Saturday, October 18, 2014

Addressing the Achievement Gap

As we get closer to the election, and try to sift through the candidates for the Board of Education, I wanted to talk about one of the issues that is at the forefront of many minds in our community: the achievement gap. Here is some interesting information.

"Music education seems to benefit children across the board. And it turns out that the least privileged among them may be the ones who benefit from it the most."

This quote comes from "Why Music Education Matters", a post by Blake Madden. Contained within the article is this section, "Arts Education in General Significantly Benefits Disadvantaged Youth".

In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings From Four Longitudinal Studies. It made the case for arts and music education, using more than twenty years’ worth of academic results.

Focusing specifically on children from lower socioeconomic status or "low-SES" backgrounds, the researchers found that the more arts education these children received, the better their life prospects seemed to get:

"According to the data, 71 percent of low-SES students with arts-rich experiences attended some sort of college after high school. Only 48 percent of the low-arts, low-SES group attended any sort of college. And more than twice as many high-arts students from the low-SES group, compared with low-arts students in that group, attended a four-year college (39 percent versus 17 percent).

This also translated to degree attainment: 24% of children from a high-arts, low-SES background were able to attain associate’s degrees, versus 10% of low-arts low-SES children. 18% of high-arts low-SES children attained bachelor’s degrees versus 6% of low-arts low-SES children. The NEA report also cites higher rates of volunteerism and general civic engagement in both high- and low-SES children.

Unfortunately, these studies mostly stop following the students’ progress by the time they reach their early to mid-20s, providing little information on long-term career prospects. Given the links between college education and employment/earnings however, it seems reasonable to ask if arts education in general should now be a part of the larger conversation about income equality.

Here is the chart that accompanies that passage:

So we have data that shows that an arts-rich education (music, art, drama, dance) has a significant benefit to all children, but most especially to at-risk children. So, as you evaluate candidates for the Board of Education, it is crucial to know where they stand on arts education--that is, if addressing the achievement gap in Howard County is important to you.

I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't care about the education of all of our children, have you?


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