Keeping Students on Track to Graduation

Posted by Doug Israel, Sep 15, 2011 0 comments

Doug Israel

Most people these days would not disagree with the notion that the first step to a promising career, in any field, is attaining a high school diploma.

Sure, there are some well-known exceptions (see: Johnny Depp, Chris Rock, Peter Jennings, Britney Spears, and “Wendy’s” Dave Thomas), but good paying jobs are few and far between for those that don’t graduate from high school.

In fact, earning a diploma increases the likelihood of steady employment by 30 percent and cuts the chances of experiencing poverty in half. Despite this, today, in the United States, more than one million students across the United States drop out of high school each year.

The good news is that there is evidence from the field that shows that the arts can play a role in reversing this trend.

In several national studies over the past decade, students at risk of dropping out cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying in school. Research has also shown that arts education has had a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance.

And what we found here in New York City, based on an analysis of over 200 public city high schools (we are a system of over 1,500 public schools K-12) is that schools that provide their students with the most access to arts instruction have the highest graduation rates. You can read and download the full report on our website.

So, this evidence raises several important questions: How can we as parents, educators, and civic leaders, better infuse arts education into discussions about and strategies for turning around struggling schools? And how can we make sure that our child’s principal understands the value of the arts in creating a positive school environment in which students thrive?

The short answer is that we need to keep beating the drum.

The long answer is that we need to be more strategic as we beat the drum. We need to form more strategic partnerships, to share knowledge and evidence with those who are less familiar with the power and value of an arts education, and to help them mobilize as arts advocates, and we need to be at the educational decision-making table.

Otherwise, we’ll be marching to the beat of our own drum while the parade leaves town.

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