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Dr. Kathleen Thomas' and Her Research Featured in First-Ever Major Grantee Spotlight on Spencer Foundation's Website

6-30-15 - Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Kathleen Thomas was profiled by the Spencer Foundation as their first-ever Featured Grantee piece on their website. The spotlight article discusses Thomas' two-year $300,000+ grant she and her colleagues received for their research, titled, "“High School Arts Education and Academic Success: The Access of At-Risk Students and the Impact of Participation.”

Below is an excerpt of the article.

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.

The group 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 found 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 also 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.

To learn more about Dr. Thomas' research and the major grant she received, visit:

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