Teachers at are noticing some promising trends: standardized test scores have quantifiably improved in areas including reading, math, writing and even science; attendance has improved; more students are opting to take part in presentations during school assemblies; and discipline referrals have decreased over the last three years.
So what's the 'tie that binds' these developments? Art.
During Tuesday's Enumclaw School Board workshop at the campus, principal Gerrie Garton focused her school's presentation not only on the students' achievements in art but also how that expression is being integrated into all other subjects including science, math and writing.
Third grade teacher Susan Laurnen provided a tour of highlights which included a two-part art project in which students both created 3D paper mache models of an animal they'd chosen to research and write a report about and then drew a realistic sketch of it.
Garton explained that bringing arts to Black Diamond involved two efforts: ArtsEd Washington (artsedwashington.org) to prepare her as the principal to lead the staff toward building the art-focused curriculum; and Arts Impact (www.arts-impact.org) to train teachers to present the material to students.
The school is wrapping up its second year in accordance to an action plan drawn up through the Principals' Arts Leadership Program, she said. The effort is supported by the community including Enumclaw Schools Foundation and the Muckleshoot Tribe who have both provided grants. The long-term goal is to have 10 teachers at Black Diamond trained through the Arts Impact program.
Both parents and students have embraced the arts focus. "It's now become who we are," Garton said.