The Arts and Dropout Prevention

January 9, 2018

Here at The Motivational Edge, we refer to our programs as Arts-Based Youth Development programs – because, while our students do learn to create art and engage in self-expression, they also develop skills and confidence in areas far beyond the creation of a new song, poem, or work of art. As the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPCN) explains in a recent white paper, titled “The Arts and Dropout Prevention: The Power of Art to Engage,” involvement in arts education has been shown to improve students’ abilities to:

  • Critique themselves
  • Experiment
  • Reflect
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Manage behavior
  • Make decisions
  • Maintain a positive self-concept
  • Maintain self-efficacy
  • Maintain school engagement
  • Have tolerance for others’ perspectives
  • Orient themselves toward academic goals, including college attendance and college graduation

According to NDPCN, students with high levels of involvement in the arts were five times more likely to graduate high school than those with low arts involvement. Citing data from a 2013 study by University of Maryland professor Kenneth Elpus, NDPCN explains that arts students were 20% less likely to have an out-of-school suspension for each year of arts studied. Further, arts students were 29% more likely than their non-arts peers to have earned a four-year degree by the age of 24-32.

Moreover, NDPCN writes, “Students with low socioeconomic status who were deeply engaged in the arts demonstrated better academic outcomes than students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds who had less arts involvement.”

No one recognizes these benefits better than our team of Teaching Artists, who observe and support our students’ creative and personal growth firsthand. Sharing the story of one student at a Miami-Dade County juvenile residential facility, Teaching Artist Jesus “Teddy” Diaz-Aquino explains, “He used to have problems with his anger. Anything you would say would trigger him.” However, the student discovered that ME’s Lyrical Expression program helped him connect with other youth and express himself in a healthier way. “He found music as a way to bridge the gap and make his time in the program go by smoothly,” Teddy says. “He went and got his GED, and now he started community college.”

100% of seniors enrolled in The Motivational Edge’s programs at our Allapattah site for the 2016-17 school year graduated high school. 83.3% went to college, while the 16.7% who did not attend college gained employment elsewhere.

NDPCN writes, “Arts education is a powerful tool that educators and policymakers can and should use more intentionally in the fight against school dropout.” By providing arts instruction and a supportive space for self-expression and growth, we at The Motivational Edge are proud to contribute to this fight, and look forward to watching our students achieve bright futures.