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About the Issues

There is a plethora of empirically based evidence that shows the positive impact of high quality arts education in our nation’s school.  Along with various leading organization in the field of arts education, we invite you investigate the benefits of studying the arts!

The American Alliance for Theatre & Education outlines how drama programs specifically help to improve scholastic and psychological performance.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between drama involvement and academic achievement. In addition to having higher standardized test scores than their peers who do not experience the arts, student who participate in drama often experience improved reading comprehension, maintain better attendance records, and stay generally more engaged in school than their non-arts counterparts. Schools with arts-integrated programs, even in low-income areas, report high academic achievement.

The College Entrance Examination Board reported student scores from 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005 using data from the Student Description Questionnaire indicating student involvement in various activities, including the arts. As compared to their peers with no arts coursework or involvement:

  • Students involved in drama performance scored an average of 65.5 points higher on the verbal component and 35.5 points higher in the math component of the SAT

  • Students who took courses in drama study or appreciation scored, on average, 55 points higher on verbal and 26 points higher on math than their non-arts classmates

  • In 2005, students involved in drama performance outscored the national average SAT score by 35 points on the verbal portion and 24 points on the math section


Research indicates that involvement in the arts increases student engagement and encourages consistent attendance, and that drop-out rates correlate with student levels of involvement in the arts.

  • Students considered to be at high risk for dropping out of high school cite drama and other arts classes as their motivations for staying in school

  • Students who participate in the arts are 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance than those who do not


From learning to read to the in-depth study of Shakespearean literature, drama can play a significant role in the continual development of students’ reading comprehension skills. Studies indicate that not only do the performance of a story and a number of other drama activities in the classroom contribute to a student’s understanding of the work performed, but these experiences also help them to develop a better understanding of other works and of language and expression in general.  The results below were gleaned from studies where educators and students alike noticed a difference when drama played a part in their classrooms.

  • A series of studies on the arts and education revealed a consistent causal link between performing texts in the classroom and the improvement of a variety of verbal skills, including especially significant increases in story recall and understanding of written material

  • Performance of Shakespeare texts helps to improve students’ understanding of other complex texts including science and math material

  • Drama can improve reading skills and comprehension better than other activities, including discussion


In addition to building social and communication skills overall, involvement in drama courses and performance has been shown to improve students’ self-esteem as well as their confidence in their academic abilities.

  • High school students who are highly involved in drama demonstrate an elevated self-concept over those who are not involved

  • Playwriting original works and dramatic presentation of existing works can help to build the self-esteem and communication skills of high school students

  • The act of performing can help students and youth recognize their potential for success and improve their confidence


Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, there has been a national focus on closing the “achievement gap” between students of varying abilities, socioeconomic status, and geographies among other factors that may directly or indirectly affect a student’s academic success.  The arts, including drama, address this issue by catering to different styles of learning, and engaging students who might not otherwise take significant interest in academics.  Additionally, research indicates that drama courses and performance have a particularly positive effect on at-risk youth and students with learning disabilities.

To read more research from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education, please visit their website.


In May 2011 The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) released its landmark report Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools. The culmination of 18 months of research, meetings with stakeholders, and site visits all over the country, this report represents an in-depth review of the current condition of arts education, including an update of the current research base about arts education outcomes, and an analysis of the challenges and opportunities in the field that have emerged over the past decade. It also includes a set of recommendations to federal, state and local policymakers. A summary of the report is here.  On April 23, 2012 PCAH announced the creation of The President’s Committee’s Turnaround Arts Initiative, created in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, as a public-private partnership designed to help transform some the nation’s lowest performing schools through comprehensive and integrated arts education. See for more information on the initiative.

A study of 2000 students, grade 4-8, offers empirical evidence that young people with in-school arts programs develop a higher level of creativity, fluency, originality, elaboration, and resistance to closure than those who are not exposed to a high level of arts in schools.

To download the full study from the Kennedy Center’s Arts Edge, click HERE.

A position paper by The California Educational Theatre Association (CETA) that demonstrates that the real driving force behind dramatic arts is what it does for the emotional, physical, and cognitive abilities of the student. This study also touches on the value of education in the business world and the keystones of quality theatre education.

To download the full paper from the California Educational Theatre Association (CETA), click HERE.

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