Integrating the Arts with Academic Subjects Boosts Student Score (page 3)
Kids with special needs specially benefit from arts integration
Washington — In 1999, five school principals approached officials at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and asked for help in establishing a schoolwide focus on integrating arts into their schools’ curricula. The schools and the Kennedy Center — which in addition to being a performing arts center is a national cultural and educational institution— worked together to design the Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) program, which today offers a model for both schoolwide arts integration and teacher professional development.
What is meant by arts integration? Knowing how to answer that question was the initial challenge for teachers. One answer resulted in third-grade students at Bailey's Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, exploring concepts and vocabulary shared by dance and science. They studied energy, patterns and cycles and then created a dance that applied their experience.
To integrate the arts with reading, another third-grade class in the school read aloud a book about how Martin Luther King Jr. worked to defend equal rights for all people and then the students created a tableau, or frozen picture, for each major event, connecting the events to create a "Tableau Slide Show."
Integrating the arts with social studies involved fourth-grade students at Bailey’s reading and discussing information about slavery abolitionists and then engaging in such activities as analyzing slavery themes in visual art, writing poems and staging a short theatrical performance.
These schools already were integrating the arts but wanted to deepen the impact and broaden the teacher involvement at their schools, according to Amy Duma of the Kennedy Center.
A controlled comparison has shown that CETA students showed significant improvement in non-art academic achievement — including test scores in English and history — and effort grades, according to the school district’s Web site.
As of 2008, 10 Fairfax County schools with a total of 4,767 students were participating in CETA.
At most of the participating schools, CETA has reached “a tipping point,” according to Duma. “A majority of the teachers are integrating the arts with other curriculum on a regular basis,” she said. “Teachers are also collaborating more with each other and especially with the arts specialists at their schools. Student engagement and motivation to learn has risen. There has been a positive impact on test scores overall, but much of the impact of deeper learning is not measured by standardized tests. We are especially noticing that English language learners and special education students benefit even more from arts integration.”
Teachers who are not at one of the CETA schools can bring the benefits of the program to their students by taking one of the courses or workshops led by experienced teaching artists at the Kennedy Center. The center offers about 60 courses and workshops as part of the CETA program to more than 700 teachers from throughout the Washington area.
Teachers from a CETA school typically attend as a team, participating in courses that focus on integrating dance, drama, music, visual arts, poetry and storytelling with language arts, social studies, science and mathematics. CETA artists also come to their classrooms and coach the teachers.
The program continues to evolve and expand. “Our mission and goals have remained the same since the beginning, but adjustments and revisions to the program are made each year based on suggestions from teachers, principals, arts specialists, fine arts coordinators, Kennedy Center staff and teaching artists throughout the Washington metro area,” Duma said.
There is a waiting list of schools interested in joining the program, she added. “Right now, we are at a limit for the number of schools with which we can work. However, we are starting to share with other communities and schools how they can develop a modified CETA program for their schools. The Kennedy Center just hosted a national CETA conference with schools attending from across the country. They will modify the program for their schools so that it can be successful in their local situations.”
The CETA program has certain costs — fees for workshops and courses, compensation for substitutes for the teachers who are attending certain courses, and the price of additional supplies. But Roger Tomhave, the fine arts coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools, is convinced the program has been “worth every penny” that the Kennedy Center and Fairfax County Public Schools have put into it.
When he visits CETA schools, Tomhave said, the “climate is positive, excited and infectious.” “It’s all about helping students learn. The byproducts are that teachers get re-energized about teaching and schools become collaborative learning places,” he said. “CETA is helping develop 21st-century schools.”
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of State.
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