Congratulations to the 53 students from Nassau and Suffolk counties who were recently named national Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists ["Intel contest," News, Jan. 10]. What is so impressive is the number of them who are involved in their school arts programs -- 26 in total.

Among the winners this year are student musicians -- several of whom were selected for countywide and statewide ensembles -- as well as visual artists, and those studying computer graphics and architectural design.

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This should come as no surprise. Research shows that students involved in the arts score higher on standardized tests and show greater achievement in science and math. Students of the arts go on to careers not only in the arts, but into science, medicine, law and education.

While Long Island school arts programs are strongly supported by our communities, it is alarming that the arts are being pushed out of school curricula all over the state. The inordinate amount of test-taking is taking more time away from the ability to cultivate students' creativity. Because of funding pressures, districts have been forced to make the difficult decision to reduce unmandated classes, including the arts.

The arts provide students with self-confidence, creative problem-solving, the ability to critique work, and teamwork and time management skills. According to business leaders, these skills are all needed for 21st century employment.

John J. Gallagher, Middle Island

Editor's note: The writer is the Longwood school district's director of fine and applied arts.