Schools that participated in an arts-integration model had consistently higher average scores on district reading and math assessments.

Although No Child Left Behind has prompted many districts to focus on core subject areas and ignore or cut arts education programs, a new federal report suggests that’s a wrong approach.

Released May 6, the report reveals that arts education might help student achievement in these core areas and is essential to the nation’s future competitiveness—and it urges school leaders to try creative approaches to arts education during the school day.

Compiled by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), the report is titled “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.” It is the first federal analysis of arts education data of its kind in a decade.

“To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in the report’s foreword. “The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education.”

For more on fostering creativity among students:

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Sowing the seeds of creativity

Developed in response to President Obama’s Arts Policy Campaign Platform, the report presents five recommendations to help schools incorporate the arts into other disciplines:

  1. Build robust collaborations among different approaches to arts education.
  2. Develop the field of arts integration.
  3. Expand in-school opportunities for teaching artists.
  4. Use federal and state policies to reinforce the place of arts in K-12 education.
  5. Widen the focus of evidence gathering about arts education.

“Imagine more science classrooms where kids learned about sound waves by playing the flute, or understood mathematical relationships by creating digital designs,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president of the arts at the Knight Foundation. “Integrating arts into our everyday lives and learning is essential.”

Data highlighted in the report show that low-income students who participate in arts education are four times more likely to have high academic achievement and three times more likely to have high attendance than those who don’t, with these results continuing into college. Schools that participated in an arts-integration model had consistently higher average scores on district reading and math assessments.