In a new report, the state government arts agency, the California Arts Council, says the $10.4 million it spent over two years to boost arts education in elementary and secondary schools bore fruit. According to the report, titled "Arts Lab 101: The Results Are In," the money paid for 58 programs that brought visual artists, writers and performers into nearly 500 schools statewide during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years.
About 75% of the programs were geared toward improving language ability and literacy -- especially for students from non-English-speaking households or who were considered at risk of failing.
An independent analysis done for the council by WestEd, a San Francisco-based research institute, found anecdotal evidence from several of the programs that students' writing improved and absenteeism decreased.
The arts education initiative, originally designed to last three to five years, was discontinued after two years because of drastic budget cuts brought on by the state's fiscal crisis. As a result, a planned systematic analysis of the program's impact, based on standardized test scores, was not carried out.
Still, arts council chair Barbara George says the programs proved that "clearly, the arts are a catalyst affecting how students learn."