, each grade would put on a play. One year my son was in the Wizard of Oz and the next year he was in The Sound of Music. I treasure these memories and proudly display my son’s artwork in my office.

Now that he’s in first grade, things have changed. The arts seem to have taken a backseat to academics. Yes, my son does have art class and music class, but it’s not the same. I fear our nation’s schools do not see a link between arts education and academic achievement, when in fact the two are not mutually exclusive. Many school systems, especially those that are poor performing, have replaced arts education with specialists in the areas covered on standardized tests. And, in tight economic times, it is often art and music teachers who are the first to go.

What is the impact on students? They may be neglected of a well rounded education…and one that would actually help improve academic achievement.

Before it was known that the brain functions as a whole rather than the left brain vs. right brain, perhaps art education didn’t seem to matter as much. However, now that we know intelligence has as much to do with how quickly information travels between the two halves of the brain, an art education should not be overlooked. For, art can create new pathways in the brain and can also help speed the connections between neurons. Relationships have been established between:

  • The development of literacy skills and drama
  • Drama and verbal skills
  • Spatial temporal reasoning and music
  • Thinking skills, dance and the visual arts
  • Social skills and music
  • Motivation to learn and all areas of the arts (especially visual arts)

There are even studies that show when low-achieving students get to spend time each day in an arts area of their choice, their reading and writing skills improve. It is becoming increasingly clear and arts education should not be and either/or choice. Rather, an education where arts are integrated into the core curriculum may be the better choice.


Kirkland, Lynn D. Keeping the Arts Alive in a Test-Crazed Culture. Childhood education. Vol. 8 (4).

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