Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. EA 2.4 Arts Proficiency for Children in Grade 8

01/01/2000

Artistic expression is one of the key vehicles for individual creativity and for the reflection and transmission of cultural messages. An understanding and appreciation of the arts therefore helps to nurture human creativity and fosters the celebration of a diverse cultural heritage. Recent research suggests that arts education can improve student performance in other intellectual and academic areas, including math and science.39 College Board data show that children who have participated in sequential arts programs outperform their peers who have not had arts training on both the verbal and math components of the SAT.40

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) completed assessments of 8th graders’ music, visual arts, and theater skills in 1997.41 For the music and visual arts assessments, data were collected on students’ ability to respond to, analyze, or evaluate musical pieces or works of art.42 Average scores were coded on a scale of 0 to 300. Because ability scores had different ranges across music and the visual arts, comparisons should not be made between student results across disciplines. In other words, a score of 100 in the visual arts is not necessarily “better” than a score of 90 in music.

Differences by Gender. Girls outperformed boys in responding to and analyzing musical pieces (see Figure EA 2.4.A). For example, 8th-grade girls had an average music score of 160, whereas boys had an average score of 140. For evaluating visual artwork, girls’ scores were 8 points higher than boys’ scores (154 versus 146) (see Table EA 2.4).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin.43There are significant differences in students’ artistic evaluation skills by racial/ethnic group (see Table EA 2.4). White and Asian students had higher average music scores (158 and 152, respectively) than did black (130) and Hispanic students (127). A similar pattern is seen for the visual arts (see Table EA 2.4). White and Asian students had higher average scores (159 and 153, respectively) than did black or Hispanic students (124 and 128, respectively).

Differences by Parents’ Education Level.44 Consistent with other NAEP assessments, higher levels of parental education were associated with higher levels of student performance in both music and the visual arts. For example, 8th graders whose better-educated parent had graduated from college had higher music scores (159) than students whose parent(s) had some education past high school (150) or whose parent(s) graduated high school (139). Students whose better-educated parent did not finish high school had the lowest scores (129) (see Figure EA 2.4.B). The same pattern is evident for the visual arts scores.

Differences by Type of School. Students from nonpublic schools had higher scores for the visual arts (167) than did students from public schools (148). The same pattern held true for music scores (see Table EA 2.4).

 

39 Kane, E., & Frankonis, E. May. 1998. Arts Education in the New Millennium. Education New York 2 (5): 3.
40 Childress, J. May. 1998. Art Education Pays Off. Education New York, 2 (5): 5.
41 Unlike other NAEP assessments that are typically conducted on nationally representative samples of students in grades 4, 8, and 12, the 1997 arts assessments were conducted on grade 8 students only. This was due to budgetary constraints.
Because the theater assessment was conducted on a "targeted" sample rather than a nationally representative sample, results are not presented here. Finally, although NAEP conducted an arts assessment in music and visual arts in 1974 and 1978, considerable changes were made to the 1997 assessment such that comparable data for trends analyses are not possible. Therefore, only results from the 1997 NAEP music and visual arts assessments are presented here.
42 Students were also scored on their ability to create and perform works of art; however, only students’ ability to respond to art will be discussed here.
43 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
44 Parents’ education level refers to the highest level of education completed by either parent.

 

Table EA 2.4 Average music and visual arts proficiencya for children in grade 8 in the United States, by gender, race and Hispanic origin,b parents’ education level,c and type of school: 1997

  Music  Visual Arts
Total 150 150
Gender
Male 140 146
Female 160 154
Race and Hispanic origin
White d 158 159
Black d 130 124
Hispanic d 127 128
Asian 152 153
Parents’ education level b
Less than high school 129 125
Graduated high school 139 138
Some education after high school 150 153
Graduated college 159 158
Type of school
Public 149 148
Nonpublic 158 167

a The music and visual arts scale scores range from 0 to 300.
b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
c Parents’ education level refers to the highest level of education completed by either parent.
d Non-Hispanic.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1997 Arts
Assessment. As published in Persky, Sandene, & Askew, 1999, Tables 6.4, 6.5, 6.7, 6.8, 6.10, 6.11, 6.13, and 6.14.

 

Figure EA 2.4.A Average music and visual arts proficiency scoresa for children in grade 8 in the United States, by gender: 1997

a The music and visual arts scale scores range from 0 to 300.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Tables 6.4 and 6.5.

 

Figure EA 2.4.B Average music and visual arts proficiency scoresa for children in grade 8 in the United States, by parents’ education level:b 1997

a The music and visual arts scale scores range from 0 to 300.
b Parents’ education level refers to the highest level of education completed by either parent.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress , Tables 6.13 and 6.14.

 

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