According to College Board, students who take art courses get higher scores on their SATs. In fact, arts students scored an average of 91 points higher than their non-arts counterparts on the 2009 SAT. Nevertheless, arts requirements are usually the least prioritized elements of the high school curriculum.
The College Board - the organization in charge of the SAT tests - has studied the relationship between art courses and SAT scores since 1987. They have found that students who take some art courses score higher than students who take no art courses; and students who take 4 years of art score better than the student who take less than 4 years of art courses (see graph at top).
What does this mean for Bullis students? To graduate from Bullis, students are required to take 2 years of art courses (http://www.bullis.org/arts/curriculum.aspx) in fine arts, music, or dramatic arts. Although Bullis is not planning to require additional art credits for graduation, they are expanding the types of art courses that are being offered which might convince more students to take even more art courses. In 2013, Bullis was voted by readers of Bethesda Magazine as the best local private schools for the arts (http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Magazine/Best-of-Bethesda-2012/Best-of-Bethesda-2012-Bullis-School/), suggesting that Bullis is ahead of other schools in offering a robust arts curriculum.
What is it about art courses that result in higher SAT scores? Different experts agree that some of the skills learned in art courses including expressing creativity and increased communications skills are unique and aren’t replicated in other classroom subjects. Charles Johnson, the director of the Bullis’ theatre department, disagrees with that theory, but rather he believes that the arts classes assist students achieve a higher level of understanding of the same skills learned in non-art subjects.
According to Johnson, “Art (visual or performance) is heavily PRODUCT based. Be it performance based or presentation based, students are working not towards knowledge as the end goal, but the performance or artwork as the end goal.” Mr. Johnson continues to explain, “By working toward the end goal of a performance or a visual product, the student is taking all the information that they have learned and creating something new.”
This process of thinking helps students apply the knowledge that they have learned and can be used in any subject.
“Art teaches you to process at the highest cognitive levels. It literally stretches your brain,” concludes Mr. Johnson.