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Common Core and Arts Integration in Philadelphia

Adapting teaching methods to learning standards is not always an easy task. Teachers and school administrators working with new or updated standards, like the Common Core State Standards, are faced with developing and recalibrating methods to ensure alignment. So imagine the challenge of redesigning a $1.1 million federal program right in the middle of a four-year grant cycle. That was the daunting task that faced the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) as it worked alongside the School District of Philadelphia to integrate the arts into the curriculum in four Philadelphia schools.

PAEP was awarded a four-year grant through the Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Program (AEMDD) in 2010. Entitled Arts Link: Building Mathematics and Science Competencies through an Arts Integration Model, the grant aims to integrate the arts into the math and science curriculum in grades two through five. The end goal is to increase student achievement in these subjects by presenting the material through lessons and in ways not done previously.

ARTS IS A VEHICLE TO ARTICULATE THOUGHTS AND IDEAS

Jerry Kyle and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Courtesy of Cynthia Waller, U.S. Dept. of ED)Over 200 teachers, teaching artists, principals, educators, and advocates met at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on August 7-8 for the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) Conference. VSA was founded in 1974, by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Ambassador Smith showed her continued support of VSA and the conference by attending a special luncheon on the first day. As a baby-boomer, I must admit that I was excited to not only have an opportunity to meet a member of the Kennedy family that has served our country for decades, but also to experience the passion that Ambassador Smith has for the mission of VSA. At age 85, she is still advocating for the importance of the arts in special education.

The theme of this year’s conference was Intersections: Arts and Special Education. The desire of the conference planners was to provide a place where two or more things would intersect: participants intersecting with their colleagues –old and new; art teachers intersecting with special education teachers; practitioners intersecting with researchers; visual educators intersecting with performing arts educators; and many other intersections of the field.

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The Arts in Early Learning: From the Classroom to the State of the Union

When President Obama announced his universal pre-K initiative during the State of the Union Address this past Feb. 12th, a preschool educator was listening from a very coveted vantage point: a couple of seats away from First Lady Michelle Obama in the House of Representatives chamber. Susan Bumgarner teaches four-year-olds at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City. The school participates in the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program.

Since 1995, Susan and the other teachers at Wilson have attended professional learning programs sponsored in partnership with the Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc. The Kennedy Center program is a network of nearly 100 arts organizations and their neighboring school districts in more than 40 states that “partner” in offering professional development for teachers and teaching artists. The Kennedy Center program also offers a roster of trained teaching artists to support the Partners in Education sites.

Also offered by the Kennedy Center are national learning institutes on arts integration, online and traditional curricular and instructional resources and valuable lesson plans. Support for its programs is provided in part by the Office of Innovation and Improvement through the Arts in Education National Program grant.

Meeting the Challenges of Military-Connected Children

On July 9, 2013, Secretary Arne Duncan addressed participants at the Military Child Education Coalition's (MCEC) 15th-Annual Training Seminar, "For the Sake of the Child," in National Harbor, Md. The Secretary expressed appreciation for our service members and their families and acknowledged the personal sacrifices made by military-connected children. Organizations like the MCEC are focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.

The Secretary noted that military-connected students face unique education challenges as the result of frequent moves and multiple deployments. Of the 1.2 million school-age children of military service members, nearly 80 percent attend public schools. Thus public schools are distinctively positioned to address the needs of these students at a pivotal point in their lives. The Common Core Standards, according the Secretary, can help to ensure that all students, regardless of where they attend schools, will receive a high-quality education. And they can particularly benefit the children of active-duty military members who move three times more often than their civilian counterparts.

Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

Can studying music help students to achieve college- and career-ready goals?  That was the case for Fatima Salcido, a student at Tulane University, and Christian Martinez, a high school junior who is earning college credits from Los Angeles City College. For both Fatima and Christian, the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program in Los Angeles, provided them not only music instruction, but skills that helped them succeed in academic areas like reading.

