The inclusion of arts in the general curriculum
Including arts in the general curriculum can improve learning for all students. In 1987, South Carolina instituted program entitled Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC). The purpose of the program was to ensure that each student in the state received a comprehensive education in the arts, including dance, drama, music, visual arts, and creative writing. This study examined passing rates of third grade students at sixteen elementary schools that participated in the ABC program. Test data from the Basic Skills Assessment Program was utilized and included three subject areas: Reading, Math and Science. Test data was collected for the two years preceding ABC membership and from the first two years each school participated in the program. The first hypothesis predicted a significant increase in the schools' passing rates on the BSAP two years after becoming ABC members. A significant increase was seen in Reading and Math, but not in Science. Although these findings supported the hypothesis, the study did not propose that this increase was due solely to the inclusion of arts. Other factors such as curriculum initiatives, leadership and classroom level changes were not controlled for in this study and may have also affected the passing rates. Some of the test data included in this study was collected from school years when South Carolina was instituting curriculum initiatives in the areas of Reading and Math, but not in Science. These efforts could have contributed to the increased passing rates and therefore, a clear assumption cannot be made that participation in the ABC program was the determining factor. The second hypothesis predicted a significant increase in passing rates by gender and racial groups at schools with ABC membership. Although a significant increase was found in the area of Reading for African American females, the standard deviation for this group was extremely large and caused dramatic variability. Therefore, the results can be misleading and should be interpreted with caution. Future research, which consists of control groups, a longer time period, and a consistent sample, would benefit this area of study. For example, a study comparing test scores of different dance and performing arts groups from arts schools with traditional students could be instructive. It is important to note that consistent samples over a significant length of time that control for curriculum initiatives and changes in school staff would increase the usefulness of study results.