“Any Given Child” Receives Grant to Endow Future Growth

Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child (Any Given Child), a program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has a stronger future thanks to a $1 million gift from Newman’s Own Foundation. The funds will establish an endowment to help underserved communities participate in the program that presently serves 14 metropolitan areas, according to a Kennedy Center press release.

AGClogoAny Given Child works in two phases: Initially, the combination of a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources and a community needs assessment identify resources as well as gaps in local arts education opportunities. They then become the basis of a long-range plan to bring equitable access to arts education for all K-8 students by aligning the existing resources of a school system with those of the community’s arts organizations and the Kennedy Center.

The long-range plan is implemented in phase two and local educators and artists take advantage of a wealth of resources available from the Kennedy Center’s education department, ranging from professional development for teachers and teaching artists to supplemental lessons with online interactive learning modules available at ArtsEdge.

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A Class Act Leaves the OII and National Stage

In December, OII said goodbye to Edith Harvey, the director of Improvement Programs (IP), who retired at the end of December after 26 years of service at the Department of Education. Prior to her position within OII, Edith served as program officer in the Office of Migrant Education and as branch chief in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, where she was responsible for teacher quality, advanced placement, and equity programs.

Edith and student (3)

Edith Harvey congratulates Arts Education Partnership 2011 Young Artist Award winner Jackie Sanders.

Before coming to ED, Edith held teaching and administration positions at various educational levels, including executive director of a Head Start program serving low-income children throughout Washington, D.C. She also worked as program coordinator for the Lincoln (Neb.) Public Schools and program director for the Nebraska Department of Education, where she developed state policy and trained school superintendents and administrators throughout the state on equal educational opportunity requirements, specifically Title IV, CRA, and Title IX. She also taught elementary and adult basic education for the Missouri Board of Education and has many years of experience working with at-risk, low-income populations and on areas relating to gender and race equity.

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PTA Art Exhibit Opening Showcases Magical Moments

Reflections-student artists and special guests

Reflections student artists are joined on stage by National PTA President Otha Thorton (center), PCAH Executive Director Rachel Goslins (seventh from right), members of the PTA Reflections Committee, and National PTA staff.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Department was privileged to host the opening of an exhibit of art works by winners of the National PTA’s 2014 Reflections Program competition. For nearly half a century, the National PTA has inspired millions of students to become involved in the arts through Reflections, and each year many of the winners are recognized at the Department in its Student Art Exhibit Program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open an exhibit of their work. This year’s exhibit includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad on the theme The Magic of a Moment. Writing, dance and film are also showcased in the exhibit.

Reflections-Haley Strong The Cat Who Smells Flowers

Haley Young’s cat was the inspiration for her award-winning collage, “The Cat Who Smells Flowers.”

Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton welcomed guests to the Department and delivered the important message that arts education matters for “every school and every child.” As Shelton pointed out, “The research is clear that art helps our kids do better at everything.” This includes the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Shelton reflected that not only does art tell a child’s personal story, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”

PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding. A way to do this, he said, reiterating Shelton’s message, includes adding “the A” for art to STEM, and bringing STEAM to every school’s curricula. The arts in education, Thornton said, “[help] students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”

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Artists Mark International Education Week with Exhibit and Performances

VSA student and adult artists and speakers at the exhibit opening gather for a moment on stage before the ribbon-cutting.

VSA student and adult artists and speakers at the exhibit opening gather for a moment on stage before the ribbon-cutting.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in celebration of International Education Week, hosted the VSA Student Art Exhibit and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Yo Soy … Je Suis … I Am … My Family, in Barnard Auditorium. VSA was founded almost 40 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society in which people with disabilities learn through the arts, and is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center’s education programs are supported by a National Arts in Education Program grant from OII.

The exhibit is a collection of 19 works by students from 10 nations in VSA’s International Art Program for Children with Disabilities. Also featured were music performances by winners of VSA’s International Young Soloists Competition. There are an additional 51 pieces on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

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Virtual Poetry Slams Deliver Multiple Benefits for Urban Youth

Kimbrlyn Hernandez was so excited when she learned that she and her 8th-grade classmates at M.S. 145, Bronx, N.Y., would be going to Chicago and San Francisco for poetry slams. But the “trip” to those cities to share her poems would take seconds rather than days, thanks to the Internet and Global Writes, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to promoting literacy, communication, and collaboration among young people and an OII grantee. As the virtual encounters and “trips” began, Kimbrlyn’s thoughts were random sentences, but as the sharing and “travel” continued and she gained both confidence in her writing and comfort in the interpersonal relationships she formed online, Kimbrlyn’s poetry evolved.

