Beyond Basics in Tucson, Arizona
School Spotlight takes us to Roskruge Bilingual Magnet Middle School in Tucson, Arizona, where one special school program, Beyond Basics, is helping students in its community achieve better success in school by providing opportunities that expose them to the arts. To read the original article from Teaching Tolerance, click here.
According to its Web site, “Beyond Basics is a school-centered program that brings targeted reading, writing and other literacy and self-expression programs to students in grades pre-K through 12.”
Beyond Basics offers a program that takes place during the school day, with no cost to the schools, the district or individual students. This program is firmly based on the understanding “that children, exposed to educational curricula beyond the basic school system offerings, will obtain higher scores on exams and have a greater chance of achieving excellence beyond their public school careers.”
And Roskruge’s Principal José Olivas agrees. Beyond Basics has been working in his school, and Olivas says he needs no further proof that the program works. Students’ eligiblity for program participation is dependent upon maintaining a certain academic level. This gives the students a reason to work a bit harder in school, and they have been. In the article he states, “Without [arts classes], they might not concentrate on their other courses … Once they get a taste of success in whatever class it may be, it spills over [into other academic work].”
The work done by volunteers and staff members of Beyond Basics has been proven to help school children in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. They ”change their destinies by significantly raising their reading proficiency scores and providing developmental and emotional growth opportunities. Typically, we get children reading at grade level or above in six weeks. One hundred percent of the children we work with show improvement in literacy.”
Children who live in poverty tend not to have exposure to the arts. Beyond Basics President and Founder Pamela Good says “We want to expand their world in huge ways through the arts … When we bring art into the school it adds vibrance and creativity. When the students create art, they are being celebrated in that space. It breaks down so many barriers that we all have built up, but children in poverty might have built up many more.”
Good also says that this program is an answer for public education in poor schools. “We hear all the time what the problems are and it may take many, many years to solve some of those. But in the meantime there are little children that need the service.” It has made a profound difference in the lives of the students who are currently being served by the program. One eigth-grade girl says that she “works extra hard in her classes” to be able to sing in the mariachi band, an opportunity provided by the program.
The arts tend to be the first plan of attack when whittling away at budgetary matters, but more and more stories from around the country are proving that, just maybe, the arts are where the answers might lie. Think back to your days in school. What activities do you remember, and which ones made an impact? Attending music class was always my favorite escape from letters, numbers and tests. There is a symbiotic relationship between academics and the arts, and programs like Beyond Basics can help fill the gap that is so often spoken of. Know of another program helping students in need? You could always let us know. We love to hear about programs helping communities and students in need.