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W.Va. Super: Arts Help Break Barriers

October 23, 2012
By TYLER REYNARD Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple touted participation in the arts as a way for students to improve their performance in other classes, as well as their standardized test scores, during a visit to Wetzel County on Monday.

Marple kicked off her tour of school arts programs by meeting with a Magnolia High School theatre class in New Martinsville Monday morning. Her tour will continue locally with stops at schools in Marshall and Ohio counties this week.

State Department of Education Fine Arts Coordinator Jack Deskins joined Marple in announcing the results of a study that showed there is a correlation between participation in the arts beyond the one credit required for graduation and improved academic performance.

Article Photos

Photo by Tyler Reynard
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple listens to state Department of Education Fine Arts Coordinator Jack Deskins speak during their visit to Magnolia High School Monday.

The state Department of Education Office of Research followed about 14,500 public high school students on track to graduate between 2007 and 2010 in order to determine their results.

Among the study's results was the finding that students who earned two or more credits during high school were about 1.3 and 1.6 times more likely to score at proficient levels for mathematics and reading/language arts. Those students also were about 1.5 times more likely to have scored at or above the national average composite score on the ACT PLAN.

Magnolia's theatre students supported the study's results with their personal testimonies.

Junior Amanda Mayo said she used to dread the day students received their standardized test results because she scored poorly each year.

She recalled the year when that trend turned, however, and she showed drastic improvement in her reading comprehension skills. She credited a script writing course and a demanding instructor for her success.

"I wish all of those who make decisions about education would realize just how beneficial the arts are to learning," Mayo said. "The arts should be promoted in schools across the nation. To do otherwise is a huge disservice to all students."

Mayo also said she was a shrinking violet when she arrived at Magnolia a little more than two years ago. She subsequently enrolled in the theatre program and quickly shed feelings of anxiety over meeting new people.

Her classmates shared similar stories, saying the arts program at Magnolia has helped them to become outgoing and confident. The program also has helped them overcome social barriers and break down stereotypes, students said.

"I wish you much success," Marple told the students, "and I hope you leave here as ambassadors of the arts."

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