While high-risk and at-risk youth may struggle with academics, many excel in the arts. They develop confidence and self-esteem while discovering creative expression to be uplifting and a positive release for pent-up emotions.
Programs in art, music, dance, theater and creative writing also motivate kids to stay in school. An extensive study with 25,000 middle and high school students by researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests, like the SAT, than students with low arts involvement.
A 2012 NEA study, “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth,” shows that students in the bottom 25% of the socioeconomic scale who have access to the arts had better academic results and workforce opportunities, plus more civic engagement. These students also voted and volunteered more than their peers.
Another study in the Journal of Neuroscience reports that children who take music lessons have better hearing as adults. Those who played an instrument had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds and were better at recognizing different frequencies compared with those youth who never took music classes. This helps students develop "neurophysiological distinction" that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results.
The Dana Foundation's "2008 Consortium Report on Art and Cognition" states that exposure to visual arts correlated with improvements in children's math calculation abilities, as measured by their test scores. They also had a higher degree of phonological (sound) awareness of words, which enhanced their reading, speaking and listening abilities.
Dance can affect the way juvenile offenders and other disenfranchised youth feel about themselves. One study demonstrated that when a group of 60 such adolescents, ages 13 to 17, participated in jazz and hip-hop dance classes twice weekly for 10 weeks, they reported significant gains in confidence, tolerance and persistence related to the dance experience.
The American Art Therapy Association's research clearly revealed art therapy's positive impact on children with regard to health, cognition, social interaction, trauma, stress reduction, anxiety, confidence, abuse and most of life's challenges.
Otis College's 2015 report on the Creative Economy affirms that there were over 744,100 jobs generated through the arts in the Los Angeles region, which represents nearly 1 in 6 jobs in L.A. County. This output produced $177 billion for the region!
It's obvious that arts education is crucial for the well-being of the children in our society.