Seattle Schools and Arts Education

Precisely what I thought might happen with the Wallace Foundation grant to develop a plan for arts education in Seattle, did happen.

The district received about $1M to develop this plan about 18 months ago.  At the time I thought, well, great but what if you plan and don't get any money to carry it out?

Yesterday it was announced that the Wallace Foundation declined to fund the SPS plan.  The district's communication says:

While we’re disappointed that Seattle did not fit the Foundation’s research criteria and needs, we know this plan is right for our community.

That's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow.  While the district forges ahead with a pilot, the fact remains there is no money to follow-thru district-wide.  Why didn't the district create the plan to meet the criteria and needs even if it was not exactly what the district wanted?  In these cash-strapped times, that money would have been a boon and the arts program could have reached more students.

The Superintendent said:

Arts education for each student must be a city-wide effort. I look forward to working with our staff, families, the City of Seattle and community-based organizations to ensure each of our students has equitable access to the arts as part of their basic education. 

Yes, but that hasn't happened in the past.  The district has been very hodge-podge in its efforts to work with arts groups.  The district built a multi-million dollar performance hall for Rainier Beach and then gave them no arts program (and didn't do a lot to bring in support from the arts community).

I hope under a new superintendent this might change.  I'll put in a call to Carri Campbell who leads arts in SPS.

From SPS Communications:

In June 2011, Seattle Public Schools received a tremendous opportunity: a $1 million arts education planning grant from the Wallace Foundation to create a city-wide arts plan. With this funding, we have spent the last 18 months developing a comprehensive plan to meet our goal that each and every student has access to high quality arts education, every year and in every school.

Today I am pleased to report we have completed our comprehensive plan and we are ready to start launching our goal of District-wide arts access. Information about the arts plan developed can be found online at<

I checked the SPS link and it seems to put a lot of work on the arts community and the funding on outside sources (PTA, grants, school booster clubs).  

The Wallace Foundation’s investment enabled us to:

· Conduct in-depth research to find out which Seattle Public School students were participating in the arts and which were not.

· Ask young people, families, teachers, principals and community partners what they wanted from arts education in Seattle Public Schools.

· Transform Seattle’s arts curriculum and student assessments in response to community feedback and to develop 21st century skills such as perseverance, creativity and collaboration – skills we know are critical to students’ life success.

· Develop supports and tools for more impactful partnerships between schools and the many first-rate community arts organizations and teaching artists in Seattle.

· Create a comprehensive plan to ensure all students in all schools have the opportunity to learn through the arts.

We are excited to move forward with implementation, beginning with a pilot in the Central region that will ensure a K-12 arts learning pathway for every student. We will use this pilot to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan strategies and its impact on students, in order to bring the plan to scale in every Seattle school.


Disgusted said…
I'm very disappointed in the Wallace Foundation. From my perspective, "developing" a non-susptainable program would have put too much funding in administration and not the classrooms.

I support giving the dollars directly to the schools. I'm sure they could have put those dollars to good use.

Politics, strings and non-sustainable usual. I am going to feel very different about the Wallace Foundation from now on.
Anonymous said…
I don't know the details of what Wallace was looking for, but when a foundation funds a planning grant, there are no guarantees that what comes out of it will be funded by the foundation that paid for the planning. This is often a good thing if the grantee truly identifies the best plan regardless of the desires of the foundation that paid for the planning. Ideally, we have a plan that really reflects what "we" want, and now we can perhaps find a suitable funder to help make it happen.

I don't remember any public outreach about the arts plan, but perhaps it happened?

ArtlfAct, as the press release indicates, they did public outreach.

"perhaps we can find a suitable funder?" Sure, but I'm not holding out hope.

$1M is a lot for planning.
SeattleElemArtTeacher said…
As an SPS art teacher who worked on the Seattle K-12 Arts Learning Collaborative plan, I'll admit that I was disappointed when I heard the news. In the end, though, it doesn't change the fact that we did some amazing things over the course of the past year that will endure - funding or no.

The curriculum maps and assessment tools that we made are being used in schools across SPS right now. Every art teacher in Seattle now has a means of ensuring that students in our classes acquire the discipline-specific knowledge and skills outlined by our state and national standards. What's more - now we are intentionally helping students develop the skills necessary for success in every subject - communication, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, and perseverance.

My students - 2 schools, 600+ kids - are already benefiting from the work done through the Wallace Grant. I've seen gains in how students communicate through and about art. I've witnessed increased perseverance. And I've had countless conversations with other arts teachers who are noticing the same things.

Right now I'm piloting the new assessment tool with my 4th and 5th graders. It is amazing to see how some simple, but mindful, changes to the old classroom based performance assessment are helping to build and measure student knowledge and skills. I'm so excited to have other schools in Seattle use it next year.
Anonymous said…
That is soooo Awesome!!! It's wonderful to see that we can pilot great new assessment tools in art. That's exactly what we need, more assessments, especially in art based on national standards. Way to go! Hopefully at some point soon we will have an MSP and HSPE for art just like everything else. Waiting on pins and needles!

dw said…
Reader, of course those will be added to the MSP/HSPE assessments. Otherwise art is sure to be ignored when teachers are graded on how well their students do in reading, math and science.

And once that's in place we can grade each and every school with an "A-F", so more families can be frustrated when their assigned neighborhood school is shown to be a failure. :-(
dw said…
Oh, and wait for it. Of course we'll need Civics assessments too??

Otherwise how could we possibly get our students to grow up to be good citizens.
Teacher, thanks for that. I wish the press release had said what you said because that makes it a LOT better to know there is real and useful outcomes to all this planning.

Jan said…
dw: I found myself reading Wall Street Journal letters to the editor today (a rare occurrence, as I "gave up" all Murdoch media (still working on Fox13 when they show sports -- but getting there) during the British eavesdropping debacle, when it became apparent that many heads would roll, but nothing would touch Murdoch or his son. But I digress.

Anyway, there was a letter to the editor from parents in Texas who belong to (and founded) something called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. They claim to be pro-testing, but only for tests that make sense, and bitterly lament the overtesting in Texas.

Mr. Majcher and Ms. Kellner had one great quote: "Our beliefs reflect the Texas truism: 'To make a cow gain weight, you don't just keep weighing it -- you need to feed it.'" No idea whether that is really a Texas truism or not, but the mental picture of our kids as skinny, bony "testing cows," being forever weighed, but rarely fed, appealed to me. And it was nice to find a Texan I agreed with. I don't know many Texans, and mostly disagree on policy issues with the few I do.

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