Milton the Mouse came to live with the Stewart family, a musical household.
He increased his sensory perception, became smarter, and discovered he had talent!
Part 4. The Arts Budget Wars
In my previous blogs I have discussed how the Arts make learning better, students smarter, and as a result test scores go up. That’s all very well until it comes to Budget time. It never seems to go away, that school budget fight for Arts. After 50 years of research, studies, testing, and observations, we still don’t concede—we just don’t get it—that the arts are vital to reading, writing, and arithmetic competency.
Here’s an early case study: In 1976-77 a federally-funded (Title IV-C Project 1596) was initiated in 3 rural schools (K-8) in Shasta County, California. It was a program involving the Fine Arts and Language in order to “Systematically Reinforce Reading Skills.” I was part of that exciting project as Art Director, Music collaborator, and Project Writer. Basically, we introduced developmental art lessons and music lessons into the school curriculum and coordinated the learned skills and concepts with reading and language instruction. It was a winner. We were told to expect a 25% increase in reading scores (based on studies even earlier than 1976); and after the 3-year program that’s exactly what happened. The yearly test scores went up 25% across the board. Some students benefited even more, with scores beyond that 25% figure. Even though math was not tabulated in this study, it was observed that the math scores went up too.
That’s old news; since then stacks of studies and fascinating results of brain research have connected the Arts to improved learning. So, it’s a given, and it’s what every good teacher knows: Arts instruction increases learning and student performance. Everyone seems to accept this until it comes to Budget time. That’s when priorities shift, and well-meaning but ill-informed administrators, accountants, and school board members decide Arts education is a frill and not necessary to learning. They cut it out of the budget. What can we do to convince them that by doing so, they are cutting student test scores? reducing student accomplishments? lowering school morale? increasing behavior problems? Lowering the level of learning?
Educators: If we want student achievement to shine in statewide assessment, it would seem a slam-dunk to beef up the art and music instruction for all students. Take note: all students. Slower students are the ones who will benefit most from Arts training. If we remove them from Arts classes for tutoring in other subjects, we take away the very class they need. For example, music training carries directly over to language skills. Some students learn tangentially. They may be slow in reading, but paying attention to notes on a music staff requires the same focus, eye movement, and attentiveness. Those skills carry over automatically to other areas of learning. Arts training can be coordinated with classroom subject matter; that’s another win-win result because it improves retention of information. Art easily pairs up with science. Music and language share similar sound and rhythm. Dance forms give basic movement patterns that are utilized in everyday life, and students gain a sense of personal space as well as better physical coordination. This is individual development, not competitive sports, and it is enjoyable. Hand that low achieving student a musical instrument and watch the light of discovery turn on! Give the wallflower student a part in the play and wait for them to shine!
To the parents: What can you do? My next blog will address some of the things we can do as parents. Stay tuned. In the meantime take a look at these (if you haven’t already):
**(Read results for yourself: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-34936-001)
(Music education does it again:) https://interlude.hk/music-education-helps-improve-childrens-ability-learn/