On Monday West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple unveiled the results of a study that show participation in the arts are closely related to academic performance.
She chose Magnolia High School as the place to release this study because of its excellent arts offerings, Theater Teacher Eileen Miller, and one student who exemplified the study's findings-Amanda Mayo.
Mayo retold to Marple the story that Miller had shared with State Department of Education Fine Arts Coordinator Jack Deskins at the State Thespian Festival when she introduced him to Mayo.
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple speaks to some arts students at MHS.
"For the past several years, there was that one school day that I dreaded more than any other and that was the day we received our standardized test scores from the previous spring," said Mayo. She never tested well and she felt the tests did not reflect her abilities. "They made me feel inferior-as if I wasn't as smart as my peers," she said. But this time when she saw her results she double checked the name on the envelope to make sure the scores were really hers.
"I was ecstatic!," said Mayo. "I had gone from novice to above mastery in every area that reflects reading comprehension."
Her story was met with applause from her peers in attendance at the meeting Monday.
On that day of happiness instead of expected sadness, Mayo immediately ran to show Miller her scores. "I ran in yelling, 'I'm not stupid anymore!' She replied, 'You never were, Amanda.'" Not only did her test scores improve, but so did her grades. And for the first time she expects to get a 4.0 on her next report card.
Mayo credits her improvement to her theater classes. "Thanks to these classes, along with the co-curricular theater program, my comprehension skills have sky-rocketed," said Mayo. "More importantly, I have found myself. I know who I am and how I fit in with my peers."
Her story is the perfect illustration of the study's results that show high school students who earned two or more arts credits were more likely to reach reading proficiency and math proficiency on the WesTest2, compared to their peers who earned only the one required arts credit. Those who earned two or more arts credits were also more likely to have scored at or above the national average composite score on the ACT PLAN.
In addition, those students with exceptionalities who earn two or more arts credits were twice as likely to reach proficiency as those with just one arts credit.
"We don't view arts as an elective. We believe it is core. . . to a well rounded education," said Marple. I don't think there is a mass awareness of the impact of the arts on general education.
The West Virginia Department of Education Office of Research followed about 14,500 West Virginia public high school students on track to graduate between 2007 and 2010. A link to the complete report can be found with this story on the Wetzel Chronicle's website, www.wetzelchronicle.com.
Marple asked each of the 15 students attending the press conference to share their thoughts on the importance of arts in their lives and how they would enhance them in the academic setting. Many of their comments encouraged the enhancement of arts offerings at the middle and elementary school levels.
After hearing them all and taking some notes, Marple said, "Those are great recommendations. We need to find out how we can get younger students involved."
The theater students then took part in an improvisational acting exercise that also involved MHS Principal Kathi Schmalz and Wetzel County Superintendent Diane Watt.
"You all are wonderful," expressed Marple at the conclusion of the session. "We need you to be advocates to help spread the word."
To conclude the morning session, the Honors English 10 class taught by Stacy Barcus took the stage and shared their original song that will be made into a video for the eInstruction Classroom Makeover Contest. By Friday the video will be completed and uploaded to flipyourclassroom.einstruction.com/ where the public (age 18 and older) are encouraged to rate the video (five being the highest) through Oct. 29. The class has a chance at winning a classroom makeover valued at up to $20,000.
Some highlights of the creative lyrics include "I've wasted my life using these textbooks I'd rather be using an iPad instead. I'm stuck in this school with dinosaur tools. Why were they so cool?" and "Staring at a paper so long my vision be blurring. You want better grades. What are you inferring? With better technology is the only time that'll be occurring."