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CSUSM Research Shows Art Boosts Learning: Standardized Student Test Scores Jump Nearly 90 Points in One Year

A press conference hosted by California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), in collaboration with the North County Professional Development Federation, the San Diego County Office of Education and ten North San Diego County school districts, revealed the groundbreaking results from DREAM (Developing Reading Education with Arts Methods), a four-year arts integration program funded with a nearly $1 million grant through the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement. President Haynes, CSUSM president, announced that elementary student test scores in reading improved an astonishing 87 points as a result of DREAM’s initiatives.  “When you consider that this means that students went from reading at a below basic level…to a basic level…to above proficient, that’s worth celebrating,” she commented. “Clearly, using theater to teach literacy is an especially effective tool and one that deserves continued exploration.”DREAM’s goal was to train 3rd and 4th grade teachers to use visual arts and theater activities to improve students’ reading and language arts skills. Begun in June 2009, the program offered one week summer institutes coupled with coaching by professional artists throughout the year. Students in classes where teachers integrated theater to teach reading scored much higher on the reading comprehension and inference standardized tests. Ten school districts had teachers participate in the project, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Julian, Oceanside, Ramona, San Marcos, Valley Center Pauma and Vista, representing 141 teachers and approximately 3,000 students.“All kids in our research started out on statistical equal footing as measured on the California Standards Test for English Language Arts,” said Merryl Goldberg, DREAM project co-director and chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at CSUSM. “The kids in the control group— the group without a DREAM teacher—averaged a 25 improvement over the year. The kids in classrooms with the teachers who only attended the summer institute had an average 51 point improvement. The kids in classrooms with teachers who attended the institute and received in class coaching gained the astonishing 87 points.”DREAM’s research results highlight how the arts are vital to education, engaging students and teachers and providing a foundation for building 21st century skills such as creativity and critical thinking.“The arts open up the natural abilities of children to wonder, to take risks, to feel confident, to be disciplined and to understand that learning is not a simple mater of ‘either/or,’ it is – indeed life is – more complex,” said Goldberg.For more information on the DREAM research visit:  www.sdcoe.gov/DREAMAbout California State University San MarcosCalifornia State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that the University’s annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. 85 percent of CSUSM’s alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is fifteen miles east of the ocean; just thirty miles north of downtown San Diego.