Below you will find an introduction to a few of the contemporary discussions surrounding the importance of the arts in education.


  • Leaders worry that the United States is losing its competitive edge in creativity and innovation, and that the call for ever more rigorous academic standards is insufficient without a concomitant focus on developing creativity and imagination. (PCAH Report, pg. 29)
  • Last year’s IBM 2010 Global CEO survey found that CEOs in 60 countries believe creativity is the most important leadership quality and that creativity helps employees capitalize on complexity (IbM, 2010). A recent study by the Conference board reports that employers rate creativity and innovation among the top five important skills for workers and believe that the most essential skills for demonstrating creativity are the ability to identify new patterns of behavior or new combinations of actions and integrate knowledge across different disciplines. The same employers rank arts study as the second most important indicator of a potential creative worker, second only to a track record in entrepreneurship (Lichtenberg et al., 2008). (PCAH Report, pg. 38)
  • Business leaders and visionary thinkers concerned about preparation of students for the future know that the ability to be creative – a key 21st Century Skill – is native to the arts and is one of the primary processes learned through arts education. The examples in this Skills Map illustrate how the arts promote work habits that cultivate curiosity, imagination, creativity, and evaluation skills. Students who possess these skills are better able to tolerate ambiguity, explore new realms of possibility, express their own thoughts and feelings and understand the perspectives of others. (The Arts 21st Century Skills Map, pg. 2)
  • Moreover, arts graduates say their education helped them become more creative. Even arts graduates in other occupations say they learned important creative skills in school that they use in their jobs. For example, among arts graduates who ended up as managers, software developers, or social-service workers, upward of 80 percent say that creativity is an important skill in their jobs; of those, more than four-fifths say their arts training provided a lot or quite a bit of training in creativity. (Tepper & Kuh, pg. 3)
  • At the other extreme, one student performs an interpretive dance illustrating the biological phenomenon of mitosis; this project is highly original, but it is not creative because it does not fulfill the academic requirements of this particular task. For a student's project to be considered creative, it would need to incorporate the student's own ideas while staying within established academic guidelines and the conventions of scientific inquiry. (Creativity Now!)
  • Creativity is not a synonym for clever, humorous, artistically pleasing, enthusiastic, or persuasive. Those are all great qualities that we can assess in their own right, but we shouldn't confuse them with creativity. As early childhood educator Lilian Katz once railed, "Creativity is not animals with long eyelashes!" (Assessing Creativity)
  • Sometimes teachers and students think that any assignment that allows student choice is conducive to creativity. Although that may be true in general, only assignments that allow student choice in matters related to what the student is supposed to learn develop student creativity in the area under study. For example, if you ask students to compare characters in two novels and allow them to choose the characters or novels, they have the opportunity to develop creativity in their approach to literary criticism. However, if you ask students to compare two specified characters and just give them choices about whether they want to write an essay, give a speech, or write a song, students will not have that opportunity.
    (Assessing Creativity)
  • Just as songwriters must understand chords and scales and writers must know spelling and grammar conventions, students are likely to benefit when creativity and academic content knowledge are taught hand in hand. Without a deep knowledge of physics, all the creativity in the world wouldn't have led to Einstein's theory of relativity.


