Using individual-level administrative data from The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), M. Kathleen Thomas and colleagues developed indices of access to arts education in Texas public high schools. They found that evaluating arts programs along a single dimension did not accurately represent access to arts education. Large urban and suburban high schools were much more likely than rural high schools to offer arts education. However, students in rural high schools were much more likely to participate in arts courses when offered. They concluded that to capture engagement in arts education, researchers and policymakers must attend to measures of both the availability of arts courses and actual participation in those courses. In a separate but related line of inquiry, and using the same data, they tracked nearly 175,000 first-time ninth graders over five years. They found that cumulative credits in the arts were associated with reduced dropout, even after controlling for prior achievement and contemporaneous course completion in core subjects. They concluded that arts education may be a potential lever for reducing dropout, but experimental or quasi-experimental research is needed to estimate the causal effect of arts education on dropout.
Access to High School Arts Education: Why Student Participation Matters as Much as Course Availability. Executive Summary. Thomas, M. Kathleen, Priyanka Singh, Kristin Klopfenstein, and Thomas C. Henry. 2012. EdWeek.
Access to High School Arts Education: Why Student Participation Matters as Much as Course Availability. Thomas, M. Kathleen, Priyanka Singh, Kristin Klopfenstein, and Thomas C. Henry. 2013. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21(83).
What Constitutes an Arts-Rich School? Thomas, M. Kathleen. 2014. Policy Analysis for California Education.
Arts Education and Dropping Out of High School. Thomas, M. Kathleen. 2015. Policy Analysis for California Education.
Arts Education and the High School Dropout Problem. Thomas, M. Kathleen, Priyanka Singh, Kristin Klopfenstein, 2015. Journal of Cultural Economics.