Arts education program boosts reading scores

SAN MARCOS: Arts education program boosts reading scores
.By DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN | Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 7:00 pm.

Thousands of North Countyschoolchildren showed an “astonishing” jump in test scores after their teachers used the arts in reading lessons, officials announced Thursday. In a pilot program involving 3,000 third- and fourth-graders, test scores improved at triple the rate of similar students using the standard curricula. Those in the “DREAM” program learned reading through lessons involving theater, puppetry and painting —- and improved their reading scores by 87 points, education officials announced at a news conference.  “Art has the power to inspire, inform, and obviously the results of DREAM show that art has the power to educate,” Cal State San Marcos President Karen Haynes said.
DREAM —- Developing Reading Education through Arts Methods —- is a four-year program of the San Diego County Office of Education, the North County Professional Development Federation and the Center ARTES of Cal State San Marcos.  Through the program, teachers participated in a weeklong arts integration training sessions and were assigned to one of three groups. A control group did not employ arts in reading lessons. A second group added the arts lessons, while a third group did so with in-class coaching by arts educators.
Kids in the control group raised reading scores by 25 points, officials said. Those whose teachers taught arts integration on their own brought up test scores by 42 points. And the group in which teachers received coaching increased reading scores by 87 points.
Merryl Goldberg, chairwoman of the visual and performing arts department at the university, said the results show that arts education contributes to attainment of academic standards, rather than distracting from them.
“We use arts in such a way that it’s a tool,” she said. “It doesn’t take away from the curriculum at all. The arts teach creative thinking, innovative thinking, critical thinking. These are skills that are fundamental to what we need for the 21 st century.”
Integrating movement, music and visual arts into reading lessons allows kids to employ more senses and improve their comprehension of literature, said Laurie Stowell, a professor of literacy education at the university.  “Arts are simply another way we make sense of the world, and how we make meaning,” she said. “That’s what reading and writing is.” At the news conference, fourth-graders from the Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts swayed to jazz music while displaying hand-lettered poster boards emblazoned with single words.  Smooth, beautiful, peaceful, love,” proclaimed the signs for a smooth jazz selection.
“Explosive, blast, dynamite, grenade,” announced signs for a rhythm and blues piece.
Their teacher, Hector Deleon, said the multimedia lesson reinforced the meaning of vocabulary words, and improved reading comprehension.  “Instead of having kids memorize stuff and spit it out, we’re having them take ownership of the word, and experiencing the words with music and movement,” he said.  His student, Ariana Castillo, 9, said the lessons erase her self-doubts about learning.  “It just makes me forget about all the voices in my head that say ‘You’re not good for anything,'” she said. “I just believe in myself.”
How have arts inclusion programs been utilized in your school district  to improve students’ in reading? other subject areas?
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