Learning in and through the arts develops the essential knowledge, skills, and creative capacities all students need to succeed in school, work, and life. As the top building-level leaders, school principals play a key role in ensuring every student receives a high-quality arts education as part of a complete education.
In a time of shrinking budgets and shifting priorities, what can school principals do to make and keep the arts strong in their schools? This guide offers three concrete actions school principals can take to increase arts education in their schools:
A -establish a school-wide commitment to arts learning;
B -create an arts-rich learning environment; and
C - rethink the use of time and resources.
Each action is supported with several low-cost or no-cost strategies that other school leaders have used and found to be effective -- whether it's beginning an arts program where none exists, making an existing program stronger, or preserving an arts program against future cuts. While many of the strategies are drawn from elementary schools, they are likely to be applicable in a variety of grade levels.
Mounting research evidence confirms that students in schools with arts-rich learning environments academically outperform their peers in arts-poor schools. Where the arts are an integral component of the school day, they positively impact student attendance, persistence and engagement; enhance teacher effectiveness; and strengthen parent and community involvement. Research also shows school principals serve as the primary decision makers as to whether and to what extent the arts are present within a school.
The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) prepared this guide, with support from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The increasingly critical role of school leaders, along with the growing body of evidence on the benefits of arts learning, summarized most recently in a new report published by the PCAH prompted the development of the guide.
AEP staff reviewed the relevant literature as well as conducted personal interviews with school principals and with practitioners who work closely with principals. School principals and other leaders interested in increasing arts education in America's schools can adopt any of these actions and strategies one at a time or implement several at once. When taken together as part of an overall approach, however, their effects are more likely to be cumulative,