CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia and Kanawha County educators are celebrating the results of a study released Monday that ties participation in arts courses to higher test scores.
West Virginia high school students who earned two or more arts credits from 2007 to 2010 were between about 1.3 and 1.6 times more likely to score at proficient levels in math and reading/language arts on the WESTEST, according to a study conducted by the state Department of Education's Office of Research.
Students taking more arts classes were also about 1.5 times more likely to score at or above the national average composite score for the ACT PLAN preparatory test, while special-needs students were twice as likely to reach proficiency in reading/language arts.
The Department of Education is committing more than half a million dollars to dance programs in elementary schools across the state and extending professional development, or staff training, for teachers of the arts.
For the first time, arts classes are also being offered in institutional educational programs for adjudicated youths.
"The WVDE has always believed that an arts education gives students a leg up, but now we have research which supports the assertion," said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple, who is traveling around the state to spread the news.
"The research shows that an education that includes the arts is closely linked to almost everything that we as a state and nation say we want for our children and demand for our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement and equitable opportunity," Marple said.
Barrie Kaufman, an art teacher at Mountaineer Montessori School in Charleston, has taught art lessons to children for more than 30 years and has seen firsthand the impact it can have on a student's education.
"Visual arts develop pathways in the brain and help you think of different kinds of solutions. In art, there is no right or wrong; it's about choosing an option and developing it," she said. "Kids who have attention problems do very well in the arts. I have students with attention deficit disorder who can sit through a 50-minute art class. I have really seen evidence of how creativity can be helpful in brain function."