Year of Publication

2014

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Across the country arts and cultural institutions seek to preserve our past and use it to educate our future. As their exhibits expand these institutions have become treasures in their own rights; places like the Smithsonian Institute are landmarks that attract visitors from around the world. In addition to travelers they also attract school groups. For decades schools have been using “field trips” to museums as a way to supplement their curriculum. But do these trips actually benefit the students or are they a waste of resources? This project aims to evaluate whether these institutions are an asset to academics or an indulgence of instructors that have the resources to visit them.

Public school funding in the United States comes from federal, state, and local sources; the amount allocated to each school is dependent on a number of variables including community wealth and school performance on standardized tests. In recent years funding for education has not been diminishing requiring evaluation of expenditures. This project examines the effects of students visiting arts and cultural institutions, such as museums, on the academic performance of schools. The project compares and contrasts state scores and visitation practices to show how museums may be an expenditure worth keeping in the budget and curriculum of schools.

By examining fixed effects and instrumental variable models, this project found that schools that visit arts and cultural institutions perform significantly higher on state testing in overall academics, in addition to certain skills, such as reading and writing, and specific topics such as social studies, arts and humanities. As a result, this project recommends that the Kentucky Department of Education and public schools throughout the state implement education policy that increases access to museum programming. This recommendation is a solution that accomplishes the goal of improving school performance while not having to implement an untested strategy or curriculum change. A policy implementation like this would also increase the availability of federal grants such as “Race to the Top.”

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