Review of Evidence: Arts Integration Research Through the Lens of the Every Student Succeeds Act

Meredith Ludwig

Image of girl drawing outside

During the past 20 years, education scholars and researchers have argued that arts integrationan instructional approach that uses concepts and strategies from the visual and performing arts to teach other subjects such as English and mathcan improve student learning in those subjects, as well as affect other outcomes, such as behavioral outcomes and social-emotional outcomes.

This report examines the relevance of arts integration to 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes a diverse array of programs and funding streams that states, local educational agencies, and schools can leverage to support school improvement and student success. The report then presents the results of a review of evidence about arts integration based on new provisions in ESSA that require or encourage states to use their ESSA funds to support the use of “evidence based” interventions.

Drawing on guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, the study team conducting this evidence review developed and applied criteria for assessing whether recent studies of arts integration interventions meet ESSA’s definition of “evidence based,” and it identified 44 specific interventions that satisfy those criteria. These interventions feature such components as teacher professional development opportunities, the use of specialized personnel, and the use of specialized instructional materials

The report also presents findings from a meta-analysis of 27 well-designed studies of arts integration interventions. The meta-analysis found that arts integration’s overall average effect on student outcomes was positive and statistically significant but modest in magnitude. The report concludes with recommendations for practitioners and policymakers and for future research.

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