Visual and Performing Arts and the Academic Achievement of English Language Learners And Students In Poverty

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Wanda Maulding

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


Arts education has survived at the margins of education primarily as curriculum enrichments, though scientific study reveals that cognition depends on a balance and a variety of media and symbolic form. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether arts education, as measured by standardized achievement scores, made a difference in students who have a high risk of failing---English language learners (ELs) and economically disadvantaged learners (EDs)---in three levels of art instruction: no art, art instruction by specialists, and art integrated in the core curriculum. The research was conducted in three parts. The first study evaluated elementary school groups classified into the three levels of art instruction. The results of this analysis indicated that the level of art instruction made a difference on the achievement scores of school groups with integrated art having the highest scores. There was not a measurable difference among the three levels of art instruction for the EL or ED student, although there was a significant difference among the ELs and non-ELS and the EDs and non-EDs. ELs and EDs had the lowest scores. The second quantitative study evaluated individual student scores from two elementary schools. One school had art taught by specialists and one school had art integrated into the core curriculum. The analysis indicated that in regard to EL and ED status, there was a significant difference. The EL and the ED students in the school with the integrated arts program had higher scores than in the school with art specialists. The final study was qualitative. Six principals, representing schools of three levels of art instruction, were interviewed. All of the schools represented in the interviews described programs that draw on the artistic resources of their communities; viewed student achievement and school improvement as pivotal to their mission; believed in engaging teachers, arts specialists, and artists from all disciplines in serious inquiry; reflected on each school's particular strengths; and raised funds from outside the school system to support their arts education. Additionally, central to the success of each of these schools was active parental participation.