The recent wave of test-based accountability reforms has negatively impacted the provision of K-12 arts educational experiences. Advocates contend that, in addition to providing intrinsic benefits, the arts can positively influence academic and social development. However, the empirical evidence to support such claims is limited. We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 10,548 3rd8th grade students who were enrolled in 42 schools that were assigned by lottery to receive substantial influxes of arts education experiences provided through school-community partnerships with local arts organizations, cultural institutions, and teaching-artists. We find that these increases in arts educational experiences significantly reduce the proportion of students receiving disciplinary infractions by 3.6 percentage points, improve STAAR writing achievement by 0.13 of a standard deviation, and increase students’ compassion for others by 0.08 of a standard deviation. For students in elementary schools, which comprise 86 percent of the sample, we find that these arts educational experiences also significantly improve school engagement, college aspirations, and arts-facilitated empathy. These findings provide strong evidence that arts educational experiences can produce significant positive impacts on student academic and social development.


Investigating the Causal Effects of Arts Education, Journal of Policy Analysis & Management

The Fine Art of School Engagement, Education Next

New Evidence of the Benefits of Arts Education: Brookings Institution Policy Brief

The Mind-Expanding Value of Arts Education, The New York Times

Arts Education Program Increases School Engagement, Study Finds, The 74

The Lesson the Arts Teach, The Hechinger Report

Investigating Causal Effects of Arts Education Experiences: Experimental Evidence from Houston’s Arts Access Initiative: Houston Education Research Consortium