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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visual Arts and Academic Achievement


The focus on academic performance testing in elementary schools has caused a decrease in student experience in the arts. Visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage) have been minimized in elementary schools. Without exposure to the special avenues of cognitive development and personal expression nurtured by visual arts, students are not able to meet their full potential. This action research examined the role of visual arts in elementary schools in a rural area of California. Teachers, parents, and students were surveyed, interviewed, and observed; and artifacts were collected to determine whether visual arts were valued for intrinsic or instrumental contributions. Findings suggest visual arts are highly valued by the elementary school community and are well integrated by some teachers. Importantly, if classroom teachers are expected to integrate art effectively, meet the California Visual Art Standards, and help children grow in this domain then there must be either explicit training in the visual arts for elementary classroom teachers or a requirement for providing art specialists.

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