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Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas believes the arts must play an essential role in the K-12 education of every child. It is this understanding of the transformative power of the arts that led Governor Huckabee to choose the arts in education as the focus of his ECS 2004-06 chairmanship.

"The research tells us what parents and education policymakers have known all along but haven't been able to prioritize on a national level," says Governor Huckabee.

"The arts are critical, not only as a link to student productivity but also as a key to a competitive workforce."

It's a truism that "accountability" and "No Child Left Behind" are the watchwords of the current era of education reform. And at a time when many states are tightening their belts, every dollar counts. So where does this leave the arts in the greater scheme of the K-12 curriculum? It is not clear at this time the extent to which the arts have been marginalized in the K-12 curriculum, or the extent to which quality arts programs are flourishing. It is Governor Huckabee's conviction, however, that the arts must be an indispensable component of every child's schooling. Research on the powerful effects of arts in education supports this view:


  • Music serves as a catalyst for development in young children. Music develops intellectual and social and emotional skills, as well as motor, language and overall literacy abilities. In fact, "music is a great organizer that helps the body and the mind work together." Music likewise builds memory skills, serves as an introduction to "the sounds and meanings of words," and provides a venue for interaction. (Zero to Three, Getting in Tune: The Powerful Influence of Music on Young Children's Development, 2002)

  • Arts instruction enhances overall neurological development. The motor skills and sensory-motor capabilities necessary in all walks of life are developed through arts instruction. Robert Sylwester, professor emeritus of education at the University of Oregon provides a succinct, eloquent description of these processes in the November 1998 issue of Educational Leadership.

  • Arts education improves academic performance, problem-solving skills, creativity and self-expression. Research has shown that children who receive arts instruction demonstrate greater skills in creativity and other related competencies. The Center for Arts Education Research at Columbia University has conducted numerous studies evaluating the influence of the arts on academic performance.

    In fact, a large body of evidence suggests that well-constructed programs in dance, theater, music and visual arts can have a significant impact on reading skills, including early readers and remedial readers. What is more, research indicates time and again that students who take part in arts education programs exhibit greater facility in spoken and written self-expression. Learning in and Through the Arts: Curriculum Implications by the Center for Arts Education Research at Columbia University's Teachers College offers an example of these findings.

Student Engagement:

  • The arts assist in rehabilitating at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. Studies have found that the behavior, social skills and academic achievement of both at-risk and incarcerated youth who participated in arts-based delinquency prevention programs showed measurable and marked improvement in relation to comparison groups. One of the most notable of these studies is the YouthARTS Development Project, a collaborative effort launched in 1995 by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Endowment for the Arts. Participants demonstrated both positive "intermediate effects" (better communication skills, stronger resistance to peer pressure and healthier attitudes towards drugs, to name just a few) and "long-term outcomes" (fewer court referrals and improved academic performance).

    Also, another study conducted from 1987 to 1998 found similar positive results among urban youth involved in nonschool arts activities.

  • Student involvement in the arts improves students' school attendance. A great deal of research drives home the fact that the arts make school a place where children, particularly struggling and at-risk students, want to be. According to one study of students in after-school arts programs, participating students were three times more likely to be awarded for high school attendance rates than nonparticipating students, despite the fact that participating students were twice as likely to come from troubled homes or attend schools with high incidences of violence. (from Americans for the Arts Monographs, vol. 2, no. 7, November 1998)

Social and Civic Development:

  • The arts help students build positive self-image. Numerous reports point to the power of the arts in education to help students improve their self-image, which research indicates is a powerful component in helping students improve academic performance.

  • The arts help students improve cooperative and positive socialization skills. Research indicates that well-designed and well-implemented arts in education programs have a positive impact on students' ability to work cooperatively and interact with other students. Examples of such research include the artists-in-residence program operated by Music Center of Los Angeles' County, Education Division. (from Schools, Communities and the Arts: A Research Compendium)

  • The arts help students develop multicultural understanding. In an age where American society is becoming ever more diverse, the value of assisting young people in understanding those from other cultures cannot be overemphasized. A wide variety of arts in education programs are helping students build cultural bridges as well as understand their own cultures.

Economic Development:

  • The arts prepare students for the economy of the 21st century. As phrased in Ann Galligan's December 2001 report Creativity, Culture, Education, and the Workforce, "Providing all students with a complete education in the arts and humanities can help them cope with, and master, fast-paced technological advances, forces of globalization, and major demographic and societal shifts that characterize today's world. The abilities to think creatively, to communicate effectively and to work collaboratively are increasingly identified as necessary skills, along with the fundamental abilities to read, write and use numbers."

  • The arts are an engine for economy-building at the state and local level. A growing body of research indicates the large and ever-increasing dollar amounts that the arts generate, both for private ventures as well as state and local governments. As the NGA Center for Best Practices reports in The Role of the Arts in Economic Development, the arts produce $849 million in annual business revenues in Virginia, while nonprofit arts organizations alone contributed nearly 2,500 to Louisiana's economy.

Quality of Life:

  • The arts improve quality of life for individuals and communities. Various studies confirm the role of the arts in contributing to individual enjoyment and healthy communities. Two studies by the Performing Arts Research Coalition (PARC) surveyed residents of the greater metropolitan areas in Alaska, Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sarasota/Manatee and Washington, D.C. Three-fourths of survey respondents "strongly agreed or agreed that the arts were enjoyable," while respondents placed an even greater emphasis on the value of the arts to the community at large: over 80% of respondents "strongly agreed or agreed that the performing arts improve the quality of life in their community." (see the summary of the research or the full reports, The Value of the Performing Arts in Five Communities and The Value of the Performing Arts in Five Communities 2)