skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on September 24, 2023

Title: Arts for Whose Sake? Arts Course-taking and Math Achievement in US High Schools

Math achievement in U.S. high schools is a consistent predictor of educational attainment. While emphasis on raising math achievement continues, school-level interventions often come at the expense of other subjects. Arts courses are particularly at risk of being cut, especially in schools serving lower socioeconomic status youth. Evidence suggests, however, that arts coursework is beneficial to many educational outcomes. We use data on 20,590 adolescents from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 to answer two research questions: (1) Does student accumulation of fine arts courses across different topic areas relate positively to math test scores in high school? (2) Does school SES differentiate this potential association? Results indicate that youth attending higher-SES schools take more art courses and taking music courses is related to higher math test scores. However, this benefit only seems to only apply to more socially advantaged student bodies. Results reveal a site of additional educational advantage for already privileged youth.

Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sociological Perspectives
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. 073112142211245
SAGE Publications
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Racial and ethnic differences in educational outcomes significantly narrowed during the 1970s and 1980s when K–12 public schools were desegregated. However, when schools resegregated starting roughly in the late 1980s, racial gaps in outcomes widened again. Because of literacy’s pivotal role in learning, the authors investigate if segregation contributes to racial gaps in K–12 reading performance. Drawing upon structural vulnerability and cumulative advantage/disadvantage theories to frame this study, the authors conduct multilevel metaregression analyses of 131 effect sizes from 30 primary studies to investigate if school composition effects contribute to racial gaps in K–12 reading outcomes and if any effects vary in magnitude or direction for students from different racial/ethnic backgrounds or grade levels. The metaregression analyses control for the primary studies’ regression model characteristics and research designs. The results indicate a small, negative, statistically significant relationship between the percentage of a school’s disadvantaged minority enrollment and the mean reading achievement of the students who attend it. The negative association is stronger when segregation is measured by percentage Black and is stronger for high school students. These two findings suggest that the disadvantages of segregated education cumulate as more structurally vulnerable students transition from elementary to secondary school. Additional resultsmore »suggest that a school’s racial composition effect is not the same as its socioeconomic status composition effect. The two organizational characteristics have distinct, albeit interrelated, influences on reading scores. Together the findings suggest that racially and ethnically segregated schooling both reflects and helps reproduce racial/ethnic inequality in literacy outcomes.

