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Theatre Education Research, Resources and Advocacy Tools

This page provides a list of resources that make compelling arguments for theatre education.  Most education policy is made at the local level, which means you are the best advocate for theatre education in your community.  Consider using these tools and publications to strengthen your advocacy on the local level.

Benefits of Arts Education

Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning
This report compiles results of seven major arts education research projects. Major findings include that learners can attain higher levels of achievement through their engagement with the arts, and that learning through the arts can help "level the playing field" for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances. Of particular interest:

  • “Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement in Music and Theatre Arts” (p.1-18).
  • “Stand and Unfold Yourself”: A Monograph on the Shakespeare & Company Research Study (p.79-90).

Fiske, Edward B. Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning. Washington DC: President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Arts Education Partnership, 1999.

Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement
Critical Evidence updates and expands on the case made for arts education in NASAA's earlier collaboration with the Arts in Education Partnership, Eloquent Evidence: Arts at the Core of Learning, originally published in 1995. This booklet makes the case that a child's education is not complete unless it includes the arts.  Using fact-based non-technical language, it responds to the needs of policymakers, educators, parents and advocates by documenting the most current and compelling research on the value of arts learning experiences.  It draws upon scientific research to concisely answer common questions such as why it is so important to keep the arts strong in our schools and how arts education contributes to student achievement and success.
Ruppert, Sandra S. Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement. Washington DC: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and Arts Education Partnership, 2006.

Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development
This compendium of arts education research studies brings together investigations focused on understanding the cognitive capacities developed in learning and practicing the arts and the relationship of those capacities to students' academic performance and social development. The studies suggest that for certain populations — including young children, students from economically disadvantaged circumstances and students needing remedial instruction — learning in the arts may be uniquely able to advance learning success in other areas.  More Critical Links materials may be found here.
Deasy, Richard J. Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Washington DC: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.

Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value Arts Education.
This report identifies success factors common among school districts that support the arts. The central finding: "The single most critical factor in sustaining arts education in their schools is the active involvement of influential segments of the community in shaping and implementing the policies and programs of the district."  This includes the involvement of arts organizations.  The follow-up report More Lessons focuses on how the profiled schools achieved their arts education successes.
Longley, Laura. Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value Arts Education. Washington DC: GPO, 1999.

How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition
Does education in the arts transfer to seemingly unrelated cognitive abilities? Researchers are finding evidence that it does. Michael I. Posner argues that when children find an art form that sustains their interest, the subsequent strengthening of their brains’ attention networks can improve cognition more broadly.
Posner, Michael I. Ph.D., and Brenda Patoine. "How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition." New York: The Dana Foundation Website, 2009.

The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation
Comprehensive arts education helps students meet the ever-growing demands of the global economy and the information age. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and the National Governors' Association (NGA) assembled this issue brief to showcase the positive outcomes of integrating the arts into schooling and youth intervention programs. This report is designed to help governors and their top policy advisors learn about how the arts contribute to the human capital of their states’ future workers.
National Governors Association. "The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation." 2002.

Research Finds New Evidence Linking Arts and Learning
New research from a consortium at seven universities reveals close links between training in the arts and improved math and reading skills. These findings add new scientific support to the observation that children who participate in the arts also do well academically.
Patoine, Brenda. "Research Finds New Evidence Linking Arts and Learning." New York: The Dana Foundation Website, 2008.

Third Space: When Learning Matters
Third Space tells the riveting story of the profound changes in the lives of kids, teachers, and parents in ten economically disadvantaged communities across the country that place their bets on the arts as a way to create great schools. The schools become caring communities where kids—many of whom face challenges of poverty, the need to learn English, and to surmount learning difficulties—thrive and succeed and where teachers find new joy and satisfaction in teaching. More Third Space materials may be found here.
Stevenson, Lauren M. and Richard J. Deasy. Third Space: When Learning Matters. Washington DC: Arts Education Partnership, 2005.

You Want to Be a Part of Everything: The Arts, Community, & Learning
This report highlights five youth arts programs from across the country brought together at an AEP forum in September, 2003, and provides provocative testimony to youth centered and youth directed arts programs that are creating powerful and supportive communities among young people.
Smyth, Laura and Lauren Stevenson. You Want to Be a Part of Everything: The Arts, Community, & Learning. Washington DC: Arts Education Partnership, 2005.

Arts Education Policy

Artscan is a searchable database of existing state-level policies regarding the arts.  Produced by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), it is a powerful tool for arts advocates seeking to improve their state-level education policies.  Click here to view a summary report of state-level arts education policies. 

