Arts for Academic Achievements Program in Houston County Schools

The continuous developments to educational programs and curriculums imply the existence of areas that might benefit students and enhance their basic skills. One of the most important basic skills that are crucial for further students’ development is reading. One of the areas of implementation enhancing the overall academic achievement of students was found recently to be arts education.

A causal link has been established between arts education and academic achievement. Considering the aforementioned aspects, this paper is addressed toward measuring the effect of implementing Arts for Academic Achievement (AAA) program in Houston County schools for the purpose of increasing students reading skills.

In this section of the study proposal overview of the problem will be introduced, as well as the significance of this study for the schools in Houston County schools in particular and the academic achievement level in general. Additionally, a review of the literature will summarize the theoretical framework that has been established in that field.


In order to address reading deficiencies for students in grades K-6 of Houston County Schools, the study examines the effect of integrating arts into reading instructions. A program was developed for that purpose that will ensure the successful implementation of the arts into the curriculum. Other areas of integration of the A+ (Arts for Academic Achievement) program include increasing motivation, learning and reducing discipline. In that regard this study analyzes the effect of the integration on the level of academic achievement in reading skills.

The pressure to improve achievement levels by reaching those students considered at risk of failure in reading is a central issue for educational reform (GADOE, 2008). School districts are facing new challenges that require careful attention to state standards and accountability requirements along with additional federal mandates which are addressed in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2004; Postlewaite, 2004).

Educators in Houston County Schools are facing a major challenge to improve elementary school reading scores for low achieving students in the district. The marked differences in reading skills for students from poverty and minority groups, revealed by Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT), and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), imply the need of an increased attention to developing reading skills and accordingly to assessment of the implemented methods.

In the field of education, stakeholders continuously strive to create innovative and interesting ways to teach the curriculum. Student’s learning styles are different and therefore there should be a variety of learning methods in place for instruction (Blumenfield et al. 1991). The research from this study provides data which can improve instructional methods in the reading classroom and assist all students in becoming successful.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of the integration of arts into the Houston County Schools’ curriculum and the reading achievements of the student. Another purpose was established to specifically examine the achievements of a particular group of students not performing well in reading with socioeconomically disadvantaged conditions.

Review of literature

Research supports the benefits of arts education in developing reading skills and improving student discipline resulting in increased academic achievement. Arts integration is significantly related to gains in reading scores for all in 3rd thru 5th grades, and is more effective for students from low socioeconomic homes (Ingram & Ridel, 2003). Earlier results shown at the Title One program, at the end of 1998-99, that 90% of kindergartners, who were taught in Fayette County Public schools in Kentucky, read above the grade level. (Richards, 2003) In the arts-based Different Ways of Knowing Program, 920 elementary students in 52 classrooms had significant gains in achievement and motivation.

High-risk students with two years of arts gained sixteen points on standardized tests. Collectively, arts students had significantly higher grades across the board compared to non-arts students showing no gains (Catterall, 1995). In (SPECTRA+) program that integrated arts into the curriculum to investigate the effect on creative thinking, academic achievement and the self esteem, the results of 615 participants in four schools in two districts showed significant improvements between pre –and post-test designs. Reading specifically, showed higher results between the participants and the control group. (Luftig, 2000)

Student disciplinary actions dropped 103 to 50 and suspensions from 32 to 3 during the first year of involvement in an arts integrated curriculum. In addition, state writing scores for 4th grades improved 30 percentile points (College of Education, University of North Carolina-Greensboro). Nevertheless, there is some criticism of the integration of Art into the curriculum in regard of the absence of direct indications of improvements in academic achievements.

In a study of the effect of art integration in public schools in Minneapolis, outlines the impact of additional factors through implementing Arts for Academic Achievements programs, such as the teachers’ existing conceptions of pedagogy and their experience of a supportive professional environment. The study showed mental models, supportive community, and interdisciplinary teaming contribute to the implementation of arts-infused programs. (Seashore, Anderson, & Riedel, 2003).

In that regard, articles link the increase in academic achievement to school characteristics, where it imply that teaching art in school is indicative of the schools overall higher standards and distinguished characteristics, such as “[S]chools that value the arts may attract the best kinds of academic teachers-energetic, innovative, and imaginative”, or promoting art in schools might promote “innovative, inquiry-oriented, project based academic work.” (Winner & Cooper, 2000)

Additional critique of the study of the effect of art on academic achievements lies in the characteristics of the studies that concluded of the existence of such effect. Such critique concludes that the study design that should represent the direct causal link between the Arts and academic achievement need to examine the effect of the teaching process in the control groups, where it should be identical. Additionally, teaching arts might promote certain kinds of attitudes that have such an effect on academic achievement, where promoting such attitudes separately from arts integration might achieve the same results. (Eisner, 1999)

It is anticipated that with the successful implementation of the A+ program, increased reading skills of the students will allow achieving higher academic levels in other different subjects. Although 3400 elementary students are participating in this program and will benefit from its successful implementation, wider expansion of the program can predict achieving similar results on a state level program.