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What You Get When You Mix Arts with Science

It was a classic “win-win” on display when Secretary Duncan visited a preschool classroom at Brightwood Elementary School in Northwest Washington, D.C., recently. The children were learning concepts in science through music and dance. Nationally, in many schools and districts science is not taught in the elementary grades, much less in preschool. And based on a recent Department of Education report on arts education, in many places, particularly urban school districts, the arts are missing as well in early learning.

Teacher Kalpana Kumar-Sharma and her students make arts and science connections through music. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

Teacher Kalpana Kumar-Sharma and her students make arts and science connections through music. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

Secretary Duncan, accompanied by D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, visited teacher Kalpana Kumar-Sharma’s classroom to see how an innovative approach to combining the arts and science is working as the result of an OII arts education grant to the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning in the Arts. Like many other Wolf Trap early learning programs, Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) pairs a teaching artist who is skilled in arts integration with the preschool teacher.

While Brightwood Elementary is not explicitly a STEM or arts focused school, Artist Laura Schandelmeier has been visiting the Brightwood classroom weekly for several months to collaborate with Ms. Kumar-Sharma on lessons that combine dance and music with science. Based on the model that has evolved over the past three years in nearby Fairfax County preschool classes, the goal is to leave Ms. Kumar-Sharma with an understanding of arts integration and the skills and confidence to implement future integrated lessons on her own. Click here to read an OII home page article about the Early STEM/Arts project funded by the
Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grants program.

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Digital Media Academy Promises Bright Futures


A Digital Media Academy student illustrates a live canvas for the DC Promise Neighborhoods Initiative.

A Digital Media Academy student illustrates a live canvas for the DC Promise Neighborhoods Initiative.

For 15 young people in the Kenilworth-Parkside community of Washington, D.C., a summer learning experience provided by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) helped to change their lives. Over 29 days and through more than 130 hours of digital instruction and immersion, participants in DCPNI’s first Digital Media Academy took to their community, to classrooms, and to nationally recognized media enterprises in the D.C. metropolitan area to discover new passions, learn marketable skills, meet adult mentors, and set a course for their future success.

During the first week of class, DMA youth explore hands-on, project-based learning.

During the first week of class, DMA youth explore hands-on, project-based learning.

DCPNI, one of 12 Promise Neighborhoods implementation sites nationwide, tapped into a rich array of digital and media arts resources in the nation’s capital — from Black Entertainment Television and CNN to the Newseum — to help the young people find their own voices and use them to improve their neighborhood. The students gained valuable creative skills in computer programming and graphic design, coupled with editing videos and music and operating cameras. In the process, they also gained valuable leadership skills, implemented social change through art, and effectively used the media to positively influence their peers.

It’s off into the real world to shoot their first PSA for this DMA production crew.

It’s off into the real world to shoot their first PSA for this DMA production crew.

The students, according to DCPNI Executive Director Ayris Scales, were constantly amazed by new ideas and opportunities, and they shared them in daily journals and local media interviews. Among their favorites experiences were being exposed to Google and exploring the Newseum, as they realized the importance of the media and the fundamentals of working hard while having fun. More importantly, while they created public service announcements on teen pregnancy that encouraged young people to live for their future dreams, the DMA students made important strides toward achieving their own future dreams.

Many of the DMA students now realize how gifted they are and just how bright their futures can be. They graduated from the program, but remain in the hearts of the DCPNI mentors, staff, and professionals who supported them, many of whom said, “It was the best job and best summer I ever had.”

New OII Grants to Increase Access to High-Quality Schools, Effectiveness of School Leadership, and Role of Arts Education Nationwide

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this week announced nearly $105 million in Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) grants that will help to ensure high-quality leadership in high-need schools, develop model arts education efforts nationwide, and increase public school choices for parents.

