Sunday, July 30, 2000

Learning the arts boosts achievement in other subjects




By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An education with a focus on the arts does more than train future performers and artists and create an appreciation for culture, say national and Cincinnati educators.

        It can enhance academic achievement.

        Thirty-two states already require at least one arts course for graduation. Eight states require arts credits to enter college.

        In Cincinnati, Schiel Primary School offers an arts enrichment curriculum for grades K-3. The School for Creative and Performing Arts is for grades 4-12.

        “We teach the same curriculum, it's just that the manner we use is different,” said Schiel Principal Susan Brockman-Sharp. “You can teach sizes and shapes and large and small motor skills in an art class and allow the kids to get that experience.”

        Here's how:

        A teacher combines dance with a math lesson on coin recognition.

        Students draw pictures of pennies and nickels and dimes on cards. They choose a few cards and then must do things like jumping jacks or skips that equal the monetary value of the coins on the card.

        In music class, third graders learn science terms through a rap song created by a teacher. Other songs focus on nutrition and vitamins or the 50 states.

        Jeff Brokamp, SCPA principal, said he thinks the potential is “just incredible” when students start an arts education at a young age.

        “The earlier you can immerse the students, the more impact it has on academic achievement,” Mr. Brokamp said. “It doesn't just happen by fitting the arts and academics next to each other. There needs to be an active attempt to make connections between the academic topics and the artists' teaching.”

        SCPA requires students to audition to be accepted. Once enrolled, they receive individualized training in their areas of interest, such as dance or singing or violin.

        Dozens of national and regional studies also indicate that music and arts education improve student achievement.

        • A study found that Hamilton, Ohio, fourth graders who studied violin, cello or other stringed instruments scored higher on the reading and citizenship parts of the fourth grade Ohio Proficiency Tests than those who did not have the music lessons.

        • A University of California study found that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers showed a 46 percent increase in spatial reasoning IQ.

        • According to the College Entrance Examination Board, students with course work or experience in music performance or appreciation scored higher on the SAT.

        Test scores and graduation rates at SCPA bear that out.

        SCPA graduated 98 percent of its senior class this June. The graduation rate was the same for the past three years, Mr. Brokamp said.

        The school is also making gains on Ohio's Proficiency Test. After a downward spiral in the mid-1990s, the school is now rated an “achieving” school by the district.

        The rate of fourth-graders passing all parts of the test went from 19 percent in 1999 to 45 percent this year. For sixth graders, numbers jumped from 35 percent to 55 percent.

        The percentage of eighth graders passing went from 47 to 61. Tenth graders passed at 79 percent in 1999 and 84 percent in 2000.

       



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