A Month to Support the Arts in Our Schools

Music in Our Schools Tour

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)

Cross-posted from the OII blog.

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.

Music with a message

What began as a single, one-day event in one state 40 years ago is now Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM). This year’s theme, “Music Makes Me ______,” invites students to complete that thought on social media with the hashtag #MIOSM2014. Check out the MIOSM website for a number of ways to get in harmony with the celebration, including the Concert for Music In Our Schools Month, featuring videos of school music groups nationwide performing.

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Students Share Magical Moments at Art Exhibit Opening

Student Art

A student’s work of art is displayed as part of the National PTA’s Reflections Program art exhibit at ED’s headquarters.

Magic to Do, the opening number in Pippin, could have been the theme song for the recent opening of the National PTA’s Reflections Program art exhibit at ED’s headquarters.

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 through its Student Art Exhibit Program. 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.

Student Dancers Before the official ribbon-cutting that opened the exhibit, a capacity audience applauded the artistry of two Reflections competition winners in music and dance. Eighth-grader Bailey Callahan sang and performed on guitar her award-winning composition, The Magic of Moments. Jessica Clay, a high school senior and award winner for dance choreography in the newly created Special Artist Division for students with disabilities, performed her winning dance, Born to Be Somebody, with freshman dancer Kendyl Kokoyama.

The value of both the Reflections program and arts education in America’s schools was affirmed by the guest speakers at the event. 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.” Art not only tell a child’s personal story, he observed, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”

National PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding.  And echoing the acting deputy secretary’s observation, Thorton said the arts in education helps “students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”

Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), spoke about the importance of the arts as a tool to solve schools’ performance challenges, using the PCAH Turnaround Arts initiative to illustrate her point.

Click here to learn more about the magical moments shared at the Reflections exhibit opening from the OII home room blog, including photos from the event.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Exhibit Opening Symbolizes Transformative Power of the Arts

Art opening
During National Arts in Education Week, the Department of Education had the privilege of hosting an opening of works by Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners for the 10th year in a row, and I had a front-row, center-stage seat. The young artists, along with their families, teachers, and Department staff packed the headquarters auditorium to honor the artistic achievements of some of our nation’s most talented middle and high school students.

Each year, the Department and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), in partnership with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which sponsors the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, jointly dedicate two exhibitions of more than 100 visual arts works from the current year’s 1,200 national awardees. The Department’s exhibit of more than 50 works graces the walls of our headquarters lobby year-round and is complemented by the display of a similar number of Scholastic works in the D.C. offices of PCAH. On hand for the opening were approximately 50 of this year’s young artists whose works are being exhibited.

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Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

studentIn talking about the need for a well-rounded education, Secretary Duncan has consistently invoked the importance of keeping arts in the mix. Over the past three years, researchers at Northwestern University have teamed up with the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program based in Los Angeles, as well as public charter schools in Chicago, to investigate just how important the arts are to learning.

Harmony Project works with students, such as Fatima Salcido, who enrolled in group violin classes during middle school.  Since then, she has been a high achiever. Through diligent practice, Fatima earned her way into private lessons and membership in the Hollywood Youth Orchestra, one of Harmony Project’s most elite ensembles. In addition to these activities, during her last two years of high school Fatima gave weekly private violin instruction to a less-advanced musician as a volunteer peer mentor. Fatima has gone on to earn a full four-year scholarship to Tulane University, where she is currently a neuroscience pre-med major and a member of the Tulane University orchestra.

Looking at Fatima’s success and that of others in Harmony Project, Northwestern is conducting a longitudinal study that investigates the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development. In particular, neuroscientists are evaluating how music education affects learning skills, communication abilities, and biological development in underserved, grade-school-aged children participating in Harmony’s mentoring program.

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Reimagining Learning in Philadelphia

Jeff Scott and Students

Engineering doctoral candidate Jeffrey Scott instructs students during the workshop on Music Information Retrieval at Drexel University in Philadelphia

It’s “full steam ahead” for Philadelphia area high school students participating in Drexel University’s Summer Music Technology program focused on connecting technology with the arts.

