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Despite New Mexico’s low rankings among the states when it comes to child well-being and education, studies have shown that children who participate in after school programs offered by the National Dance Institute of New Mexico have markedly higher reading, math and science scores along with displaying better physical fitness and eating habits than their peers.
Based on New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment (NMSBA) test score data for 4th through 7th grade students who participated in NDI New Mexico Advanced Training programs, those students had scores that ranged between 10 to 27 points higher than their peers in reading, math and science.
The studies were conducted by the RMC Research Corporation (2005–2011) and the University of New Mexico’s Center for Education Policy Research (2011 to present), who NDI New Mexico contracts with to conduct independent, scientific evaluations of its programs. Data was collected from almost 31,000 students, more than 300 parents, 51 NDI New Mexico instructors, and more than 1,600 teachers and school administrators.
“The arts have a unique power to motivate children by teaching them discipline, a standard of excellence and a belief in themselves which will carry over into all aspects of their lives,” said NDI New Mexico Executive Director Russell Baker.
“There are many factors in New Mexico such as poverty, obesity and academic gaps that can limit a child’s opportunities for success. But NDI New Mexico has proven that our arts-based programs are the catalyst to a healthier, more balanced individual who excels in academics and in life.”
NDI New Mexico reaches more than 7,500 children each year between the ages 3 and 18. In addition to their Outreach Program in 80 public elementary schools throughout the state, NDI New Mexico offers introductory through advanced performing arts classes for children at The Dance Barns in Santa Fe and The Hiland in Albuquerque. All NDI New Mexico programs include Hip to Be Fit, their nutrition and fitness curricula.
There are currently 100 schools on the waiting list to participate in NDI New Mexico’s award winning programs, recently named by the Wallace Foundation as one of only eight “exemplary” and “highly effective” arts organizations in America.
Along with higher academic scores, 74 percent of teachers and administrators at participating schools noticed a significant improvement in their students’ physical health and fitness. Teachers also noticed that students became more engaged in school; took positive risks by accepting tough challenges; showed a desire to work hard and exert more effort in school; and displayed the ability to set goals for themselves.
East San Jose Elementary, serving one of Albuquerque’s lower socioeconomic communities, has offered NDI New Mexico’s programs for 13 years. In that time, recently retired principal Steve Tognoni has seen significant changes in the fourth graders who have participated in the 30 week programs as part of their school day.
“Our kids come from tough neighborhoods where they’re often surrounded by crime, drugs, and poverty, but NDI New Mexico’s programs build a sense of community in the kids. School starts to feel like a safe place where they can be part of a group that is relevant and where they can show off what they learned,” Tognoni said, who served as principal from 2007–2014.
“NDI New Mexico’s programs have completely changed the way our kids think in a more positive light. As a principal, I understand the need for high-test scores. But if we build strong relationships, then our scores will go up or maintain because these kids are striving for better a place, and these lessons will carry into adulthood. Our kids are more physically fit and they are learning spatial direction and rhythm, which is all part of math and language learning. I can’t say enough about NDI New Mexico.”
More than 1,170 students from East San Jose Elementary have been impacted by NDI New Mexico’s programs since it began at the school.
For more information on NDI New Mexico’s programs or to contribute to these programs through donations call 983-7646 or visit ndi-nm.org.