In announcing $13.3 million to 20 projects under the School Leadership Program (SLP), Secretary Duncan said, “High-quality examples of leadership can help shape a school’s culture and create an environment where students are excited to learn.”  The five-year grants will help prepare individuals to meet state certification requirements to become principals or assistant principals as well as provide professional development to current principals and assistant principals. More than 1,500 aspiring or current school leaders in almost 100 high-need school districts across 15 states will be served by the grantees’ programs and services. Full information about the new SLP awards can be found here.

Acknowledging the role the arts play in helping students gain the skills needed to succeed in college and careers, the $2 million awarded under the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination program (AEMDD), according to Secretary Duncan, “… will help organizations establish and implement sound practices that can be used in classrooms across the nation.” The eight grantees vary from nonprofit arts education organizations to a higher education institution to both charter and traditional public schools, all of which have strong partnerships to develop and implement their projects. Click here for the ED press release on the AEMDD awards.

Magnet schools can increase public school options for parents and students, and the $89.8 million in Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) grants will “help students gain access to challenging curricula that will help prepare them for college and 21st century careers,” said Secretary Duncan in announcing the grants to 27 school districts in 12 states. The districts will use the up-to-three-year grants to establish new magnet schools or expand existing magnet programs. Click here for complete information on the MSAP grants.

Young Artists Are Shining Examples of Quality Arts Education

On Friday, Sept. 13, the Department was honored to host some of the nation’s most creatively accomplished middle and high school students at the Student Art Exhibit Program’s opening ceremony of the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners in Barnard Auditorium. These bright, young visual artists and writers — some of whom made the trek from as far away as Hawaii and Oregon — were celebrated by their families, their teachers, Department staff, and outside arts educators as shining examples of the importance of a strong arts education.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners cut the ribbon to open the exhibit. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners cut the ribbon to open the exhibit. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

There are two award-winning Scholastic visual art exhibits of more than 85 original pieces on display in the LBJ headquarters lobby. A year-long, national exhibit is mounted all around the lobby walls and a special exhibit of Scholastic’s Massachusetts affiliate’s award-winning works are on display in the rotating gallery through September.

The artists and their guests arrived as early as 8 a.m. to enjoy a continental breakfast and preview the exhibits. Later, the students and their teachers broke off into separate groups and the students attended a storytelling workshop, led by Writopia Lab, while their teachers attended a professional development workshop. At this time, other guests were treated to a screening of the 2013 Scholastic National Medalists’ award-winning film and animation works.

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A Simple Presumption for Arts in Education Week

Arts in Ed Week logo“I start from a simple presumption that I think most parents and teachers share.  And that is that all students – 100 percent – should have access to arts instruction.  All Children should have arts-rich schools.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

And the U.S. Congress agrees. In fact, in 2010, it passed Concurrent Resolution 275 to declare the week that begins with the second Sunday in September Arts in Education Week. The Arts Education Partnership (AEP), in keeping with its role as America’s premier source of information on the role of the arts in the education and lives of our children and youth, is hosting a special Arts in Education Week website to share news of the acknowledgements of the importance of arts education and nationwide events occurring this week.

Secretary Duncan talks with students at one of the ED's frequent Student Art Exhibit Openings at the Department's headquarters.

Secretary Duncan talks with students at one of the ED’s frequent Student Art Exhibit Openings at the Department’s headquarters.

Year-round, there are stories in the media about arts education — often times about the increasing body of research that supports their essentialness in a well-rounded education. For this week, however, AEP asked a group of arts and education leaders to share their thoughts on “What story about the arts in education still needs to be told?” These “untold stories” provide plenty of ideas and inspiration to achieve the goal of arts-rich schools for all children.

As the week is unfolding, others are adding their thoughts to both the AEP special website and its Facebook. AEP also issued a special edition of ArtsEd Digest to highlight additional information and resources pertinent to this week’s nationwide advocacy and public awareness efforts, including links to a number of valuable AEP brochures and reports. And don’t forget to follow the discussion this week about arts education at #ArtsEdWeek.

And watch this space next week for a blog about the opening of the annual exhibit of art works by national winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in the Department of Education’s headquarters, which is part of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and works on issues of national arts education policy and practice.