Researchers at Northwestern University are conducting studies of the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development, focusing on students participating in both the Harmony Project and public charter schools in Chicago. They are looking at how music education affects learning and communication skills, and exploring the possibility that music can positively affect the academic achievement gap between groups of students.

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U.S. Department of Education Awards $12 Million in Grants to Support Charter School Facilities

(July 18, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement). The recipients include a non-profit organization called The Reinvestment Fund, a consortium of non-profits called Build with Purpose, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.

One of several grants under the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program, the Credit Enhancement program helps to improve educational options for students and parents by targeting funds to areas with the greatest need for public school choice.

"Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These grants help ensure that children learn in adequate facilities. The Credit Enhancement program supports charter schools, helps put the schools on stable financial footing and allows us all to continue working towards President Obama's goal of leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020."

Uncommon Schools is Broad Prize Winner

Uncommon Schools, a network of 32 public charter schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) — is winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education, announced the winner on July 2nd at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Washington, D.C.

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated Uncommon Schools for their “progress in raising student achievement and their steadfast commitment to ensuring that every child — regardless of family income or background — deserves a world-class education,” citing the schools’ students as the “real winners.” “It is our hope,” said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase of the Broad Foundation, “that the success of Uncommon Schools serves as an example for traditional public schools and others in the charter sector of what is possible.”

National Study Points to Charter Sector Gains

Charter schools are making gains in their overall performance, including the performance of minority and low-income students, compared to traditional public schools, according to the National Charter School Study 2013 from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. The independent national study of charters and matched traditional public schools in 26 states updates data and comparisons of charter and traditional public schools’ performance in CREDO’s landmark 2009 study that involved 16 states.

The average charter school student in the 26 states gained an additional eight days of learning each year in reading beyond their local peers in traditional public schools, according to the latest study. This compares with a loss of seven days each year in reading for the average charter school student in the 2009 study. In mathematics, charter students went from a 22-day deficit in learning compared to their traditional public school counterparts in 2009 to being on an even par with them in the 2013 study.

North Carolina Students Affirm Role of the Arts in Schools

A new student art exhibit opened at the Department of Education’s headquarters on June 21, and its title, "Artful Expressions: From the Mountains to the Sea," had a dual significance: On the one hand, the 60 art works on display were created by students in that number of K-12 public and private North Carolina schools, stretching from Asheville in the western, mountain region of the state to Oak Island on the Atlantic coast. And for many of the more than 175 students, family members, and teachers who attended the opening, their day before it began before dawn as they boarded a bus in the mountains and made their way towards the coast, stopping for other art exhibit goers along the way to the nation’s capital.

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Charter, Magnet, and Private Schools Honored as 2013 ED Green Ribbon Schools

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, congratulated the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Maureen Dowling, director of ONPE (center), congratulates (left to right) Meghan Sayer, director of gift planning at Westtown School; Anne Morse-Hambrock, board member of Racine Montessori School; and Debra Wagner and Jodi Tucker, elementary school teachers at St. Paul Lutheran School.Awardees on their achievements at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 3. In a press release announcing the ceremony, Secretary Duncan said, "These schools and districts exhibit best practices to reduce costs and increase achievement, health and equity, for all schools, not just aspiring green schools."

Among the 64 schools honored with the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award, 10 are private schools, seven are public charters, and five are magnets. Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) staffs were on hand at the awards ceremony to add their congratulations. "It was inspiring to learn how a number of the private schools that earned the Department of Education's Green Ribbon recognition have been focused on environmental issues and the health and wellness of students for many years,” said Maureen Dowling, director of the OII’s Office on Non-Public Education. “From vegetable and butterfly gardens, to student environment clubs and ‘electric cops’ who graph data on their school's conservation efforts, these honored schools are developing environmental awareness and responsibility in their students. In short, their students are becoming good stewards of planet earth."

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