For the past seven years, more than 150 aspiring young engineers and musicians have participated in hands-on, multi-media workshops funded in part with a National Science Foundation grant and housed in the College of Engineering. This year, with continued support from private funding, 28 students attended a week-long session at Drexel’s new Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center. The Center is a hub where teams of faculty, students, and entrepreneurs collaborate on multi-disciplinary projects in a variety of fields.  It’s part of a nationwide effort to enrich teaching and learning in the science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – fields, by adding a focus on the arts. Supporters have dubbed this approach STEAM.

Students at Drexel

Students Brandon Tran and Chia Chen, with Dr. Youngmoo Kim, demonstrate musical instruments produced in a 3D printer at the ExCITe Center.

“Our goal here is to explore the benefits of arts-integrated research and learning, or STEAM education, for everyone, from ‘K to gray.’ We especially work with young high school students and hope that the things they learn here will help them make good career choices,” said the Center’s director, Dr. Youngmoo Kim.

In one workshop led by Jeffrey Scott, a doctoral candidate in engineering, students learned about Music Information Retrieval (MIR) and worked in groups to develop playlists, label and tag features of songs, and create a collaborative filtering system. MIR is a growing field that develops efficient and intelligent methods to analyze, retrieve and organize music. Dr. Kim hopes this kind of targeted, experiential learning will develop future engineers.

The workshops aren’t just for fun: the approach has attracted several aspiring engineers to pursue higher education and the STEAM fields.

Seth Nicosia, a current sophomore at Drexel’s College of Engineering, attended the summer engineering program in 2010, and attributes his decision to major in engineering to that experience. “I have always been interested in music, and the Summer Music Technology program showed me how I could apply my musical knowledge in new and practical ways,” said Nicosia. “The program motivated me to enroll in college and major in engineering.”

Drexel’s ExCITe Center is a feast of fun for anyone interested in innovative, engaging research in technology and the arts.  There’s a magnetic resonator piano that allows the piano to create sounds that were previously impossible on the instrument. There’s a life-size robot that students program to play percussion.  There’s Darwin, a soccer-playing robot. And, there’s a 3D printer that students use to make musical instruments.

This May, at a conference titled, “Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in the 21st Century,” Secretary Duncan emphasized the need to create a bold new vision for our classrooms. “Our students need to experiment, engage, and create in the areas they find truly exciting. Schools are a crucial part of that vision, and better access to technology and the worlds that technology puts at our fingertips, is an essential part of this work,” said Duncan. “To accomplish this, we need mentors, employers and artists working together in new ways to get all of our students involved and interested in their own learning.”

Clearly, this vision for high-quality STEAM education is helping to power Drexel’s ExCITe Center, as it fast-track students to academic and career success.

Elizabeth Williamson is a supervisory education program specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach in Philadelphia.

North Carolina Art Exhibit Stretches from Mountains to Sea

Ribbon Cutting at Art Exhibit

Student artists cut the ribbon to open the exhibit.

On June 21, the Department welcomed 175 students, family members, and teachers, as the North Carolina Art Education Association (NCAEA) opened its student art exhibit. For many of the guests, their day began before dawn as they boarded a bus in the mountains of North Carolina headed to the nation’s capital. The bus then worked its way towards the coast, giving added meaning to the exhibit’s title, “Artful Expressions: From the Mountains to the Sea.” The exhibit, which runs through July, features one student work from each of the 60 K–12, public and private North Carolina schools, as selected by the students’ NCAEA-member teachers.

The event was preceded by a guest reception with a performance by flautist Anna Peterson, music teacher at Yadkinville Elementary School.  One guest, a staffer from U.S. Representative David Price’s office, congratulated Isabella Kron, a graduating senior at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh. Kron, whose self-portrait was on display and who will be attending William & Mary College in the fall, said that it was an honor to have her work — a piece from her AP Studio Art portfolio — chosen as she had spent a great deal of time and effort on her art this past school year.

