Arts education can take many forms – from learning the skills related to a specific art form to using the arts as a vehicle for learning other subjects including reading, math, science, and history. This practice of bringing arts specialists into the classroom to fuel learning in core subjects is called arts integration.

From 2010 to 2013, ArtsWave conducted a pilot program within Cincinnati Public Schools to study the effect of arts integration programs on student achievement.  We conducted this study over three consecutive years in Grades 3-5 within six of CPS’s 42 elementary schools: Academy of World Languages, Bond Hill, Frederick Douglas, Hartwell, Hoffman Parham, and Roselawn Condon schools. In each school, we connected classroom teachers with arts organizations that assisted with six-week long arts integration efforts focused on English Language Arts (Reading) and Mathematics. Students used music, dance, theater, and visual art to learn everything from science to literature. Partner arts organizations included The Children’s Theatre, Contemporary Arts Center, Dramakinetics, Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theater, Cincinnati Ballet, and many more. 

We tracked individual students from one grade to the next, and also benchmarked them against peer students in schools that did not participate in the arts integration program. 

Results were clear: students that participated in the arts integration program scored higher in reading and math proficiency than students in the control group.  In addition, individual students in the program showed a dramatic increase in their math proficiency scores year-over-year.

These results are consistent with the findings of other research studies across the nation, including exciting new research just released by Portland, Oregon’s The Right Brain Initiative which aspires to make arts education accessible to every K-8 child in that tri-county region. 

ArtsWave’s study of the benefits of arts integration was conducted in only a few Cincinnati schools.  We know we need to learn more about the general state of arts offerings in the region’s entire educational system, and to begin to assess where there are opportunities for us to make targeted investments. To inform these investments, we have just concluded a Community Audit for Arts Education using a model from the Kennedy Center. We assessed what educators and parents feel is working and not working in the area of arts education in Cincinnati, Newport and Covington schools. Using these findings, in the coming months we will be working to develop a strategy for systematically growing Greater Cincinnati’s arts education offerings.