An Education Masterpiece in Baton Rouge

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This week, the Department of Education released a video about a remarkable public elementary school that combines the art of learning with the learning of art.

Produced for ED by the History Channel, the new video tells the story of Forest Heights Academy of Excellence in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—an award-winning public magnet school where students excel in both academics and the performing and the visual arts.

In addition to the standard academic curriculum, Forest Heights students have the opportunity to study instrumental music, visual arts, drama, dance, and vocal music. Their arts curriculum is comprehensive and is based on national, state, and local standards. Kids learn everything from costume design and stage lighting to jazz and tap dance, and the school also has a modern, high-tech theater and arts facility.

At Forest Heights, students also learn math, science, language, and social studies through their study of the arts. Thus, kids encounter mathematical principles through music and learn lessons about history while they work on theatrical productions.

More than half the school’s population is disadvantaged. About 85 percent of the students are African-American.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education named Forest Heights Academy of Excellence a Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor the federal government bestows on schools throughout the country. For a public school to win this award, student achievement must be in either the top 10 percent on state assessments or show improvement to high levels with at least 40 percent of the school’s population from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Earlier this year, Secretary Arne Duncan spoke about the critical importance of an education in the arts:

“First, the arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college. Second, arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a global economy. And last, but not least, the arts are valuable for their own sake, and they empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works.”

See the full text of Secretary Duncan’s remarks on the importance of the arts and a well-rounded curriculum or more information on the Blue Ribbon School’s program.

John McGrath
Office of Communications and Outreach

Click here for an accessible version of the video.