Mission Statement
The arts in all their creative forms are at the very core of all learning experiences throughout the Tulsa Public Schools system.  Recognizing the years of solid research that clearly demonstrate that when the arts are present in every classroom every day the atmosphere at the school is more creative, student test scores improve markedly, student behavior improves noticeably, absenteeism diminishes greatly, and students stay in school longer and are better prepared to enter college and the work force, the arts MUST be allotted both the necessary class time and financial resources.
How the Research Supports the Mission Statement

The evidence mounts as a decade of new studies continues to underscore the benefits of arts education for our children.  The following quotes, selected from a vast body of arts education research and commentary. provide  supporting testimony for each of the five advantages of arts education outlined in the Mission Statement. Perhaps no statement is more powerful to introduce the importance of the effort to transform our schools than this one by Richard Deasy, Director of the Arts Education Partnership, in the Preface to the important research study Third Space:

“While the arts can indeed engage students in ways that contribute to their success on standard measures of achievement, we began to see that they play an even richer and more profound role in preparing students to cope in the present and contribute in the future in an America and a world of enormous opportunities and equally enormous conflicts….The challenge to American education has never been simply to raise test scores–that is a relatively recent and limited goal. The challenge has always been to raise citizens who are capable of active participation in the social, cultural, political, and economic life of the world’s longest experiment in democracy, an experiment demanding a free, educated, and committed citizenry. We were amazed to discover anew the role of the arts in realizing that vision and creating that democracy. That is the larger story we believe Third Space can tell.  That is why we offer it as a compelling reason to fully embrace the arts in our schools. It’s how to sustain our democracy.”

5 Advantages

The atmosphere of the school is more creative.

The arts improve the school climate.  Schools organized around the arts look, sound, and feel different.  The schools the researchers visited were attractive, warm, welcoming and visually exciting.  Gaining the Arts Advantage:  Lessons From School Districts That Value Arts Education. 2000.

At the heart of all the work (in arts education) is the continuing conviction that the greatest gift we can give the next generation is a rigorous, flexible, and creative education that allows them to meet the world as it comes to them and perhaps even fashion it into something new. (From AEP conference report, All Together Now, February 2009.

The arts transform the environment for learning.  When the arts become central to the learning environment, schools and other settings become places of discovery….Figurative walls between classrooms and disciplines are broken down.  Teachers are renewed.  Even the physical appearance of a school building is transformed through the representations of learning.  Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning.  1999.

Sir Kenneth Robinson, a leading thinker and speaker on creativity, has said, “We do not grow into creativity, we grow out of it – or rather, we are educated out of it.”  For ages, traditional education, with its emphasis on rote learning and memorization of static facts, has valued conformity over novelty of thought.  But in today’s world of global competition and task automation, innovative capacity and a creative spirit are fast becoming requirements for personal and professional success. Robinson says, in fact, that humanity’s future depends on our ability to “reconstitute our conception of human capacity” and place creativity and innovation in the forefront of our educational systems. The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework.  2006.  The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Innovation is crucial to competition, and creativity is integral to innovation.  In November 2007, The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the American Association of School Administrators, surveyed public school superintendents and American business executives (employers) to identify and compare their views surrounding creativity.  Overwhelmingly, both the superintendents who educated future workers and the employers who hire them agree that creativity is increasingly important in the U.S. workplaces, yet there is a gap between understanding the truth and putting it into meaningful practice.  Ready to Innovate:  Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce.  March 2008.  The Conference Board.


A recent national poll conducted by Lake Research Partners has identified a new and growing constituency of voters in America who advocate building capacities of the imagination in public education. This population of self-identified voters will readily and strongly support public education that answers the call for innovation and goes beyond its current focus on the “so-called” basics to meet the changing demands of the 21st century….While voters recognize that building capacities of the imagination rests primarily with an education in and through the arts, they also believe that the arts are essential to invigorating the teaching of other fundamental school subjects and that incorporating imagination across the curriculum produces the strongest results. The Imagination Nation, 2008. 


