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By Anonymous
Posted Jan 18, 2010 @ 10:06 PM

The free family arts festival ArtSplash Saturday will be a celebration of schools using the arts to supercharge learning. 

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cultural Center, hands-on arts-making workshops and performances all will be tied to academic learning. In addition, Arts in Stark will release its first “report card” on the impact SmArts has had on the 10,000 kids in 55 Stark County schools reached to date.  

“We wanted to prove that integrating arts into schools supercharges learning,” says Arts in Stark CEO Robb Hankins, “and the results so far are amazing.” 

Reportedly, those results include dramatically higher state test scores for students involved in the arts.

“The initial findings for SmArts are impressive,” says Adrienne O'Neill, president of the Stark Education Partner-ship, whose organization has worked for 20 years at improving education here, and is evaluating all the data. “We are really looking forward to the research that comes next.”

For information on Art-Splash, go to or 330-453-1075.

In the last four years the County Arts Council has awarded $200,000 in SmArts grants to 55 Stark County schools which have reached 10,000 kids. Most SmArts grants are given out for short projects of one or two months in duration. 

“We are doing this so that any school in Stark County can try out SmArts in their classrooms,” says Sarah Shumaker, Arts in Stark’s outreach coordinator, who oversees the SmArts Program. 

But to be able to collect the necessary data, ArtsinStark awarded special 36-month grants to three Stark County school systems. 

“These school systems were chosen because of their commitment to the arts and their consistent, strong leadership,” says Arts in Stark Board President Bob Timken. 

The school districts are Canton Local Schools, Jack-son Local School District, and Massillon City Schools.  Typically, one school building in each school system set up SmArts learning objectives and measurable goals, and built a 36-month project to improve learning. That project consisted of artists-in-residence team teaching both basic curriculum and their art form. 

The research for the first 12 months was analyzed by Joe Rochford, vice president of the Stark Educational Partner-ship. Here are some of those results.


In Jackson Local School District, a test group of sixth-graders was involved in a SmArts project called “The Fabric of Our Culture” which involved arts activities and artists in residence with an emphasis on reading. On state tests at the end of the first 12 months, those sixth-grade students involved in the arts totally outperformed a control group of other students who were not, and they did so at a statistically significant level of 95 percent.

“What this means for us,” says Jackson Local Schools District Superintendent Cheryl Haschak, “is that our ongoing commitment to the arts makes good educational sense.” 


In Canton Local Schools, Faircrest Memorial Middle School hosted a project called “Dream Reading and Writing.”  The 36-month goal was to increase state reading test scores for a group of 6th graders by 15 percent. At the end of the first 12 months, test scores had improved a solid 4 percent  towards the achievement of that goal. The student is being followed as they proceed through 6th and 7th and 8th grades.

“We are pleased with the year one results,” says Canton Local Schools Superintendent Teresa Purses. “We want to educate the whole child, and this is a partnership that really supports student learning."


At Gorrell Elementary in Massillon City Schools the goal of “Live Happily Ever After with a Good Book” was to increase fourth grade reading scores by 5 percent over the first 12 months.  Reading scores actually went up by 11 percent.

“We think those are pretty dramatic results,” says Massil-lon City Schools Superinten-dent Lisa Carmichael, “plus this was such a positive and exciting experience for the teachers and students involved.” 

The Stark Educational Partnership decided to compare the results at Gorrell with other elementary schools in Massillon across a range of subjects, not just those for which students were originally being tested.

“What totally surprised us,” says Hankins, “is that while fourth grade writing scores in Massillon public schools in general improved by 2 percent last year — at Gorrell they jumped by 23 percent. That’s more than a 1,000 percent difference.”  

Another 24 months still remain in completing the SmArts experiment.

“But the results to date are so very promising,” says Mel Lioi, Assistant Superintendent at Stark County Educational Service Center and head of Arts in Stark's Education Committee. “All the national research demonstrates the arts can dramatically impact learning and now we’re trying it right here in Stark County.”

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