At the California State University at San Marcos, an arts integration project administered by Professors Merryl Goldberg and Patti Saraniero called DREAM, for Developing Reading Education through Arts Methods, is in its second year. It seems to be working.
DREAM is a partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education and the North County Professional Development Federation, to "train teachers to use visual arts and theater activities in-class to improve students' reading and writing skills." The results after the first year are persuasive:
Early analysis of our first year of student data reveals that DREAM students scored significantly higher on the CST ELA test and on the reading comprehension subscale than did control group students. Both of these differences were found to be statistically significant. The integration of theatre into the language arts curriculum proved to be a particularly effective strategy. Multiple regression analysis revealed that DREAM third graders scored significantly higher than the control group on the state language arts test when their teachers integrate the arts to teach reading standards.
Arts integration -- teaching every discipline through the arts -- has a number of interpretations. For example, according to The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) in Washington, D.C., "Terms such as arts-infused curriculum (Ingram & Reidell, 2003), learning in and through the arts (Bamford, 2006; Bloomfield & Childs, 2000), learning with the arts (Goldberg, 2006) and arts as a vehicle for learning all represent slightly different iterations familiar to readers of arts integration project and program reports."
As early as 2002 a unique consortium of arts organizations expressed, in a report called "Authentic Connections," expressed the view that interdisciplinary work in the arts enabled students to "identify and apply authentic connections, promote learning by providing students with opportunities between disciplines and/or to understand, solve problems and make meaningful connections within the arts across disciplines on essential concepts that transcend individual disciplines."
The AEP says the concept "has evolved over the past 15 years as school districts, state arts councils, and arts organizations have experimented with various models of implementation" and it works, where teachers and administrators give it a chance. It does take some effort as many teachers have to redesign their curricula a bit, and agree to try the new methodology that arts integration requires.
ArtsNow in Atlanta makes it very clear that "creative teaching through the arts is a proven strategy for helping students learn most successfully. The arts stimulate parts of the brain required for all other learning." Together with their partners, the arts integrated program, which began in February 2006, reports it has reached 633 educators from 128 schools in 14 school systems representing 50%+ of all Atlanta Public Schools.
The Right Brain Initiative in the Portland area or Thriving Minds in Dallas,
Lakeside, San Diego Unified, National City and Chula Vista, California and hundreds of other schools across the nation are experiencing positive results from arts integration.
ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, said in a report two years ago that "studies also show that participating in the arts can actually boost student achievement in other academic areas. Therefore, arts groups are partnering with schools to provide professional development for teachers interested in integrating arts instruction across content areas."
Earlier this year The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities released "Reinvesting in Arts Education," a groundbreaking report calling for local and regional initiatives "strengthening teacher preparation and professional development, targeting available arts funding, and setting up mechanisms for sharing ideas about arts integration through communities of practice."
It is not too soon for such local and regional efforts to get organized and launch a nation-wide effort to retrain our teachers, and in turn, retool our K-12 curriculum and that of all our educational institutions.