In recent years many school districts have had to restructure their arts curriculums to meet the growing emphasis on standards that is central to most school reform. This unique collection is meant to assist educators, policymakers, grantmakers and other stakeholders by focusing on the potential benefits of arts education for students and communities alike, and providing examples of creative ways school districts are handling their constraints.

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After-School Programs and Academic Impact: A Study of Chicago's After School Matters

January 26, 2007

What impact can after-school programs have on the educational achievement of high school students? A new study of Chicago's After School Matters (ASM) program -- which offers paid internships in the arts, technology, sports, and communications to teenagers in some of the city's most underserved schools -- finds a relationship between participating in after-school activities and higher class attendance, lower course failures and higher graduation rates.Even after taking into account student demographic characteristics and prior attendance records, students who participate in ASM miss fewer days of school than their classmates. Similarly, students who participated at the highest levels in the after-school program tended to fail fewer core academic courses (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies). Furthermore, over the course of their time in high school, students who were enrolled in ASM for three or more semesters and those who participated at the highest levels had higher rates of graduation and lower dropout rates than similar students who did not participate in the program.The findings in this report highlight the importance of further research into what leads students to participate in after-school programs and the factors that lead to higher engagement and retention once they are enrolled. A better understanding is crucial for improving enrollment in after-school programs such as ASM. Moreover, accounting for student factors that lead to a greater engagement in the program will lead to a clearer understanding of ASM's contribution to the positive outcomes -- independent of hard-to-observe student characteristics such as enthusiasm or dedication.

Student Outcomes

Arts Opportunities for Young People in Chicago

July 4, 2000

Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago examined the scope and character of non-school arts opportunities for young people in Chicago. Whereas earlier studies have looked at programs deemed exemplary or those that focus on "at-risk" children, this was an effort to take stock of all programs for children within a geographic area. The purpose of the strategy was to share the information we gathered with directors, staff, and funders of arts programs for young people so that they can consider the implications of the findings for their programs for young people; and to explore a strategy for examining other categories of the primary social supports. Through a citywide survey, the research team identified 498 programs that offer arts experiences during out-of-school time. Many more opportunities are offered by parks, social service agencies, and recreation centers than by museums, theaters, and other institutions devoted solely to the arts.In discussions with 153 staff and young people involved in arts programs, researchers often found a striking depth of experience. Children and adults spoke of how participants gain not only skills in ballet, music, computer graphics, theater, and painting, among other art forms, but also a means to understand who they are as individuals or in relation to others; to appreciate the sounds, images, motions, and values of their cultural heritage; to enjoy their own creative expressions; to envision a future andcultivate the discipline and organization to get there; and to experience warmth, support, and challenge from other kids and adults. Informants spoke about these and many other benefits that some said school experiences do not or cannot foster.Researchers also found that young people participated in arts programs more often for internally motivated reasons (their interest in learning art, being with friends, having fun) than for externally motivated reasons (pressure from parents or other adults in their lives). And while their interest in these programs was strong, their ability to physically reach them was often limited. Distance and safety issues impeded many kids 'attendance. Other findings included that support from parents was vital to kids' attendance and that organizational operations and the strength and existence of arts programs often hinged on the diverse talents and energies of one or two staff members.

Classroom Examples