  • Whether a school offered music instruction varied by its concentration of poverty, measured by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2009-10, music instruction was offered in 89% of elementary schools with the highest poverty concentration compared with 97% for schools with the two lowest categories of poverty concentration. (National Center for Education Statistics Report, 2012, pg. 14)
  • In both years, the percentage of elementary schools that offered visual arts instruction differed by poverty concentration. In 2009–10, for example, visual arts was offered by 80 percent of schools with the highest poverty concentration and 92 percent of schools with the lowest poverty concentration. (National Center for Education Statistics Report, 2012, pg. 28)
  • In 2009–10, the percentage of schools that offered dance as part of the music curriculum differed by poverty concentration; 31 percent of schools with the highest poverty concentration and 49 percent of schools with the lowest poverty concentration offered dance as part of the music curriculum in 2009–10. (National Center for Education Statistics Report, 2012, pg. 40)
  • The percentage of elementary schools that integrated drama/theatre activities into other curriculum areas differed by poverty concentration, with 39 percent of schools with the highest poverty concentration reporting this approach to teaching the subject compared with 50 percent and 59 percent of schools with the two lowest poverty concentrations. (National Center for Education Statistics Report, 2012, pg. 46)
  • That is why access to arts education is a civil rights issue. It’s about freedom of thought, about giving every child the opportunity to thrive with the full measure of human capabilities. We need to train the whole brain. We need communities of richly mediated minds. (ARTSblog)


  • The Center on Education Policy conducted studies of "curriculum narrowing." In 2007, CEP surveyed a nationally representative group of school districts and found that 62 percent had increased the time devoted to reading and mathematics in elementary schools, while 44 percent reported that they had reduced the amount of time spent on science, social studies, and the arts. (Ravitch, 2010, pg. 108)
  • In the arts, we should agree that all children deserve the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument, to sing, engage in dramatic events, dance, paint, sculpt, and study the great works of artistic endeavor from other times and places. Through the arts, children learn discipline, focus, passion, and the sheer joy of creativity. We should make sure that these opportunities and the resources to support them are available to every student in every school. (Ravitch, 2010, pg. 245)
  • A balanced curriculum reflects the philosophy and beliefs of educating the whole child, and enabling the child to take an active role in constructing meaning from his or her experiences. The Basic Education Plan (BEP) for the State of North Carolina was based on this philosophy (see Appendix B). Though never fully funded or implemented, the philosophy of the BEP holds true today. The BEP supports the premise that there is a common core of knowledge and skills which every child shall command when he or she graduates from high school. As stated in the BEP, a basic program is not one-dimensional; indeed, it must address all aspects of a child's development,from kindergarten through high school, or else it cannot properly be termed basic. The arts, for example, are an essential part of the basic program as essential, for instance, as mathematics or second languages are to the development of well-rounded citizens (BEP, 1994, p1). The BEP does not encourage learning in particular areas at the expense of learning in others. All areas are considered essential to learning in school and beyond. (The Balanced Curriculum, 2003, pp. 11-12)
  • “The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. All of the arts—dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts—are essential to preparing our nation’s young people for a global economy fueled by innovation and creativity and for a social discourse that demands communication in images and sound as well as in text.” (Arne Duncan)
  • There is no such thing as doing the nuts and bolts of reading in Kindergarten through 5th grade without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts. Period. It is false. It is a fiction. And that is why NAEP scores in early grades can improve slightly but collapse as students grow older. Because it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text. - David Coleman


  • More than twelve years of research about the A+ Schools in North Carolina tracked consistent gains in student achievement, the schools’ engagement of parents and community, and other measures of learning and success. Most notably, the A+ Schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged and minority students performed as well on statewide reading and mathematics assessments as students from more advantaged schools. This is doubly impressive considering that while other schools have focused on basic skills in response to high stakes testing, the A+ Schools have been able to achieve reading and mathematics gains on statewide accountability tests without narrowing the curriculum(Corbitt, McKenney, Noblit, and Wilson, 2001). (PCAH Report, pg. 20)
  • Teenagers and young adults of low socioeconomic status (SES) who have a history of in-depth arts involvement show better academic outcomes than do low-SES youth who have less arts involvement. They earn better grades and demonstrate higher rates of college enrollment and attainment. (NEA Report, 2012, pg. 12)
  • Catteral also found clear evidence that sustained involvement in particular art forms - music and theater - are highly correlated with success in mathematics and reading. (Champions of Change, pg. viii)
  • Teenagers and young adults of low socioeconomic status (SES) who have a history of in-depth arts involvement show better academic outcomes than do low-SES youth who have less arts involvement. They ear better grades and demonstrate higher rates of college enrollment and attainment. (National Endowment for the Arts, March 2012, pg. 12)
  • James Catterall (2009) has demonstrated that this positive arts effect is not limited to schools in socioeconomically advantaged neighborhoods but is actually strengthened in the poorest neighborhoods. Arts, in short, have the greatest impact of any subject on standardized tests scores, even when those tests have nothing to do with arts-related material. These studies demonstrate loud and clear how important arts-related skills are for learning in general and mathematics in particular. (The Art & Craft of Science)


