Orchestra, drama, photography, drawing, choir, ceramics, steel drum bands. The Richland School District is strongly committed to providing a comprehensive K-12 arts program for students. At a time when there is increased accountability and pressure for schools to raise reading, writing and math scores, it's important that we not lose sight of the arts; that we continue to fund arts education in an appropriate way.
The research is clear. In study after study, the conclusions are the same: Students benefit from creative learning. Students with high levels of arts participation outperform "arts-poor" students on virtually every academic measure. Sustained involvement in music and theater are highly correlated with success in mathematics and reading. A solid exposure to the arts helps level the playing field for children from disadvantaged circumstances.
But it goes beyond research findings. The arts are personal. Acting in a play, painting a watercolor or playing a jazz solo gives students opportunities to express themselves and take risks. The arts are where students are free to use their imaginations and creative abilities. Students sometimes discover amazing things about themselves through the arts. If you talk with Richland students, you'll quickly find out about some of these discoveries. You'll learn how their involvement in the arts has positively influenced their lives. Here are a few of their comments:
"I got in advanced art and, wow, I found something in high school that I could really do. Art has helped define me as a person."
"I have a passion for music now that I never thought I'd have. I've discovered in high school that I love music and that I've never loved anything as much. I think music is what I could do for a career."
"These large scale drama productions have shown me what can be accomplished through determination and hard work. Drama has exposed me to what it's like working closely with, and getting along with, all sorts of people."
Comments like these reveal that the arts impact students in a real way. It all starts at the elementary level where we have fulltime art and music specialists in each school. All elementary students receive 50 minutes of art and music each week. This consistent art exposure in the early grades forms the foundation for the District's secondary arts program. It's in middle school and high school where many students begin thriving as actors, singers or sculptors. As performing groups and individuals, these young artists are consistently recognized for their outstanding skills and hard work. The arts most certainly are not a frill. They are a key component of what we do in the Richland School District and we will continue to support these programs as best we can.