When discussing their art, the students had many themes in common. Several of the artists said that art was their favorite subject, and they liked seeing the final results of all their hard work. Natalie Jones, a first-grader from East Robeson Primary School in Lumberton and artist of the piece “Home,” said she liked “making new stuff.” “Musical Reflection” artist, Maisy Meakin, an 11th-grader, said she likes “making things look real.” Jeremiah Horton, kindergartner from Eastern Elementary School in Greenville, said his painting, “A is for Alligator,” blended his “favorite colors” to create an eye-catching piece.

Students playing bluegrass

Liam and Dylan Zink perform bluegrass selections.

It was an exciting experience for the students, many of whom had not been to D.C. before, to see their art hanging on the walls of a federal building.  One of these students, Samuel Rezac, a fifth-grade artist from Pine Elementary School, said that he may want to be an art teacher one day. Caleb Forbes, a 10th-grader from Mitchell High School in Bakersville, spoke of plans to pursue art, in some form, in college.

During the ceremony, several distinguished speakers shared their thoughts on the importance of the arts in schools. In her welcome remarks, Laurie Calvert, teacher liaison at the Department of Education and former English teacher from North Carolina, spoke of the importance of keeping the arts in schools and of the Department supporting that goal. Calvert said, “Thank you to the students and teachers, because your work inspires us every time we pass it and it reminds us why we’re here: We are here for you and we need to continually be about that. So, thank you so much for providing that jump — we need to keep it going.” Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership, echoed that sentiment, saying, “The young artists and performers … along with their teachers and their families are a testament to why it is so important to ensure that a complete and competitive education includes the arts for every young person in America.”

Art work

Jeremiah Horton, far right, stands in front of his painting, “A is for Alligator” accompanied by family members.

Penny Freeland, art teacher at Forbush Middle School, and Codi Alyssa Brindle, a recently graduated student from Hobbton High School who hopes to study art education or art therapy, reminded participants that art is all around us, woven into the fabric of our society. Freeland told of turn-of-the-century snowflake photographer Wilson Bentley’s influential work. Relating his story to today’s young artists, Freeland said; “The things that you are learning, and doing, and sharing in the arts can impact people for over a hundred years. You never know what you are doing today or what you will do in your future that may be that awesome and that beautiful, so I encourage you to continue to pursue your passion in the arts, to continue to pass a heritage of the arts to our next generation.” In her speech, Brindle mirrored Freeland’s sentiment that art influences everything and gave as an example her experience teaching art to special needs children, which helped them to communicate better.

The opening also featured five student performances. Three violinists, brothers Liam (who also has a piece in the exhibit) and Dylan Zink from Brevard Elementary School, and Cherrie Yoon from St. Peter’s School in Greenville performed both classical and bluegrass music. Two pianists from Liberty Prep Christian Academy in Mooresville, first-grader Max Adair and fourth-grader Caden Mather, each played standard solo pieces, including a series of the blues tunes. Dancer Jodie Coble, a first-grader from Tanglewood Elementary in Lumberton, performed a patriotic dance with ribbon-twirling to the song “American Kid” by Go Fish.

NCAEA artistists

NCAEA artists, speakers, and performers.

In closing, NCAEA President Sandra Williams recognized each student in the exhibit individually as she called them to the stage. She told them that their art touches each individual on a personal level and allows each person to “see the world in new perspectives.” And with that, the crowd of artists, along with the rest of the large audience there to honor them, assembled for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to officially open this superb collection of art from the classrooms of North Carolina.

Nicole Carinci is a management & program analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach and member of the Student Art Exhibit Program team.


The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov

Young Children Learn Math Through the Arts

Amanda Whiteman

Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman integrates the arts with math in preschool classrooms as part of the Early STEM/Arts Program. (Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.)

