An after-school fine arts program was developed at J. W. Sexton High School (Lansing, Michigan), based on the premise that participation in the fine arts, particularly by African Americans, would lead to higher grade point averages and a greater commitment to school life. A review of relevant literature revealed a number of reasons for low academic achievement in African American children, including low self-confidence and non-supportive school environment. Research on brain hemisphericity and learning theory, integration of fine arts to enhance whole brain learning, and motivation and engagement of students in school life also supported the Sexton High School program. The program was designed to give participants confidence to join clubs, take academic risks, and become part of band, orchestra, drama, forensics, etc. during the next semester or year. Total number of program participants was 68, of whom 54 were considered "at risk." During the study, 45 percent of participants increased their grade point average, 100 percent of participants joined a school club or sport, and school staff noted an improvement in the behavior of participants. Parents involved in the program reported positive changes in their children's home and school behavior. The findings suggested that students are unsuccessful at school not because they lack the mental ability to perform the tasks, but because they lack responsible behavior. Fine arts require higher order thinking skills, individual and group efforts, and an atmosphere of controlled freedom which teaches responsibility. In this particular high school, the program supported the theory that whole brain development is critical to learning theory and should assure the inclusion of fine arts in the school curriculum and extra-curricular activities. The program also supported the premise that students involved in student life make a greater commitment to their academic achievement, and hence have greater success in high school. (Contains 50 references.) (ND)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Alliance of Black School Educators (25th, Dallas, TX, November 15, 1995).
African Americans; Higher Order Learning; Lansing School District MI