  • “Music education is important. We were able to see objective, biological changes after two years of instruction,” she says. “Music is not about creating professional violinists. Policy makers need to stop thinking like that. Music appears to be a fundamental part of education that has a lasting impact on the brain. And schools should be treating it that way instead of cutting these important music programs.” (Dana Foundation, December 2013)
  • Over the past few decades, research across a variety of disciplines suggests that music training provides benefits far beyond learning how to simply play an instrument. Music lessons have been correlated with better grades and higher Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores, as well as improved language, memory, and attention skills in school-aged students. New research from Northwestern University, however, suggests that musical experience offers more than just a boost in the classroom. In fact, just few years of musical training in childhood seems to have quite long-term effects, counteracting some common effects of age-related auditory decline. (Dana Foundation, November 26, 2013)
  • The study provides strong evidence that the years between ages six and eight are a “sensitive period” when musical training interacts with normal brain development to produce long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure. “Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli,” says Penhune. “Practicing an instrument before age seven likely boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain, creating a framework upon which ongoing training can build.” (Dana Foundation, February 12, 2013)


  • Oklahoma A+ Schools promote challenging learning environments in which students gain self-confidence, enjoy school, and feel empowered by the learning process. (The AEP Wire, March 2011, pg. 3)
  • It gives a wonderful feeling as soon as you walk in the front door. The children are happy, teachers are happy- there is something for all children to feel good about. (Noblit, 2009, pg. 152)
  • The arts teach students who are not otherwise being reached. Young people who are disengaged from schools and other community institutions are at the greatest risk of failure or harm. The researchers found that the arts provided a reason, and sometimes the only reason, for being engaged with school or other organizations. (Champions of Change, pg. ix)
  • He went on to say, “research shows that arts-rich schools—ones that provide opportunities for students to experience the arts in deep and meaningful ways and to make curricular connections with math, science, and the humanities—are more engaging for students.” (Arne Duncan)


  • Picture a flower, a big bright flower in full bloom. The flower’s stem is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). It is the superstructure, the infrastructure, the support system of the flower itself. The arts and humanities are the blossoms, of course–the source of the flower’s beauty, its fragrance, its identity, the visible mark of its health, and the wherewithal of the flower to reproduce itself. The stem is functional, strong, and essential, but pare away the blossom, and the stem has no purpose, no function, no value. In time it will wither and die. It cannot survive the loss. So much for STEM. John Lithgow
  • Artistic expression and memorable ideas can resonate with us, challenge us, and teach us important lessons about ourselves and each other. At their best, great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reflect something common in all of us. They open dialogues between cultures and raise poignant questions about our world. - Barack Obama
  • The arts have been part of life from the very beginning and are an inseparable part of the human journey. They have described, defined, and deepened the human experience. The arts are everywhere in our lives, adding depth and dimension to the environment we live in, and shaping our experience daily. - NC Arts Education Preamble
  • If you were in Washington D.C. last week, or anywhere near a television, you might recognize this event, not as an arts festival, a cabaret, or a musical, but as our Presidential Inauguration. It’s probably not the first thing most people noticed as they watched the pomp and circumstance of a centuries-old tradition play out, but it is certainly what struck me most: at our most essentially American moments, when we want to celebrate most fully and most impressively, we inevitably employ the arts. - ARTSblog