President Obama, in the 2013 State the Union address, challenged the country to move forward simultaneously on two key educational fronts — providing high-quality preschool for all four-year olds  and preparing a new generation of Americans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects.  Teaching artists from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and preschool educators in the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, are developing an innovative approach to achieving both of these national goals.

The Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) is pioneering an innovative, research-based arts integration model for early childhood learning — one that supports math teaching and learning through active, arts-based experiences in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms.  Preschool teachers participating in the project receive professional development that enables them to apply arts-integrated lessons in their classrooms. Some report “a-ha!” moments as they work alongside Wolf Trap Teaching Artists such as Amanda Layton Whiteman (pictured above). “When I found out it was going to be math, I was saying, oh jeez, this is going to be hard,” said one teacher.  But after being involved with the artist and the arts-integrated approach, she “realized that math is everywhere.” And incorporating the arts into her everyday lessons “helps you reach every child.”

With the help of a $1.15 million Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), the Early STEM/Arts program will disseminate evaluation results in early 2014. In the meantime, Wolf Trap Regional Programs in 16 locations nationally are gearing up to implement the new model in the 2013-14 school year.

Read OII’s “Wolf Trap Institute Unites the Arts and STEM in Early Childhood Learning” to hear more stories from those at the Wolf Trap Institute.

Meeting the Challenges of Student Writing in the Digital Age

Students in Robert Rivera-Amezola's fourth-grade classroom in Philadelphia

Students in Robert Rivera-Amezola’s fourth-grade classroom in Philadelphia work collaboratively on a writing assignment. (Photo by Jason Miczek and provided courtesy of the National Writing Project.)

Writing is an important part of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts, but what about students learning to employ the digital tools so natural to them outside the classroom to express themselves in school? The challenges to “going digital” with writing instruction range from choosing the best methods to employ the latest technological tools to accessing quality in-service and joining communities of practice to staying current with the changing definition of a “literate” citizenry.

Fortunately, there is Digital Is — a forum for teachers to share and engage with other educators in the field of digital writing — to meet these challenges. Developed by the National Writing Project, a venerable source of professional development, curricular and instructional resources, research findings, and best practices based on experiences of K-16 educators, this free Web portal is serving thousands of educators, writers, and K-12 learners.

In “Writing and Learning in a Digital Age — Digital Is,” the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Margarita Melendez conveys the multiple facets of this unique resource that is supported by funding from the Department of Education. Readers of the feature will also learn about two other OII-supported National Writing Project efforts that are providing teaching modules connected to the Common Core and a professional development program focused on rural school districts. Read the full piece: Writing and Learning in a Digital Age – Digital Is.

Arts Education and Advocacy: An Investment in Every Child’s Future

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” April 9th was Arts Advocacy Day here in Washington, D.C., and thousands of advocates from across the country came to rally in support of arts education programs in our schools, pre-K through high school, that will solve the problem Picasso described.

The arts are an integral part of a well-rounded education, and a recent school survey by the Department revealed that millions of American students, particularly in high-need schools, have either minimal or no access to instruction in the arts. To miss out on arts learning opportunities is to miss out on gaining the very skills and habits of mind we know are essential to succeeding in life and earning a livelihood in the 21st century: creativity; observing as opposed to simply seeing; identifying as well as solving problems; thinking outside the box; and communicating with not just words but with images, sounds, and motion — these and more are inherently part of a regularly scheduled, quality arts education program.

Student Performers

Members of the Thelonious Monk Institute National Arts Performing High School Program, (l. to r.) Sterlin Brown, Joseph Quiles, and Sabrina Dias, perform for ED staff and guests in the ED headquarters.

Each Arts Advocacy Day is preceded by the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, and this year’s lecturer, world-renown cellist and member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) Yo-Yo Ma, focused on the need for arts education in his “Art for Life’s Sake” lecture before a capacity audience at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. Clearly, Yo-Yo Ma has lived out Picasso’s hope of remaining an artist, but just as important is his unflagging commitment to making that hope a reality for America’s young people through his work with PCAH’s Turnaround Arts initiative (a collaborative effort with ED), the Silk Road Project, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In thousands of communities represented by arts advocates here last week, school boards are facing the same budget concerns and school leaders are facing the same tough decisions they were four years ago. But investing in arts education is a smart, pay-forward investment in every child’s education and future.  It’s among the “smart ideas” I’ve advocated before, and now is an excellent time to reiterate it.

