In the corporate world, we often hear about the importance of work-life balance. It’s the amount of time spent doing your job compared to doing things you enjoy. This balance is vital to progress and satisfaction in our careers and lives, but what about our students? They too need a healthy balance between their academic careers and the things they like to do, whether it be sports, family activities, or something creative. School leaders can help students achieve this work-life balance in several ways, but promoting arts education is certainly a good option.

The benefits of arts education are boundless. This issue of American School Board Journal focuses on the performing arts in public schools, but let’s look at arts education in general. We have evidence that arts education courses can boost achievement, particularly for students from underprivileged families.

In 2019, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted survey questionnaires as part of the 2019 Nation’s Report Card. It collected contextual information about students’ opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom. Eighth-graders were asked, “Are you taking an art course this year (for example, drawing, painting, or studio art)?” Nationwide, students who reported taking an art course scored four points higher in reading and five points higher in math than their peers who reported not taking any art course.

The achievement of eighth-graders who reported taking art courses and who attend Title I schools that have higher concentrations of low-income students is significant. Among students receiving Title I funds:

  • 36 percent of eighth-graders who reported taking an art course this school year performed at or above the NAEP proficiency level in reading and 39 percent in math.
  • Student subgroups (those participating in the National School Lunch Program, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency) that reported taking art courses all performed significantly higher than their peers who reported they were not.

Although achievement gaps still exist, the remarkable result from the 2019 NAEP data suggests that art courses may play a positive role in improving student academic achievement.

Through NSBA’s partnership with the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation, we hosted a special conversation with country music superstar Trisha Yearwood and CMA CEO Sarah Trahern, who also is the CMA Foundation president. The conversation took place virtually at our Advocacy Institute in June. Yearwood and Trahern spoke about the importance of offering arts education in schools, especially for students who aren’t exposed to the arts at home. An edited version of their conversation appears on page 34.

As school leaders continue to face increased pressures and the stress of board service, please try to work toward a better work-life balance for yourself, your staff, and your students. We will make it through this together.

Video versions of this and upcoming columns are available through the Public Education Insider video series that provides updates and insights on specific topics shaping the association’s most recent work. Find out where NSBA is going and how we will get there.

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