Miller South School of the Arts in Akron eases hearing requirements


If everyone is a stage, then every assignment at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts is an art project.

Reading assignments become dioramas with handmade clay or even aluminum foil artifacts that were important to the main characters. A lesson in blood cell science comes to life with needle felting, a manufacturing process that turns wool into a 3D object.

Although Miller has a strong focus on the arts, that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on any of the traditional college classes. But the arts become a part of every classroom, providing a unique project-based learning environment that helps make learning relevant to students.

Miller South has been operating in Akron Public Schools as a performing arts and visual arts focused school since 1993, serving students with artistic talents who had already been nurtured prior to their enrollment in the school.

For next year’s fourth graders, that’s about to change.

Art teacher Alison Rich teaches 12-year-old Josie Sisler, a seventh-year student, a painting technique at the Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts in Akron.

In an effort to make school programming more accessible to students whose families may not have the resources for dance or piano lessons, Miller South is changing its hearing requirements for new students from fourth year, his youngest students.

Instead of a traditional audition or visual artwork submission, those who wish to enroll in school for the fourth grade will instead need to attend a two-hour workshop at the school, where teachers Walk them through four areas of interest for 30 minutes each and assess whether they have a talent or obvious enthusiasm coupled with a determination to improve. Students will also need two letters of recommendation.

“If they really, really want to, they’re going to try really, really hard and make sure they grow up and excel at it,” said manager Carolyn Herstich. “Our job is to facilitate that environment that can enhance their skills and develop those talents into those abilities for them.”

It’s also a matter of fairness, she said, to ensure that the opportunity is open to those who would excel but may not have had the resources to qualify before.

“We really want to make sure we’re providing equitable access to the people of Akron’s public schools and really make sure we’re open and accessible for everyone,” Herstich said.

The Akron School Board adopted a Racial Equity Policy earlier this year, seeking to uncover and address the ways in which race-based inequalities persist in the district, unwittingly or not. One of the policy priorities was to provide equitable access to advanced courses and unique opportunities, like what is offered at Miller South.

The state considers Miller South’s curriculum to be rigorous enough that all students receive advanced language arts credit, which prepares them for more difficult courses in high school.

Princess Ripley, 14, right, works on a math problem during a grade eight math class at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Changing the enrollment criteria could also help increase diversity in the school, both racial and economic. The district doesn’t collect economic data on its students because everyone gets a free lunch, but with around 380 students in grades four to eight, the school’s population is about half white. and a third of black students, compared to APS as a whole, which is less than a third of white students and almost half of black students.

The school caters for children from all over the county, as well as neighboring counties, with around 20% of the school population outside Akron schools.

Fourth and fifth year students alternate in each of the visual and performing arts concentration areas throughout the year before focusing on one area during their college years.

The school will always be reserved for auditions for students in grades five to eight. Rising fourth-graders preparing for an audition can still show off their talents during the workshop, Herstich said.

The school does not provide transportation because it is not a school that has zoned students. This has been a barrier at times, Herstich said, but families have often rallied to make it work for anyone without transportation.

“Our families kind of create a family within themselves, and we help each other, so that we can pick each other up from school and drop off, and just help bring the kids here,” she said. .

Seventh-year student Alana Rankins, 12, listens to her teacher, Marcia Skidmore, during a language art class in Miller South.

Alison Rich, a ninth-grade visual arts teacher at Miller South, said she often sees talented or enthusiastic students who just haven’t seen the same exposure to the arts as some of their peers. Relaxing entry requirements for fourth year will be a more equitable approach, she said.

“I think this will help bridge the gap that we sometimes see,” she said, between students who have had the opportunity to take classes or go to a play, and those who don’t. have not.

Most schools, she said, will expose students to art and song, but they have less opportunity to learn dance, drama or musical instruments at a young age.

Kenta Tabata, 11, uses needle felting to make models of blood cells in her sixth-grade science class at Miller South.

Children who might have thought that they would never have the opportunity to receive formal training in any of these areas will now have a chance.

To participate in the workshop, students must apply through the district’s open registration process, which is live and runs until November 19, and select Miller South as their school of choice. Workshops for Grade 4 students will then be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on November 29 and December 4 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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Contact education reporter Jennifer Pignolet at [email protected], 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.

Emma Rambler, 11, separates a piece of yarn as she prepares to do needle felting to make models of blood cells in grade six science class.

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