From the Capital to the Classroom: Four Years of the No Child Left Behind Act
This 2005-06 report identifies the opportunities and challenges of NCLB implementation. The survey finds that schools are making more time for reading and math by reducing time spent on social studies, science and the arts.  Nearly one-quarter of the districts surveyed report that instructional time in art and music had been reduced somewhat or to a great extent to make more time for math and reading.
Center on Education Policy. From the Capital to the Classroom: Four Years of the No Child Left Behind Act. 2006.

The Nation’s Arts Report Card
The 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress in the Arts (NAEP) measured the ability of eighth-grade students to create, perform and respond to works of art in music, theater, dance and the visual arts. Arts advocates are urging the U.S. Department of Education to stay on track with plans to administer the NAEP in the arts again in 2016, and to include the theatre and dance in the assessment in addition to music and visual arts. More NAEP data is available here.

No Subject Left Behind: A Guide to Arts Opportunities in the 2001 NCLB Act
Updated with FY2005 appropriations, this document serves as a guide for state and local arts and education leaders to learn more about the federal education legislation "No Child Left Behind" and its designation of the arts as a “core academic subject.”  The report provides a brief overview of the legislation and specific programs as well as links for additional information.
American Arts Alliance. No Subject Left Behind: A Guide to Arts Opportunities in the 2001 NCLB Act. 2004.

Policy Makers, the Public, and the Press

The Arts – A Lifetime of Learning
Education Commission of the States (ECS) is producing a series of commentaries by noted leaders in state and national education policy entitled “Arts and Minds: Conversations about the Arts in Education.”  Policy leaders that have been interviewed include: Arkansas Governor and ECS Chairman Mike Huckabee, Getty Foundation Senior Advisor Sir Ken Robinson, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Susan Sclafani and three State Education Superintendents.

Media Paints Arts Education in a Fading Light
The media's framing of arts education is crucial to its level of public support (or lack thereof).  This article examines how the national media portrays the status of arts education and concludes with strategic recommendations on how arts education advocates and policy makers can influence the framing of arts education media coverage.
Douglas Gould and Company. Media Paints Arts Education in a Fading Light. Denver: Education Commission of the States, 2005.

Mobilizing Support for Integrated Arts Education: National Opinion Research Findings.
Where does the public stand on integrating the arts into the school curriculum? A new project by the Douglas Gould & Co., funded by the Ford Foundation, suggests that understanding the public's perspective on arts integration is key to developing strategies that will result in lasting arts education opportunities for students. Access interviews with business leaders, community brainstorming sessions, a national poll, and focus groups of parents and teachers on their Keep Arts in Schools website.
Douglas Gould and Company. Mobilizing Support for Integrated Arts Education: National Opinion Research Findings. 2005.

Visions of the Future: Education in the Arts
This video from the Arts Education Partnership offers reflections on the past and perspectives on the future of arts education from key leaders of education, arts and philanthropic organizations. The complete DVD is available for purchase from AEP. The transcription of the video is provided as a pdf, hyperlinked above, as quotes may prove helpful in state and local-level advocacy efforts.

Arts in Education Grants from the Dept. of Education

Theatre companies should be aware of the direct and indirect funding opportunities available from the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Through its Arts in Education fund, the USED awards direct competitive grants to arts organizations in the following two categories.

The Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program is designed to enable schools and organizations to develop and disseminate comprehensive approaches for integrating the arts into elementary and middle school curricula, strengthening arts instruction in these grade levels, and improving students’ academic performance. Approximately $4 million in funding is available, and the average grant ranges between $225,000 and $275,000. This program must be administered in partnership with a local education agency.

The Professional Development for Arts Educators Program supports the implementation of high-quality professional development model programs in K-12 education for music, dance, drama and visual arts educators. Applications must be initiated by a local education agency, but projects may include partnerships with arts organizations. Programs must focus on the development, enhancement, or expansion of standards-based arts education programs or the integration of arts instruction into other subject area content. The program requires that participating schools must have a student population in which at least 50% are from low-income families (Title I). If your organization partners with schools to provide professional development for teachers, consider bringing this grant program to the attention of your school system.

Links to Arts Education Organizations

Arts Education Partnership
AEP is a national coalition of arts, education, business, philanthropic and government organizations that demonstrates and promotes the essential role of the arts in the learning and development of every child and in the improvement of America's schools. Their website includes a wealth of resources for research, advocacy, funding opportunities, and more.

Arts Education Leadership Network Initiative
NASAA and its national and state partners in arts education are working to improve the environment for arts education leadership, with a focus on arts education managers at state arts councils, state arts education teams and partnerships, and communication/information sharing. This section of the NASAA Web site serves as a locus of information and resources for the project.

This website is a global electronic venue for students, teachers and artist-educators, designed to help educators teach in, through and about the arts. The site features news updates, extensive teaching materials and professional resources, including job listings and searchable databases for grants and funding, competitions, fellowships and internships.