In an era when some American schools are cutting back on the arts, Bozeman’s Hawthorne School is thriving by emphasizing the arts.

Test scores remain high at the school, where painting, music, dance and other arts are built into the curriculum, Bozeman School Board trustees learned Tuesday during their annual lunch visit to the school.

Six students gave a sample of Hawthorne’s penchant for performance. One girl sang a solo, while another gave a harp recital and a boy played “Home on the Range” on the saxophone. Two girls sang an original song that one had composed for Special Olympics, and a boy did a hip-hop dance.

Principal Robin Miller said Hawthorne remains committed to “integration of the arts” in all subjects. A math lesson, for example, was entitled “Math-terpieces.” The school last year held its 20th Celebration of Children & the Arts, an arts auction that raises tens of thousands of dollars to pay for its arts instruction.

Last year, 91 percent of Hawthorne students scored at grade level or higher in reading, while 84 percent did as well in math on Montana’s No Child Left Behind test. Those scores exceeded the state’s goals of 84.4 and 70 percent proficiency in reading and math.

On other tests, 86 percent of Hawthorne students did well in writing and 78 percent were proficient in science. Low-income students tended to score lower; only half of low-income fifth-graders were proficient in math.

The school is working hard to raise the skills of all students, Miller said, using several strategies. One is the walk-to-read program, which groups students by skill level. In addition, the school has reading and math intervention teachers, and teaching coach John Nielson works with classroom teachers.

The school has seven goals for this year, Miller said, starting with personalizing learning for students.

Superintendent Kirk Miller (no relation to the principal) explained the Bozeman schools expect that Congress is working on replacing the No Child Left Behind education law, which requires schools to meet annual test-score targets, with a new system requiring that schools show students are making educational growth.

To get “ahead of the game,” he said, the Bozeman district has set a goal of 3 percent growth for students. To learn how to make the growth system work, teachers at each school are focusing on educational growth with one targeted group of students – like struggling readers.

“It’s an experiment, a time to learn about growth models,” Kirk Miller said. “The goal is to help our entire team understand the growth model, so it can be personalized for each student.”

One challenge Hawthorne faces this fall is that the million-dollar construction project that expanded and upgraded the 1939 building is behind schedule. It’s now expected to finish by the end of October. Contractors have been working from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. each day.

Robin Miller said teachers are very excited by the improvements, including large new windows that let daylight into the gym, new classroom windows, new lighting, new paint, a new ventilation system and a new boiler that looks like “Star Wars,” she said.

Unfortunately, the heating system isn’t working yet. Classrooms have been pretty cold some recent mornings, Nielson said.

Shelley Oswood, the school’s psychologist, gave a tour of the new upstairs classrooms, which house math and reading intervention teachers, special education, speech therapy and a behavior support program. Even with the new space, one group of six students was meeting in a wide spot at the top of the stairs.

“Last year we were in a little closet,” Oswood said. “Now we have so much room, it’s been a pleasure.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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