Compelling Reasons to Value Arts Education

Arts education programs for children enjoy popular support in the United States, but are frequently underfunded, and often receive lower priority in the curriculum than other subjects receive when schools face tough budget decisions. While many supporters of arts education have a general understanding that it is good for children, some are less familiar with the specific benefits that it provides. Amid continued pressure on funding for the arts, an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, and mounting controversy about national learning standards, it is important for all who influence education decisions—including policymakers, administrators, teachers, parents, and investors—to have a clear understanding of how arts education benefits children, and value it accordingly in their decision-making.

A report by the Arts Education Partnership demonstrates that the arts prepare students for success in school, work, and life in compelling ways:

  • Success in school—Arts education:
    • Boosts literacy and language arts skills
    • Advances math achievement
    • Engages students in school and motivates them to learn
    • Develops critical thinking
    • Improves school culture
  • Success in work—Arts education:
    • Equips students to be creative
    • Strengthens problem solving ability
    • Builds collaboration and communication skills
    • Increases capacity for leadership
  • Success in life—Arts education:
    • Strengthens perseverance
    • Facilitates cross-cultural understanding
    • Builds community and supports civic engagement
    • Fosters a creative community

Research also shows that arts education has compelling benefits for early learners. A literature review by the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, demonstrates the social and emotional benefits of arts education in early childhood:

  • Social skills development—Arts education:
    • Is positively associated with developing social skills, such as helping, sharing, caring, and empathizing with others
  • Emotional regulation—Arts education:
    • Helps children regulate their emotions, a critical skill for well-adjusted children and adults

Further, Inner City-Inner Child (ICIC)’s own assessments show that our arts education programs help young children develop skills in areas that are vital to success in kindergarten:

  • Kindergarten readiness—ICIC’s arts residency programs (based in early childhood classrooms) have helped children achieve gains in five learning areas in pre- and post-assessments:
    • Social-emotional development
    • Literacy
    • Math
    • Arts
    • Physical development

These studies are only a portion of the abundant evidence that arts education benefits children, including early learners, in myriad ways. They shift arts education out of the realm of optional programs that are generally good for children into the realm of essential programs that advance our nation’s highest goals for education, the economy, and humanity. Consideration of the specific benefits that arts education provides—and a clear understanding of the compelling value of those benefits—should be at the forefront of decision-making about funding and prioritizing arts education.

For more than two decades, Inner City-Inner Child (ICIC) has supported early childhood education in Washington, DC through arts education programs and early childhood development training. We provide quality arts integration and early childhood development programs that serve low-income families in DC. ICIC also provides arts-focused professional development programs for teachers who work in early childhood centers and school-based early childhood education programs in DC. In addition, we engage low-income DC parents in child development activities that help them create learning experiences at home.