Enhancing Early Childhood Development Through Arts Integration in Economically Disadvantaged Learning Environments
Education in the arts continues to struggle for inclusion in PreK-12 classrooms as public schools face increasing challenges from high stakes testing, Common Core politics, and endless budget cuts. Advocates point to the growing body of research linking art education to academic achievement as justification for arts’ continued inclusion in the curriculum. In its 2005 report, the National Association of State Boards of Education highlighted this research trend and called for stronger emphasis on arts in educational curricula (Meyer in Arts Educ Policy Rev 106(3):35–40, 2005). Yet despite the evidence, school districts across the nation have been slow to include more arts programming within the classroom. This study, however, examines one school district that did. In a collaborative project between a large urban school district and a local arts and science council, an arts integration program called Wolf Trap was implemented in economically disadvantaged pre-Kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at selected schools across the district. Objectives of the program were to: (a) improve school readiness skills among participants; (b) increase capacity of classroom teachers to learn and implement effective arts-based teaching strategies; and (c) increase the capacity of teaching artists to acquire and model effective arts-based teaching strategies. This study evaluates the effectiveness of the program using data from the teaching artists, classroom teachers, and the external evaluators. We discuss the program in detail and explain the methodology used in our evaluation. Finally, we present evidence that indicates the program’s success and we offer recommendations for program stakeholders.
KeywordsArts integration Literacy School-readiness Pre-Kindergarten English Language Learners Economically disadvantaged students
- Deasy, R. J. (2002). Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development. Arts Education Partnership. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED466413.pdf.
- Meyer, L. (2005). Complete curriculum: Ensuring a place for the arts in american schools. Arts Education Policy Review, 106(3), 35–40.Google Scholar
- Ruppert, S. (2006). Critical evidence: how the arts benefit student achievement. Retrieved from the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies: http://www.Nasaa-arts.org/Publications/critical-evidence/pdf.
- Sousa, D. (2012). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
- Stevens, G. (2016). 2009-2016 Report to the president. President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://www.pcah.gov/sites/default/files/photos/PCAH_Report_Final_2016.pdf.
- Wolf Trap. (2016). Why the arts matter to education. Wolf Trap Foundation. Retrieved January 15, 2016 from http://www.wolftrap.org/education.aspx.