    « less
  2. Since the emergence of middle schools as distinct educational settings in the 1960s, proponents of the model have advocated for structures and approaches that best meet the particular developmental needs of young adolescents. Middle school researchers have developed frameworks of best practices for schools that have been widely, if not uniformly, adopted. However, there is a paucity of large-scale quantitative research on the efficacy of such best practices. In this study we used state-level administrative data from Texas to estimate the school-level contribution to standardized test scores in math and language arts, along with absenteeism. We then regressed these value-added quantities on indicators of middle school structures, along with research-supported predictors of school efficacy. Results showed that schools with fewer classes in the school day and higher quality teachers performed better, among other indicators. Findings from models using the campus contribution to absenteeism were similar. These results indicate that while elements of the middle school model may help transform individual schools, the equitable distribution of resources and the undoing of de facto segregation are vital to the success of all young adolescents.
  3. In recent years, it has increasingly been recognized that spatial visualization skills are important in supporting student success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and retention of these students in STEM careers. Many first year college engineering programs and high schools with pre-engineering curriculum have incorporated spatial visualization training into their courses. However, there is no reason why spatial visualization training could not occur at a much younger age, like elementary school. Often at the high school and college level, the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations (PSVT:R), which is recognized as a gold standard assessment tool, is used to measure students’ spatial skills learning gains. The PSVT:R is a 20 minute timed test consisting of 30 three-dimensional rotations problems. While the PSVT:R test has been well validated, there are benefits to developing alternative methods of assessing spatial visualization skills suitable for elementary school grades. Researchers at XXX developed an assembly pre- and post- test based upon a timed Lego™ exercise. Students are timed to see how long it would take them to build small Lego shapes using only a picture of the final assembly, but no instructions. The test was implemented at the beginning and then at themore »end of the quarter/semester. The beauty of this assessment is that it lends itself well to K-12 students. The 20 minute, timed PSVT:R test is too challenging for elementary aged children and is not engaging. In order to validate the new instrument, the Lego™ Assembly test was implemented in a pilot study in 2 college freshman engineering courses using students who could do both the PSVT:R and the Lego Assembly™ assessments. At the beginning of the class all students took the PSVT:R test, and half the students performed a Lego™ assembly of one shape and the other half did the assembly test with another shape. During the class the students completed spatial visualization training which taught them how to sketch orthographic and isometric assignments using a mobile sketching app. At the end of the class the PSVT:R test was repeated for all students. The Lego Assembly™ test was also completed, but the students switched which shape they were building. This approach allowed us to normalize the difficulty of the assembly tasks based upon the average time it took to build the shapes in the pre-test. The Lego Assembly™ test was first implemented in winter and spring of 2018. The data showed a correlation of the R-Squared of 0.11 between the assembly times and the PSVT:R scores in pre-test and 0.14 in post-test. However, analysis of the assembly times indicated that the difficulty of the 2 Lego shapes were significantly different, which could skew the normalization of the assembly times. Accordingly, the test was repeated in winter and spring 2019 with Lego shapes of similar difficulty. This paper describes the results of the assembly tess in all 4 classes, and its suitability for a spatial visualization assessment for elementary school age students.« less
  4. School Improvement Grants (SIGs) exemplify a capacity-building investment to spur sustainable changes in America’s persistently lowest-performing schools and stimulate the economy. This study examines both short- and longer-term effects of the first two cohorts of SIG schools from four locations across the country. Dynamic difference-in-differences models show that SIGs’ effects on achievement in Grades 3 to 8, as measured by state test scores in math and English language arts, gradually increased over the three reform years and were largely sustained for 3 or 4 years afterward. Evidence on high school graduation rates, though less robust, also suggests SIGs had positive effects. SIGs’ effects on students of color and low-socioeconomic-status students were similar to or significantly larger than the overall effects.

  5. Abstract Background

    To inform STEM education for benefiting emerging bilingual (EB) and English fluent (EF) students, the present study evaluated the order effects of integrating science and arts within a large-scale, ongoing effort investigating the efficacies of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) methodologies to provide more equitable opportunities to students to learn science through Arts integration (STEAM). The experiment examines the curriculum integrating order of implementing combinations of STEM and STEAM approaches in fifth grade life and physical science instruction, comparing (STEM → STEAM) vs (STEAM → STEM).


    Ttests and a three-way between-groups analysis of covariance examined the impact of instructional order, language fluency, and teachers’ implementation fidelity. Findings indicate similar results in life and physical sciences, in which the STEAM first approach produced significantly higher science learning gains for both EF and EB students, revealing some higher learning gains for EF students, but with greater STEAM first order effect advantages for EB students overall. While EF students show higher learning gain scores in the high fidelity classrooms, the advantage of the STEAM first order is greater for EB students in all classroom fidelity levels and even within low to moderate implementation fidelity classrooms, as may commonly occur, suchmore »that the integration order of STEAM before STEM strategy is particularly advantageous to EB learners.


    The integration pattern of leading with STEAM and following with STEM offers an important opportunity to learn for EB students, and increases equity in opportunities to learn among EB and EF learners of science. Both EB and EF students benefit similarly and significantly in high fidelity implementation classrooms. However, the gains for EF students are not significant in low fidelity implementation classrooms, while in such low fidelity implementation classrooms, the EB students still benefited significantly despite the poor implementation. These results suggest that a strong compensating STEAM first order effect advantage is possibly involved in the implementation system for the EB population of learners. Teaching science through the arts with STEAM lessons is an effective approach that can be significantly improved through introducing STEM units with the STEAM first order effect advantage.

    « less