U.S. leadership depends on creativity and innovation and not technology alone in order to compete in the global marketplace. Strong skills in the arts are essential qualities needed for success in the workplace: creative and innovative; self-disciplined and well organized; team players who are flexible and adaptable to change; facility with the use of ideas and abstractions. Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report on the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006).

Student test scores improve.

In studying the impact of arts education on cognitive development, neuroscientists from seven universities across the country used brain imaging studies and behavioral assessments to advance our understanding of the effects of music, dance and drama education on other types of learning.  The findings from their coordinated three-year study suggest that children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other academic subject areas.  From Arts Facts from Americans for the Arts on the Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition (Learning, Arts, and the Brain, 2008).

Recent developments in cognitive science and neuroscience help explain the power of the arts.  These developments have shown that “the mind is embodied - that brain and body make up a single, fully integrated cognitive system.  Scientists have found that most thought occurs on a level well below our conscious control and awareness and involves the processing of a continual stream of sensory information.  We consistently represent the abstract through metaphors that we associate with physical experiences and emotions.  We speak, for example, of numbers going “up” and “down” or of ideas “flowing” from person to person.  Physical sensation and emotion are essential components of the mind, as integral to thought and learning as logic is.  In fact, logic may not be possible without them. (Damasio, 2003; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).Arts at the Core: Every School, Every Student.  Illniois Arts Alliance, 2006.

Students with four years of high school arts classes have higher SAT scores than students with one-half year or less. The College Board. 2008.

We hear repeatedly that the arts are proven to help students succeed.  “A growing body of research points to the important role of the arts in improving students’ achievement and preparing them for an economy that demands creative solutions to challenging problems.  There is also evidence that the arts in education can increase students’ engagement in learning as well as their social and civic development.”Education Commission of the States.  2009.

Part of the genius of the arts as a school improvement strategy is that the arts offer a way for making excellence available, creating equity, and addressing the false tension between those two goals. In their five-year challenge, arts educators and their partners showed what it takes to achieve both equity and excellence: creating heterogeneous settings, teaching excellence, and providing students with many ways of showing what they know and can accomplish.  Annenberg Institute for School Reform, 2003.

In my judgment, this project has identified candidate genes involved in the predisposition to the arts and has also shown that cognitive improvements can be made to specific mental capacities such as geometric reasoning; that specific pathways in the brain can be identified and potentially changed during training; that sometimes it is not structural brain changes but rather changes in cognitive strategy that help solve a problem; and that early targeted music training may lead to better cognition through an as yet unknown neural mechanism.  Learning, Arts, and the Brain, Dana Foundation, 2008.

Student behavior improves.

The arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached.  Young people who are disengaged from schools and other community institutions are at the greatest risk of failure or harm.  The researchers found that the arts provided a reason, and sometimes the only reason, for being engaged with school or other organizations. Champions of Change, 1999.

Learning in certain arts activities promotes student growth in self-confidence, self-control, self-identity, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance.Critical Links, 2002.

Where schools and communities are delivering high-quality learning opportunities in, through, and about the arts for children, extraordinary results occur.  A recent study by the Arts Education Partnership, Third Space: When Learning Matters, finds that schools with large populations of students in economic poverty – too often places of frustration and failure for both students and teachers – can be transformed into vibrant hubs of learning when the arts are infused into their culture and curriculum. Arts Education: Creating Student Success in School, Work and Life.  A coalition of national arts and arts education advocacy organizations. 2006.

The YouthARTS Development Project demonstrated the efficacy of arts programs for at-risk youth in three cities (Atlanta, Portland, and San Antonion).  The project was a partnership between Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Findings from the research show development of (1) skills needed to manage anger, communicate effectively with adults and peers and work cooperatively with others, as well as an increased ability to work on tasks from start to finish, (2) improvement of attitudes and behavior and (3) less involvement with the courts.Arts Facts.  Americans for the Arts, 2007.

Absenteeism diminishes.

Learning in the arts nurtures motivation, including active engagement, disciplined and sustained attention, persistence and risk taking.  It also increases attendance and educational aspirations. Critical Links, 2002.