And because it’s also a smart idea to invest in ideas and strategies for school improvement that are based on research, the Arts Education Partnership, which is supported by ED and the National Endowment for the Arts, last year launched ArtsEdSearch, an online clearinghouse for high-quality research on arts education. The first of its kind, ArtsEdSearch contains a growing number of valid research studies on the impact of arts education on students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development; on professional development outcomes for arts educators and teaching artists; and on academic achievement and other outcomes associated with arts learning in school- and community-based programs.

ArtsEdge is another source of smart ideas for arts education. Its free digital resources include lesson plans, audio stories, video clips, and interactive online modules. With support from OII’s National Arts in Education Program, the Kennedy Center’s Education Department makes these quality resources — many of which are from the Center’s own educational performances and professional development programs — available to thousands of schools and community arts partners nationwide.

Arts Advocacy Day 2013 is behind us, but we hope we will use it to renew a commitment nationwide to make our children whole through the arts and to get on to the important work still to be done to make the arts an essential part of every child’s education. We shouldn’t accept anything less.

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

Teachers Celebrated at Sundance

Joey Lauren Adams and Carol Ann McAdams

Actress Joey Lauren Adams on the right, honored her high school drama teacher Carol Ann McAdams at left at a Teachers Making a Difference Award luncheon during last week's Sundance Film Festival in Utah

It’s nice to see that so many organizations are showing teachers the respect they deserve. While at the Sundance Film festival last week, I stopped into the Creative Coalition’s Teachers Making A Difference Award luncheon, where Tim Daly, actor and president of the Creative Coalition, kicked off the organization’s 7th annual award luncheon. “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires … and we are here to celebrate the teachers who inspired their students to great heights,” said Daly as he introduced two actors and their honored teachers.

The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry, each year pays homage to teachers who have had an impact on some of Hollywood’s actors.  This year, actor Bill Pullman, starring in NBC’s 1600 Penn, as well as a new role in May in the Summer, a Sundance premiere, and Joey Lauren Adams, known for her breakout role in Chasing Amy and soon to be seen in Blue Caprice, were reunited with teachers who have made a real difference in their lives.

Long before his name appeared on a marquee, Pullman taught theater at Montana State University, and after being convinced by his students to give the film industry a shot, Pullman found himself working under the tutelage of Paul Austin, actor and founder at the Liberty Free Theatre in Liberty, N.Y. 

Pullman credits Austin for launching his career after he got Pullman involved in an Off Broadway production that received rave reviews, and put him on a fast track to Hollywood.

“When you teach, you look for something in your students that you don’t know,” Austin said after receiving the award from Pullman. “You ask lots of questions, and you eventually get out of the way, so your student can excel.”

Joey Lauren Adams at Sundance

Joey Lauren Adams speaks with ED's Sherry Schweitzer at the Sundance Film Festival.

Also honored at the luncheon was recently retired North Little Rock High West drama teacher Carol Ann McAdams. Joey Lauren Adams said that Carol Ann changed her life during high school. Adams found herself an outcast by not making the cheerleading squad, so eventually she joined the drama club, a setting she said was for geeks and outsiders, but it helped her find her identity.

McAdams said she felt blessed to have Adams in her class. “She was so talented and I told her through her critiques that she could become a professional actress.” McAdams continued, “She always has stayed in touch with me. Recently, she told me that she had kept my critique – and for a student to listen to you, trust you, believe you and love you and then take something that you’ve said to them long ago in a class, and do something with it, that’s what makes a difference in a teacher’s life.”

