The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) is a sweeping, 391-page law that transforms the federal government’s role in public education. It introduces several new funding streams that states and districts can use to improve schools, including 12 that could be used to support arts integration. But in order to access those funding streams, education agencies must cite evidence demonstrating that the efforts they propose can, in fact, improve student achievement.
This literature review explores research available on arts integration activities and finds 44 that could qualify for ESSA funding (10 studies met Tier I-III evidence standards for strong, moderate or promising evidence, while 34 met the Tier IV standard for having a research-based rationale). Interventions include those that use music to teach students fractions, drama to help improve vocabulary and dance to teach kindergarteners to read. Several activities common in such efforts can qualify for ESSA funding, the report suggests. They include professional development for teachers, support for English learners, arts integration courses, procurement of instructional materials and broader school-improvement efforts.
Results of such efforts vary widely, the authors write. On average, researchers find modest but statistically significant improvements in student achievement, suggesting that arts integration could move the average student from the 50th to the 54th percentile. This increase, the authors suggest, “put the average effect of arts integration interventions at the 30th percentile among the interventions in mathematics, reading and science reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse.”
While some arts integration efforts may be eligible for ESSA funding, educators must carefully select the interventions they propose. There are no ESSA funds earmarked for arts integration, the report warns, so applicants must clearly explain how their proposed arts-integration interventions relate to their broader goals for their schools. The findings of this literature review are not exhaustive. The authors point to a number of aspects of arts integration that require further study, especially its effects on achievement in specific subjects or among specific student groups.
This report is one of
several products Wallace has commissioned or prepared to help educators make sense of ESSA’s evidence requirements.