Arts Ed Increases Graduation Rates: N.Y.C. Study and Report

Image copyright 2010 Aisha White for The Cipher

Summary: School-based arts education can help increase student graduation rates according to The Center for Arts Education’s published report, Staying in School: Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates. The report examined the relationship between school-based arts education and graduation rates in over 200 New York City public schools during a two year period.

Dividing schools into three tiers based on graduation rates they found that schools in the top tier employed more certified art teachers, dedicated more space and equipped to the arts, were more likely to provide multiyear art sequences and opportunities to attend artistic performances or exhibits and were more likely to fundraise for the arts.

The discrepancies found between top and bottom tiers confirmed socioeconomic disparities. Schools with low graduation rates and low arts education provisions had higher percentages of poor, black and Latino students in New York City. In the United States more than one million students drop out of high school each year (John M. Bridgeland, John J. Dilulio Jr., and Karen Murke Morison, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, Report Footnote $5). Half of all African American, Latinos and Native Americans fail to graduate from public high school on time (Eddy Ramirez, “U.S. Aims to Tackle Inflated Graduation Rates," Report footnote #6) . This is particularly troubling since arts education provides a successful strategy for engaging at risk youth as the article discusses.

The report states that dropouts are much more likely than graduates to be unemployed, living in poverty or prison, unhealthy, divorced or single parents with children. High School graduates earn about $1 million more than a dropout over the course of their life. Subsequently, graduates help the economy at large by contributing more to the tax base and need less public assistance, according to the report.

Arts participation provides a solution to the dropout issue as it engages students with interesting and relevant work which fosters greater school participation. Unfortunately, the report shows that the students who could most benefit from arts education are often the least likely to receive it.

So, the report recommends expanding course offerings in the arts, ensuring all schools have access to certified teachers and adequate art space, engaging school principals in arts-based advocacy and support of arts programming, and engaging the city in arts education policy making and provision.

Like New York City and American, Austin struggles with maintaining and improving our high school graduation rates. Sustaining and increasing arts education can help us wield the power of creativity to engage students while supporting their academic completion and success.

To Read the report Click Here