Evaluating the Academic and Behavioral Impact of “School in the Park”

Abstract
Arts enrichment programs that leverage existing community cultural institutions such as museums, zoos, and theaters have the potential to improve students’ educational experiences. This paper estimates the impact of School in the Park, a museum-based educational program for low-income students that takes place within the cultural institutions and museums of San Diego’s Balboa Park. This study evaluates the impact of participation in the program on short-term and long-term academic and behavioral outcomes using longitudinal, student-level data since 1996, the natural variation in the timing of program implementation between two elementary schools, and control groups of students from nearby schools that did not receive the program. Findings indicate that participation in the program has positive but limited short-term impacts and more enduring longer-term effects through high school. The results are broadly applicable to cities that seek to leverage existing cultural resources to improve educational outcomes for young people.

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