TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Over the past few weeks Arts For the Schools Trustees and Staff have had the great pleasure of meeting Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Robert Leri, as well as newly appointed Executive Director of Administrative Services, Tom Gemma and Truckee High School’s new Principal Greg Dettinger.
It was great to learn that all three of these leaders in education have an appreciation for the benefits of art education, its relationship to literacy and achievement in core academic curriculum. Not every school district has the good fortune of working with an administration that understands the importance of integrated learning, the connection between creativity and academic success.
Arts For the Schools has been partnering with TTUSD for almost three decades in the area of visual and performing arts. Together we have a long history of ensuring students in our region have the benefit of art education as part of their learning experience. That history continues into a new school year with many exciting developments, including Truckee High School reinstating “Drama” as an elective taught by Mark Brady.
I wanted to share with readers’ research that demonstrates the relationship between art education, (in this case Drama), and academic achievement so that we as a community can continue to promote and support art education in our region.
Research within public school systems across our nation has shown that children who participate in classroom drama activities develop verbal skills that transfer to new materials not enacted in class.
• When students participate in dramatic enactments in the classroom, they engage in activities that have the potential to improve both their text comprehension and their writing proficiency.
• Learning in music contributes to the development of spatial-temporal reasoning, a cognitive ability that also influences reading, verbal competence, and writing ability.
• Sustained involvement in theater arts encourages improvement in the reading proficiency of high school students with low socio-economic status. According to the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS:88), nearly 20 percent more theater students were reading at high proficiency by the twelfth grade than were their non-theater peers.
• Researchers have found that literacy is a set of social and cultural practices enacted within a group context. The forces and practices that govern the development and use of literacy are strongly conditioned by individual culture.
• According to comparative analysis of ten low socio-economic status arts-integrated schools that have been recognized for high performance, the arts support literacy development by increasing students’ desire for and commitment to expressing personal meanings. Communicating by creating and performing in the arts often enhances students’ desire to read, write, and speak. (Source http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research).
Literacy development should be embedded in activities that reflect students’ identities, cultures, and social relationships. The implications of that approach for arts learning are exciting. Integrating the arts with other subjects can be beneficial across the board. When students create or analyze a work of art — whether it is visual art or performance art — they are developing a widely useful ability to manipulate varied and complex symbol systems.
Students who will thrive in the workplace and as leaders will be those who are skilled in the integration of symbol systems. Approaches vary, but the key to effective integration relies on enthusiastic teachers who implement this type of learning in their classrooms.
There are many back to school nights occurring in our region, and many wonderful principals and teachers who understand the need for integrated learning. These educators want their students to acquire intellectual curiosity and passion for their work and integrate the arts with other literacies to achieve this goal. I hope you will join me and Arts For the Schools in thanking TTUSD’s leadership and our many fine educators for ensuring local students have a well-rounded learning experience by including art education as part of their academic success.
— Raine Howe is executive director of Arts For the Schools.