 McAdams is a true proponent of arts education in our schools. She found that many students would not have wanted to come to school if not for drama or art class or music. She said she always pushed the envelope and helped show her students what they were capable of achieving, leading them to lives they never knew they could have. “If you can make a student believe that they have something else to give, and if the arts will help that student find a niche, then that’s what it’s all about,” said McAdams.

According to a report The Arts and Achievement in at-Risk Youth released last year from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), at-risk students who have access to the arts in- or out-of-school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement.

Another 2012 arts education report from the Department of Education found that the availability of theater and dance instruction at elementary schools has significantly declined in the last ten years. To address this decline, ED is allowing states more flexibility under the No Child Left Behind law, and is making the arts and humanities a competitive priority in the Promise Neighborhood competition.

Secretary Arne Duncan noted at the report’s release that “a well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students’ success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode.” Pullman and Adams are award-winning proof.

Sherry Schweitzer is senior communications specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Student Art Transforms Lives and ED

On Oct. 12, young artists from all across the nation convened at the U.S. Department of Education to be honored for their award-winning works of art and writing. The works of more than 50 of the 2012 winners of the 90-year-old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition—comprising photography, portraiture, multi-media, 3-D work, film, animation, teen writing and game design—are currently exhibited at both the Department of Education and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities headquarters in Washington D.C. The competition is sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.

Ribbon Cutting

Student artists officially open the exhibit by cutting the ribbon.

With eagerness and jubilation, students, families, and teachers arrived at the Department early that Friday morning to participate in workshops on video game design and on best practices in teaching art, to watch the winning films, and to be honored for their artistic achievements. For the Kim family that left New York City at 2 a.m. to travel to the opening, the excitement of coming to Washington D.C. to be honored for a national award took precedence over any fatigue incurred. Eager to experience the festivities of the day, award winner Alex Kim, with his proud father standing by his side, stated, “This has been such a great honor. I can’t express in words what it means to be here right now and be honored by the U.S. Department of Education and Scholastic for something that I created and am so passionate about.”

With the auditorium at ED headquarters filled to capacity, the students received congratulatory remarks by the leaders of the U.S. Department of Education, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and the National Art Education Association (Read Under Secretary Martha Kanter’s blog about the event). After the last student introduction was completed, the students—filled with excitement and anticipation—marched towards the exit and officially opened the art exhibit by ceremoniously cutting the ribbon. Smiles and laughter abounded as the students filed through the auditorium doors to stand beside their works displayed on the walls, in sculpture boxes, and on TV monitors and Kindles.

Alexandria Bennett, an award winner from Saint Petersburg High School in Saint Petersburg, Fla., stated that the inspiration behind her piece, Johnny from Haiti, was a young Haitian boy she met while on a mission trip to Haiti with her church. Continued correspondence allowed her to develop a friendship with him and to depict his experience through her eyes. Alexandria hopes that her work will inspire others to creatively reflect on and tell about their transformational life experiences. While reflecting on her experience in Haiti and how it inspired her artistically, Alexandria stated, “With many students experiencing hardships in their daily lives, hopefully the arts will help some of them to develop a new perspective on how they believe that the world should be.”

Shannon Levin

Shannon Levin poses for a photo with her portrait, Look at Me Now.

Shannon Levin’s portrait, Look at Me Now, shows a smile that is far from one usually seen.  When asked about the inspiration behind the work, JoAnn Onnembo, Levin’s art teacher from Bergen Academies in Hackensack, N.J., provided the following interpretation: “ Shannon’s art is aiming to stop you in your tracks as it is very colorful […] many times people are judged unfairly for their appearance. Smiles usually draw you in, but this smile will startle you.”

Throughout the ceremony, the young artists and writers were asked to think about how they will use their artistic talents when they embark on their future careers. A few offered ideas about how they believe art transforms life.

“Art gives life a different perspective. It shows how spontaneous life is and how you can’t plan for certain things.” —Aisling Flaherty, The Dalton School, New York, N.Y.