Whenever the research teams went in arts-based schools, they were greeted by smiles.  Students, teachers, administrators said, “We are like a family.” “We support one another.”  “This is our place.”  The occupants of arts-centered schools see themselves as members of communities – communities that they have a role in creating and sustaining. Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons From School Districts That Value Arts Education. 2000.

The arts provide one alternative for states looking to build the workforce of tomorrow—a choice growing in popularity and esteem.  The arts can provide effective learning opportunities to the general student population, yielding increased academic performance, reduced absenteeism, and better skill- building.  An even more compelling advantage is the striking success of arts- based educational programs among disadvantaged populations, especially at- risk and incarcerated youth.  For at-risk youth, that segment of society most likely to suffer from limited lifetime productivity, the arts contribute to lower recidivism rates; increased self-esteem; the acquisition of job skills; and the development of much needed creative thinking, problem solving and communications skills.  Involvement in the arts is one avenue by which at- risk youth can acquire the various competencies necessary to become economically self-sufficient over the long term, rather than becoming a financial strain on their states and communities. NGA Center for Best Practices, 2001.  

The arts contribute to reducing dropout rates. Rising student drop rates have become a cause for concern in Massachusetts. Because the arts engage students in learning, they are more likely to attend school and less likely to drop out. Numerous studies have documented this effect of arts education. For example, the Texas Music Educators Association, along with the Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education conducted a study that reported participation in fine arts courses leads to higher academic ratings and lower dropout rates in Texas middle schools and high schools.   Research-Based Communication Tool Kit,2006.  National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

Students stay in school longer and are better prepared to enter college and the work force.

In June, we received the 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) in the Arts results for music and visual arts.  I was reminded of the important role that arts education plays in providing American students with a well-rounded education.  The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.  These qualities can be especially important in improving learning among students from economically disadvantaged circumstances. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, August 2009.

Analyzing data from more than 200 New York City schools over a two-year period, this report shows that schools in the top third in graduation rates offered their students the most access to arts education and the most resources that support arts education. Schools in the bottom third in graduation rates consistently offer the least access and fewest resources.  This pattern held true for nine key indicators that convey a school’s commitment to arts education.  Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates.  The Center for Arts Education.  October 2009.

Creativity and innovation will be among the most prized skills in the future workforce.  Each child needs to develop his/her abilities to think creatively, to develop ways to work collaboratively to solve problems.  The arts provide avenues to develop these abilities as well as to improve both verbal and non-verbal communication. Committing to Quality in education:  Arts at the Core, A Guideline and Planning Tool. Illinois Arts Alliance, 2008.

As this country works to strengthen our foothold in the global economy, the arts equip students with a creative, competitive edge.  To succeed in today’s economy of ideas, students must masterfully use words, images, sounds, and motion to communicate. The arts provide the skills and knowledge students need to develop the creativity and determination necessary for success in today’s global information age.  Arts Education: Creating Student Success in School, Work and Life.  A coalition of national arts and arts education advocacy organizations. 2006.

Arts in the schools increase test scores and lower dropout rates.  Critical Links contains 62 academic research studies that, taken together, demonstrate that arts education helps close the achievement gap, improves academic skills essential for reading and language development, and advances student’s motivation to learn.  Arts Facts. Americans for the Arts. 2007.

86% of voters believe that, often today, education is stifling and losing children.  Arts, music and similar courses can engage a number of children who will be missed otherwise in learning and in school.  Through these courses, we can help a number of children stay in school and learn a variety of skills and habits they need for life. Lake Research Partners, December 2007

In a recent study of several art classes in Boston-area schools (Studio Thinking), we found that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the curriculum - and that far from being irrelevant in a test-driven education system, arts education is becoming even more important as standardized tests … exert a narrowing influence over what schools teach….While students in art classes learn techniques specific to art …they’re also taught a remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school. Such skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. All are important to numerous careers, but are widely ignored by today’s standardized tests. Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland, “Art for Our Sake: Art Classes Matter More Than Ever-But Not for the Reasons You Think.” The Boston Globe, September 2, 2007.

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