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CSUSM Research Shows Art Boosts Learning

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. DREAM’s goal was to train third and fourth 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 matter of ‘either/or,’ it is— indeed life is— more complex,” said Goldberg.For more information on this ground breaking study, visit DREAM.