The Arts Impact Students and Schools

Duval recently voted yes to pass the millage referendum, which will increase funding to attract and retain highly qualified teachers and will enhance arts and athletics programs. As we celebrate this much-needed infusion of school funds, let’s take a moment to also honor National Arts and Education Week and explore the transformative impact the arts have on student performance and school grades.

The Cathedral Arts Project (CAP) recently teamed up with professors and students from the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) program at the University of North Florida. Our goal was to measure the impact of arts education on student performance in our public schools. To do this, we analyzed publicly available data from three sources: the Florida Department of Education, Duval County Public Schools and the Landscape of Education in the Arts in Duval (LEAD). Here are some of the highlights of our findings:

Schools with students enrolled in arts programs tend to have higher attendance rates and higher academic performance. The number of teachers also matters; schools with more arts educators outperform, as well. Another important factor contributing to school success is the level of community engagement in the arts. Highly effective schools did not necessarily have the most funding, though funding certainly helps. Instead, these schools provided their students opportunities to explore a world beyond the classroom through partnerships with cultural organizations.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the LEAD survey indicated that 53% of principals had less than $4 per student per year to spend on the arts. With limited resources available, the most highly effective schools often turned to their community for support and resources. Some schools partnered with arts organizations like Cathedral Arts Project to offer free afterschool arts programs on their campuses, giving students an opportunity to perform in a professional setting at an early age. Others partnered with museums and theaters, allowing students to go on much-anticipated field trips to see an exhibition or enjoy a live performance.

people in a gallery looking at a statue

CAP students from Chaffee Trail visit the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Through research conducted right here in Duval County, we know stronger arts programming is associated with increased school attendance and higher achievement for our schools. The arts keep children engaged and build personality traits like grit and teamwork, which help them excel in academic subjects and beyond. Sustaining robust arts programs means funding them, and the millage referendum will help, but it also takes a committed village. Our Jacksonville arts and cultural community stands ready as we look to link arms with every family, teacher and principal to ignite every student’s creative spark. More arts means better students, better schools and a better future for Jacksonville.

This was featured as a letter to the editor in the Florida Times-Union.

September 11, 2022