Arts education benefits

Crosswinds: Innovative arts education for the whole state

As the achievement and opportunity gaps continue to grow and many districts are cutting their art budgets, studies and programs continuously show the benefits of arts education and integration programs for all students, including our most at-risk kids. At Crosswinds Arts & Science School, we use arts-infused education to tackle some of the most difficult challenges our schools face. Crosswinds operates as a laboratory school, where we are creating practices to disseminate statewide to teachers through professional development. The results we are experiencing are in line with statistics gathered locally and nationally on how arts integration affects student outcomes. 

The vision of Crosswinds School is to foster resilient global citizens through data driven practices, purposeful integration and innovative arts education as a model school for the state of Minnesota. At the center of this vision is arts education and arts integration programming.

What is the difference between arts education and arts integration?

Arts education refers to coursework that is focused specifically on an art area (such as music, visual art, media arts, theater, etc.), while arts integration is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to infusing arts into a unit, lesson or curriculum.

At Crosswinds, we do both. Students benefit from arts-specific courses in music, musical theater and visual arts, as well as arts integration units and working with visiting artists like photographer Wing Young Huie, Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, Pillsbury House Theatre, hip hop and sound musician Terrell Carnage and Perpich theater arts instructors. Students gain additional arts infused instruction in Soar, our last period enrichment program that includes electives such as Coding JavaScript/HTML/CSS and Web Design, Creative Writing, News Broadcast, Lego Robotics, Culinary Arts, Hip Hop, Choir/Theater Arts and other offerings.

As of November 2016, in the first quarter of Soar courses, we have already seen success, with over 70% of students rating their first quarter class a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale, with students reporting that their courses helped them develop their skills in communication and responsibility, while feeling engaged in their work. Of the 44% of students whose teachers helped with remedial work twice a week during the Soar period, 74% of the students saw their grades improve. Overall, there has been a dramatic 30% increase from last year at this time in students earning Cs or above.

Check out some of our arts integration videos on our galleries page.

Arts education and integration benefits

Increasing numbers of studies are showing that students benefit greatly from having arts-infused and arts-centered instruction, linking such coursework to better grades, fewer behavioral problems, higher test scores, increased interest and engagement in coursework, improvements in school-wide culture, stronger social skills and more. Additionally, studies have found that students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students with special needs and students who are non-native English speakers show these correlations when engaging in arts-infused courses, and in fact demonstrate the greatest relative improvement when it comes to academic success. Some specific findings include:

  • Anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath’s study on non-school youth organizations in low-income neighborhoods found that students who were involved in arts education for at least nine hours a week were four times more likely to have high academic achievement and three times more likely to have high attendance (Heath, 1998).
  • Education researcher Milbrey McLaughlin’s longitudinal study on youth in low-income neighborhoods found that those who participated in arts programs were more likely to be high academic achievers, be elected to class office and participate in a math or science fair (McLaughlin, 2000).
  • UCLA researcher James Catterall found that “arts-engaged low-income students are more likely than their non-arts-engaged peers to have attended and done well in college, obtained employment with a future, volunteered in their communities and participated in the political process by voting” (Catteral, 2009).
  • During the first three years of Turnaround Arts programming, schools demonstrated an average 22.55% improvement in math proficiency and 12.62% improvement in reading proficiency. Half of the Turnaround Arts schools improved their attendance significantly with an average attendance rate of 91.77%. More than half of the schools dramatically reduced in-school and out-of-school suspensions, some by as much as 89%.
  • In 2014, the Perpich Center was appointed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to direct Minnesota’s Turnaround Arts program. As such, Perpich brought arts education into four urban, suburban and rural Minnesota schools that were among the 5% lowest performing in the state. The impact that arts instruction had at Northpoint Elementary (Brooklyn Center)—in just two years—was singled out by First Lady Michelle Obama in a May 2016 White House event. She pointed to Northpoint’s improved test scores and its mere 41 suspensions per year, down from almost 200.
  • The Perpich Arts Integration Network of Teachers reports that students were observed to be 4.4 times more likely to be highly thoughtful and highly engaged in arts integrated units. They found that 67% of students are highly engaged in arts integrated lessons, compared to 15% in classrooms with regular instruction.
  • When examining how arts integration supports student engagement in learning, it was found that arts-integrated units consistently engaged students in complex analytical cognitive activity, including those students who struggle with academic tasks. Students who were learning through arts-integrated units expressed no feelings of boredom or discouragement with the learning methods and showed interest in independent learning (DeMoss and Morris, 2002).
  • In Maryland, arts integration-focused schools were shown to “substantially reduced the achievement gap between high-poverty minority students and other students,” over a three year period, reducing the reading gap by 14% and the math gap by 26% at the school with the highest percentage of minority and low-income students.

Check out the additional resources below for more information on studies pertaining to the benefits of arts education and arts integrated lessons.

Additional information and resources

Synopsis on Current Research on Arts Education full report and summary

Perpich Arts Integration Project summary 2013-14

Preparing Students for the Next America

Reinvesting in Arts Education from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Turnaround Arts Initiative Summary of Key Findings


Americans for the Arts: Research

You can also join in the conversation about the benefits of arts education by following Crosswinds on Facebook where we share arts education facts, news articles and other arts related materials!