The Results are in: Wolf Trap’s Arts-Integrated Education Model Boosts Young Children’s Math Achievement

Vienna, Va. (January 20, 2015) – At a time when educators and policymakers are placing a high priority on quality early childhood education, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts today announced results of a four-year study showing that its arts integration teaching model bolsters young children’s math achievement. Additional resources, including a summary video with classroom demonstrations and the complete research report, may be accessed at www.wolftrap.org/StemArtsStudy.

Conducted by independent evaluators at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Findings from the Evaluation of the Wolf Trap Arts in Education Model (the Study) examined the effects of an arts-integrated teaching approach on teachers’ practice and students’ math knowledge. Key findings include that:

  • Students participating in Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) demonstrate better math achievement, as compared to control groups and as measured by the Early Math Diagnostic Assessment, a standard evaluation tool. 
  • Wolf Trap’s teacher-training includes all measurable features of high-quality professional development.
  • Lessons taught by Wolf Trap-trained teachers demonstrate higher levels of arts integration, particularly with respect to linking arts with math learning. 

“The effects found in this Study are quite promising and larger than the effects found in many impact studies of education interventions,” commented Study co-author Dr. Mengli Song of AIR.

While numerous studies show links between arts-integration and positive student outcomes1, as well as the connection between early math skills and later school achievement2, this Study is unique in that it examined early childhood arts-integration as it relates to math learning and teacher practice. Arts-integrated learning combines content and skills from the arts with core subjects such as language, literacy and math. For example, in a pre-kindergarten classroom, a teacher might integrate mathematics and music by teaching number sense and steady beat together so that learning in one subject enhances learning in the other.

“Early childhood is the critical time for learning, and we know that children learn best by ‘doing,’ moving, playing and experiencing. The very skills children need to succeed – problem-solving, creativity, collaboration – are intrinsic to arts-integrated learning,” said Akua Kouyate-Tate, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. “By giving educators the tools to effectively deliver arts-integrated lessons, Wolf Trap’s programs are having a significant positive impact on students’ achievement.”

Teachers who participated in the Study received up to 101 hours of professional development, including ongoing coaching from Wolf Trap Teaching Artists. Students received the benefit of a teacher well versed in effective arts-integration strategies, as well as two 16-session in-class residencies with a Wolf Trap Teaching Artist.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination” program, the randomized, controlled study took place over four years across 22 Fairfax County Public Schools. The same grant contributed to the replication of Wolf Trap’s program to 16 other Affiliate sites across the nation.

Wolf Trap president and CEO Arvind Manocha stated: “Parents, educators and policymakers are all looking for effective ways to reach students at the early childhood stage. Wolf Trap’s goal has always been to support children’s development, and to lay the foundation for future learning. This Study is validating, and offers exciting new insights into what works in early childhood education.”

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Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts presents and produces a full range of performance and education programs in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, as well as nationally and internationally. Wolf Trap’s education programs include the nationally acclaimed Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, which provides innovative arts-based teaching strategies and services to early childhood teachers, caregivers, and children from birth through Kindergarten.

References

  1. For related research on arts teaching strategies, see: Catterall, Dumais, & Hampden-Thompson, 2012; Upitis & Smithrim, 2003; Wilcox, R.A., Bridges, S.L., & Montgomery, D., 2010.
  2. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C.J., Classens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A.C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). “School readiness and later achievement,” Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446
For more information, interview requests and images, please contact:

Michelle Pendoley, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
michellep@wolftrap.org
O: (703) 255-1917
C: (703) 203-4794