COLUMBIA, Mo. - Bipartisan federal legislation, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, has emphasized the importance of arts education, placing it alongside reading and math as integral parts of a well-rounded education. Despite this inclusion and increased local control over academic standards and accountability, many schools and districts across the country continue to struggle in incorporating strong art programs due to resource and budget constraints. According to Brian Kisida, assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, the combination of federal support and local autonomy presents new opportunities for partnerships between public schools and community arts organizations.
"The ESSA has presented a significant opportunity to close achievement gaps in education," Kisida said. "The effects of the legislation could provide enormous benefits to disadvantaged students; however, resource and budget constraints continue to plague education, and school districts are looking for creative solutions."
Examples of such partnerships include opportunities to visit a world-class art museum, see a live theater or dance performance, or learn about music from a trained classical musician.
One noteworthy local example is the recently established Love of Learning Initiative in Saint Louis Public Schools, which includes partnerships with community organizations, like the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, to offer historically underserved students innovative educational opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have, Kisida said.
"Research has shown that similar collaborations have been successful in major cities, smaller towns and rural communities," Kisida said. "Fortunately, nearly every district is home to unique cultural resources that can be leveraged to enhance arts education, and it doesn't end there."
Today, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Kisida, along with Daniel Bowen, assistant professor at Texas A&M University, a $90,000 grant to study the impacts of arts enrichment on students' academic and social outcomes. They will be studying the Arts Access Initiative in Houston, a partnership between Houston Public Schools and dozens of arts organizations. The evaluation, also supported by the Spencer Foundation and the Houston Endowment, will be the first of its kind to gauge the effectiveness of a large-scale partnership program. The funding is part of the $82 million awarded to local arts projects across the country.
"The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America's artists and arts organizations," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Research that illuminates the value and impact of the arts, like the work from Kisida and Bowen, is essential to better tell the story of how the arts influence our lives."
An education policy expert, Kisida has more than a decade of experience in rigorous program evaluation and policy analysis. He has co-authored multiple reports through the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. His research focuses on identifying effective educational options and experiences for at-risk students that can close achievement and opportunity gaps. His research also has examined the educational benefits of cultural institutions, art and music education; teacher diversity; and urban charter schools. Kisida is an assistant research professor in the Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Science and the Truman School of Public Affairs.
Editor's note: Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit http://www.