A huge thank you goes to Milton voters for approving the school budget. After the first budget failed, we cut nearly $1 million from the original proposal. Most new programming and four positions from current staffing were eliminated. We also reduced equipment and supplies by more than $80,000 and factored in new resignations and retirements.
Because of voters approving the budget in April, we are able to bring back world language for middle school students. World language was cut from the middle school five years ago during a difficult budget time. Having world language in middle school means, for example, that a student can complete French I in middle school and take French II as a high school freshman. Students can then enroll in higher level or advanced placement French in high school, making them more proficient in French, improving their chances of admission to selective colleges and potentially earning college credit. The level of rigor in a high school student’s course of study is an important factor in college admissions. We are excited to be able to offer the opportunity for additional rigor through the middle school world language program.
Having an approved budget also allows us to continue to offer co-curricular programs including athletics, music, art and drama. Co-curricular activities allow students to explore interests and to develop leadership and social skills. They teach important life skills and dispositions toward learning. Co-curriculars provide additional avenues for students to develop creativity, the ability to solve problems and to work cooperatively with others. Persistence is developed as students practice and improve; memory is enhanced as they memorize parts of a performance, whether in the arts or in athletics. These skills transfer from the arts and athletics to other school subjects.
A study completed in 2008 by the Dana Foundation showed there was a correlation between exposure to the arts and learning in other subjects, especially in thinking skills and the ability to focus attention. In 2002, the Arts Education Partnership reviewed 62 studies conducted by 100 researchers. They concluded that students who participated in the arts did better on standardized tests, had improved social skills and were more motivated in school. When students are excited to come to school because of a concert or play they are in, that excitement spills over into other classes.
Music education has intrinsic value as students are exposed to vocal and instrumental music. It also opens the door to learning about diversity. Every concert I have attended in Milton featured familiar music but also music from different cultures. There is considerable data to show that students who participate in music education perform better on assessments. Learning capacity is enhanced as more brain connections are made. As new learning builds on prior learning, studying music helps to create a larger foundation to which new learning can be attached. The memorization involved in learning to sing or play music is another path to improved brain development. Students learn that practice and persistence lead to improvement and achievement, lessons that will serve them well in all areas of their lives. Performing as part of a band or chorus can help students learn to work as a part of a team. In addition to music and drama classes held during the school day, more than 200 middle and high school students participated in co-curricular music and drama performances this year.
Interscholastic sports have significant benefits for student athletes and the school community. Across three sports seasons this year, there were 11 middle school and 29 high school teams fielded, with more than 700 student athletes participating. Academic eligibility requirements keep students on task in their classes. School spirit is not limited to high school students as parents and community members come together to support teams. A study conducted in 2007 found students who participated in athletics had better grades and attendance than those who did not participate.
There are minimum standards for what school boards must provide for students. The number of school days, licensed teachers and school buildings kept in good repair are spelled out in Vermont statute. Providing co-curricular opportunities in the arts and athletics is not required, but essential if we are to motivate and engage students.
Thank you, Milton voters, for supporting co-curricular experiences for students. A school community without the arts and athletics would miss the excitement that comes from participating in or attending student performances.