A new report takes a close look at five public schools it sees as doing exemplary work to make the arts a high priority as part of a redesigned and expanded school day.
So, what does this look like in practice?
The arts are not considered “extras” in these schools, according to the report, issued last week. Students get at least one hour daily of arts-specific instruction (and in two of them, it’s often closer to three hours). Teachers routinely seek opportunities to integrate the arts across core disciplines. The schools hire arts specialists who are both talented artists and educators. They connect with museums and other cultural institutions. Students have access to a menu of different arts opportunities, from visual and performing arts to multimedia and design projects. These are just a few examples of what the researchers learned in studying these schools in depth.
The arts hold a “fragile place” in public education, says the report, developed by the National Center on Time & Learning, with support from The Wallace Foundation (which also underwrites reporting by Education Week.)
“The two arenas of academics and the arts are often positioned as competitors in a kind of zero-sum game, rather than as partners in a potential educational synergy,” the report says. But the schools profiled in the report “have each sought to make the arts a central—even a driving—feature of their students’ educational experiences.”
Although the report says all of the schools profiled operate in an environment in which their effectiveness is judged primarily through state assessments, it finds that the schools make ample time for the arts. "[T]he leaders of these schools do not feel that they have to forgo time spent on arts education in order to ensure that their students meet prescribed learning targets.”
Despite many differences in design and approach, all of the schools embrace three “essential approaches” to arts education:
- Arts classes are considered a core feature of their comprehensive educational program;
- The school day and staffing are organized to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice; and
- The educators value how the arts can leverage student engagement and achievement.
“With the right structure and supports and, significantly, the time to innovate and implement approaches that best meet the needs of all students, schools can indeed create meaningful arts education programs,” the report says.
The five schools profiled in the report include:
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.