Art and Robots: Both Evidence the Creativity of Concept Students

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

From the Great Lakes to the nation’s capital, Department staff and guests were proud to welcome the talented student artists, their fellow students, and their teachers and parents to the Concept Schools Student Art Exhibit opening in Barnard auditorium on March 31. Some 130 charter school students, representing 18 Concept Schools from six states (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin), were in attendance to both celebrate their own artwork on display at the Department and support their fellow students’ work.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

To kick off the program, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Chinoy Dabby welcomed guests to the Department and thanked Concept Schools’ families for making the long journey to share their children’s work.  According to Dabby, “Arts education … at Concept Schools … is an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience.” She said that her high school education at an arts magnet school “helped nurture a lifelong appreciation for the arts.” Speaking on behalf of the Department, Dabby said, “We believe … that all children should have access to great arts instruction … no matter where you grow up or what school you go to.”

Next, Concept Schools President Sedat Duman expressed his appreciation for the Department, students, staff, teachers, and parents for making the exhibit and opening a success. He introduced a video describing the nationally recognized work that Concept Schools does to prepare students for higher education. According to the video, about 90 percent of Concept students go on to college.

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Update on OII’s 2014 Grant Competitions

For the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014, the Office of Innovation and Improvement is conducting 13 grant competitions in five program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Full-Service Community Schools, and Teacher Quality Partnerships. Four of the competitions are underway, with announcements of the other nine slated for later this spring.

Arts in Education grants are available in two categories: Arts in Education Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Educators, both of which help schools and districts to partner with community-based organizations to increase the quality and effectiveness of arts teaching and learning, including integration of the arts with other core academic subjects.

The three Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competitions — Development, Validation, and Scale-up — support school districts and nonprofits to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices. Development grants are for new and promising practices that should be studied further; Validation grants verify the effectiveness of programs with moderate levels of evidence; and Scale-up grants support applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success. (Note: While the rest of OII’s 2014 grant competitions will make grant awards by September 30, 2014, the i3 grant awards will be made by December 31, 2014.)

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Philadelphia Schools Leader Helps Arts Stay Strong for All Students

A tireless champion for the arts in education, Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent Dennis W. Creedon draws on nearly 30 years of working in or partnering with schools in Philadelphia to make the arts part of a well-rounded education for all of the city’s 131,000 students.

As a senior administrative leader in the district’s central office, Creedon, who began his education career as a theatre teacher in 1987, combines his understanding of research into the nature and value of arts learning with creative approaches to tapping Philadelphia’s rich array of cultural institutions to weather the latest budget reductions. Since 2008, Philadelphia schools are required to have art or music offerings and a commitment to every student having at least one arts lesson weekly. The policy, which Creedon was instrumental in developing, appeared to be in jeopardy last year as the district faced a $304 million budget deficit.

Creedon quote 1In a recent Education Week profile of Creedon, the conductor of the All-City High School Orchestra, Don S. Liuzzi, draws on the meteorological metaphor to explain the school leader’s importance. “The ship was sinking,” he said, describing the district’s most recent round of budget reductions that threatened the jobs of nearly 4,000 teachers. And while some arts specialist positions were lost, the arts education ship is still afloat, according to Liuzzi, because the district’s top arts education advocate is “a very persuasive and avid supporter of the arts.”

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A Month to Support the Arts in Our Schools

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Walt Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.

There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.

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“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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