“Art will help people express themselves. In life it is important for people to share what they feel and think.”— Megan Oppenheim, The Mirman School, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click here to view additional photos from the event.

Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov.


It’s Arts in Education Week: Let’s Celebrate and Get to Work!

student dance performance

As Arts in Education Week concludes,  it is a time to recognize the importance of the arts a well-rounded education for all students. Through dance, music, theatre and the visual arts, young children explore the world through sight and sound, creative movement and drama.  Through the arts, young persons acquire invaluable cognitive abilities and social skills — problem solving and perseverance to name only two — that prepare them for the rigors of college, careers, and life in the 21st century. We also know through research that arts-rich schools make for quality learning environments, heightening student engagement and correlating with increases in attendance and decreases in behavior problems, as well as short and long-term academic achievement, including pursuing higher education and college completion.

Despite all this, a recent Department of Education survey tells us that for far too many students, the arts don’t play a role at all in their K-12 experience.  Here are some disconcerting facts as of the 2009-10 school year:

  • More than 1.3 million elementary students attended schools where no music learning occurred and 3.9 million students, in nearly 20 percent of America’s elementary schools, lacked the opportunity to paint, sculpt or draw a picture.
  • Since 2000, when an earlier survey occurred, the availability of theater and dance in elementary schools went from bad to worse —20 percent of elementary schools offered these arts disciplines in 2000; in 2010, only one out of every 33 schools offered dance and one out of every 25 offered theatre.
  • In more than 40 percent of our nation’s secondary schools, students can graduate without taking a single arts course.

What’s more troubling is the opportunity gap – the differences in access to the arts for advantaged students (in schools with less than 25 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch), and disadvantaged students (in schools with more than 76 percent of students eligible for subsidized meals). For  example:

  • While nearly all (97 percent) of the lowest-poverty elementary schools offered music instruction in 2009-10, music instruction was available in only 89 percent of the highest-poverty elementary schools.  And the opportunity gap was similar for elementary visual arts instruction.
  • At the secondary level, the opportunity gaps for both music and visual arts instruction actually increased to 15 percent, with only 81 and 80 percent of high-poverty schools offering instruction in music and visual arts, respectively.

In his remarks at the April 2nd survey report release, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared these gaps a “bad news story” for disadvantaged students. They constitute “absolutely an equity issue,” he said. “All children should have arts-rich schools,” according to Secretary Duncan, but “it is clear that our public schools have a long way to go before they are providing a rich and rigorous arts education for all students.”

OII Grants Help to Innovate and Disseminate

The Office of Innovation and Improvement supports a number of competitive funding programs to improve arts teaching and learning, better understand the effects of arts education, and disseminate effective programs and practices, including:

  • OII’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grants are developing, implementing and evaluating innovative practices in arts teaching and learning, particularly in arts integration. Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE) grants are combining the efforts of school districts with the resources of arts and cultural organizations to improve the quality of both standards-based arts instruction and arts integration at all grade levels. This video highlights the outcomes of several AEMDD and PDAE projects.
  • Several i3 projects are exploring promising approaches to arts teaching and learning, using federal support and technical assistance to increase their understandings of why and how their efforts result in high levels of achievement in the arts and other subjects, as well as increases in engagement, teamwork, and other byproducts of quality arts education programs.
  • A majority of our Promise Neighborhoods grantees have made the arts an integral part of their plans and actions. Both planning and implementation projects are involving museums and performing arts centers, film festivals, and local arts groups as well as teaching artists and folklorists in urban, suburban, and rural communities. They are  making the arts a vital part of a cradle-to-career commitment to children and youth in our most distressed communities.

Now is the Time to Act

Use this week to take stock of how the arts are doing in your schools, districts, and states. Where the arts are available and thriving, celebrate that and bring more awareness, both in the school and community, to the importance of the arts in a well-rounded education.  But where arts courses and learning opportunities are in short supply or don’t exist at all, take action now. To get started, visit the website of the Arts Education Partnership, and within it, the Toolkit for Arts Access in U.S. Schools.

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