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Bringing the arts back to schools
FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014 10:16 AM

Teaching students the ins and outs of reading, writing and arithmetic is all well and good, but what about art, theater, music and physical education? The Common Core State Standards have set the framework to improve student achievement in the traditional academic fields. However, more schools, specifically those located in inner cities, are making like Athens and returning to the arts. 

The impact of art education
James Catrerall, professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, ran a 12-year longitudinal study of education in the visual and performing arts. Researchers observed more than 12,000 students nationwide to discover whether adding arts education to a typical curriculum would help students achieve. Most of the students researchers studied came from low-income families and communities where many don't attend college. 

The study revealed that arts education (as offered in middle and high school) was instrumental in motivating students to work hard. Those who studied the arts went on to not only excel in school, but become more involved in politics and their communities. Many of those who received arts education also got into or graduated from college, a feat their peers (who did not learn about the arts) were less likely to achieve.

Schools return to the arts
According to NPR, city school districts across the country, including those in Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville, Tennessee, have reincorporated arts and physical education into schools. Milwaukee had cut both subjects in the past due to lack of funding. However, the city has changed its tune. Schools that once had no gym now have physical education or arts classes several times a week. For instance, Kluge Elementary School students attend "special" courses three times a week, such as gym or choir.

Many districts have introduced arts and physical education to appeal to parents who have stopped sending their kids to city schools. Numerous metropolitan areas have experienced a shift in which students attend schools in the suburbs to get away from poor funding and lack of exciting courses. 

"You want to create something where our families want to reinvest in our school district," Gregory Thornton, the outgoing superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools, told the source. "And at the end of the day, I want kids excited about getting up in the morning."

So far, the effort seems to be working. Students and parents alike show up en masse for afterschool activities. Whether it's choir concerts or sporting events, the community has arrived to support their schools' arts and physical education programs.