The research from this study provides data which can improve instructional methods in the reading classroom and assist all students in becoming successful. Developing new programs and motivating students to learn are key ways to the improvement of achievement and success in the classroom (Newell, 2003).

It can be seen that the development of arts into curriculum approach is an issue of a great importance.

Through the literature review, the implications of different studies support the need of a wider examination of the results of such integration. This project will be tailored to the unique needs of Houston County Schools’ students. The specific goals are:

  1. To increase academic achievement by incorporating reading, critical thinking and learning to learn skills and strategies into comprehensive arts in education program including visual and performing arts.
  2. To reduce student discipline by increasing motivation and academic achievement through increased participation in the arts.


The present section of the paper outlines the research method for the established study project. The section covers the study design, sampling and setting, data collection, and measures.

The chosen design is a quantitative panel study of a longitudinal data analysis of test results. The A+ program will be implemented for approximately 3400 elementary students in grades K-6 in Houston County Schools. The students will be engaged through interdisciplinary activities such as drama, music, and visual performing art activities.

These activities will be correlated to the current reading program in language arts and reading in content areas. The time frame for the study was set to be between June 2009 and June 2012. The design was chosen as longitudinal panel studies due to the possibility to measure the same sample of respondents at different points in time, where the net change and the gross change in the dependable variable, i.e. reading tests’ results, will be revealed. Additionally a quantitative non experimental analysis will be conducted through surveys that would be conducted for teachers in the Houston County Schools assessing the opinion on the Arts for Academic Achievement program.

The Setting and the Sample

The setting is Houston County district schools, where 169 elementary classrooms were selected to participate in this program. Schools include Ashford Elementary School, Cottonwood High School, Rehobeth Elementary School, Rehobeth Middle School, Webb Elementary School, and Wicksburg High School. The sampling techniques that would be used is stratified sampling, where the formed strata is of 3400 elementary students in grades K-6 of Houston County Schools and the sample chosen for examination is the 658 minority students and a sample of approximately 1002 students living in poverty conditions.

Data collection and analysis

Data will be collected to determine the program’s impact on student academic achievement, motivation and discipline. Longitudinal data analysis of Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT): Reading Subtest and DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) will be conducted determining if a minimum 2% annual increase in academic achievement has occurred. Baseline comparative data will include spring 2009 results.

The results will be compiled annually starting with spring 2010 and then compared to the previous years’ achievement data. Student discipline office referrals will be compiled and compared beginning with baseline data. The end of year data discipline for 2009 will be added to the existing baseline data. Comparison for program effectiveness will begin with the end of year discipline data for 2010. The A+ Leadership Team will conduct surveys using a Likert rating scale of 1-5 (representing strongly disagree to strongly agree) determining teachers, students, and parents attitudes and perceptions regarding program impact in the areas of students’ academic achievement, motivation to learn, and discipline.

An open ended question will be included to provide opportunity for respondents to express any other observations, concerns or recommendations. An annual comparative analysis of survey data and longitudinal achievement data will be conducted to determine the ongoing effectiveness of the A+ program. Quarterly meetings of the A+ Leadership Team will be held to determine program effectiveness and to address concerns related to program implementation and goal attainment.

Regarding the differences between the teachers participating in the reading curriculum the differences would be eliminated as the teachers would be teaching the same groups prior to the implementation of the program. In that sense, No difference would be examined as the effects would be studied to the grades prior to the implementation of the program. In that sense, the limitations of the study could be represented as the possible variations of teaching style and the influence of external factor on the assessment of the Art for Academic Achievement program effect. These factors might include individual characteristics of the students and natural changes in behaviors and attitudes through the study time frame.


Allan G Richards. (2003). Arts and academic achievement in reading: Functions and implications. Art Education, 56(6), 19-23. Web.

Ellen Winner, Monica Cooper. (2000). Mute those claims: No evidence (yet) for a casual link between arts study and academic achievement. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 11. Web.

Elliot W Eisner. (1998). A response to Catterall. Art Education, 51(4), 12. Web.

Elliot W Eisner. (1999). Does experience in the arts boost academic achievement? The Clearing House, 72(3), 143-149. Web.

Ingram, D., & Riedel, E. (2003). What Does Arts Integration Do for Students? : University of Minnesota.

Richard L Luftig. (2000). An investigation of an arts infusion program on creative thinking, academic achievement, affective functioning, and arts appreciation of children at three grade levels. Studies in Art Education, 41(3), 208. Web.

Seashore, K. R., Anderson, A. R., & Riedel, E. (2003). Implementing Arts for Academic Achievement:The Impact of Mental Models, Professional Community and Interdisciplinary Teaming. Minnesota: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.