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August 7, 2006

TENNESSEE ARTS COMMISSION ANNOUNCES VALUE PLUS PROGRAM

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Arts Commission announced today the selection of three schools designated to participate in its new Value Plus Schools program, an education reform model emphasizing arts integration. The schools selected are Mooreland Heights Elementary in Knoxville , Bradley Academy in Murfreesboro , and Covington Integrated Arts Academy in Covington . Teachers at each school will begin training in arts integration this fall.

In making the announcement, Stephanie Conner, chair of the Arts Commission, stated “Value Plus is about placing the arts at the center of teaching in order to meet the individual learning needs of every child in the classroom.”

The idea to develop Value Plus arose out of a comprehensive study conducted by the Commission in 2004. Entitled Ready, Set, Grow: Cultivating Arts Education Reform, the study pointed out the need to transform traditional art education.

In the Value Plus program, school administrators, classroom teachers and arts specialists work together to infuse the arts into reading, math, science, language arts, and social studies. “Integrated curriculums work,” said State Senator Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), chair of the Senate Education Committee. “In our everyday lives, we're constantly using multiple thinking strategies to interpret and make sense of what's going on around us. Why should the thinking process in the classroom be any different?”

The schools selected are all Title I elementary schools representing each grand division of the state, and include one urban, one suburban, and one rural school. The Commission initially funded the project and anticipated it would begin in the 2007 school year, but an additional appropriation in the state budget adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly will help move the project forward beginning this school year. Representative Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), chair of the General Assembly's Arts Caucus, led the charge in the state House along with Senator Woodson.

“The arts have the power to transform lives in many different and unexpected ways,” Rep. Overbey said. “Other states using an integrated arts curriculum have found the benefits extend far beyond the classroom.”

Rich Boyd, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, is delighted that the General Assembly chose to support the new initiative. “It is encouraging to us that the General Assembly wanted to assist in our efforts to get the Value Plus program in pilot schools in this upcoming school year,” Boyd said.

The commission is convinced of the potential that Value Plus holds for schools. “Many of our schools struggle with low-test scores, increasing ESL populations, and budget cuts,” stated Boyd. “National data suggests that programs that integrate the arts into basic curriculum help reach and teach children in new and exciting ways. At a time when schools are punished for not meeting state or federal benchmarks, we are delighted to be able to offer what we believe will be a helpful and innovative way to add value to our school children's learning experience.” Boyd concluded.

For more information on Value Plus Schools, contact Kim Leavitt at (615) 532-5934 or kim.leavitt@state.tn.us.

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