Arts Education in Seattle Schools, Part One

I recently had good conversations with both Carri Campbell, Visual&Performing Arts Program Manager for SPS, and Calandra Childers, Communication and Outreach Manager for the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs about what is happening in arts education for Seattle Public Schools.

I want to thank them both for their time and efforts.  Both conversations were enlightening and heartening.  (After speaking with Ms. Campbell, I now live in the fear that, like many other really good people who join SPS, she'll leave.  I hope not because she's a gem.)

Part One is about what has happened with the planning.  Part Two will be about what is to come.

SPS has had a five-year partnership with the City of Seattle - called the Arts Education Partnership - to help build a system and share resources to put arts in all our schools with the understanding that arts are not just a creative outlet but can develop life/job skills. 

They have had some success including development of 23 new music programs, 7 integrated arts programs, and the largest purchase of instruments and resources since the 1970s. That partnership and the District’s attention to arts education attracted the attention of the Wallace Foundation

In August of 2011, the district received a $1M grant from the Wallace Foundation to review our existing arts program, engage the community on gaps/wants/needs and create a multi-year rollout of a new plan.  The goal was to create a comprehensive K-12 arts plan aligned with standards.  (Wallace also gave grants to LA, Boston and Dallas.)

The arts plan vision:
By 2020, Seattle will be a better place to live, work, and go to school due to the contributions of the Seattle K-12 Arts Learning Collaborative.  Seattle Public School graduates will be prepared and inspired to participate in the City's thriving creative economy, engage with the City's diverse cultural communities, and contribute to the City's robust and artistic life.

From the district:

All visual and performing arts programs in SPS will focus on development of the following 21st Century Skills:
  • Growth Mindset and Perseverance - a belief that intelligence and ability can be increased with effort and in one's own capabilities and capacity to learn.  
  • Creative and Critical Thinking - To create new and useful ideas, innovations, and products; and to elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate one's own and others' ideas.
  • Communication Skills - ability to articulate thoughts and emotions effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal skills, listen effectively; inform, instruct, motivate, persuade; negotiate and give and receive feedback.
  • Collaboration skills - to demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams; involving flexibility, sharing, responsibility and being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives.
 There are three basic strategies:
  • transforming the district central office in support of schools and regional K-12 art learning pathways
  • providing arts curricula and instruction that emphasizes development and assessment of 21st century skills
  • implementing a coordinated citywide governance structure and evaluating collective impact
The district did the following:
  • had four regional community meetings (with translators)
  • four focus groups with secondary students
  • 1300 responses to online education opinion poll (in five languages)
  • ongoing working groups (principals met for six months to develop plan strategies
  • 25-person advisory committee 
  • Over 2,000 stakeholders engaged in arts planning. 
  • a project team representing: OACA, Seattle Art Museum, SPS, Arts Corps, Arts Impact and the
    PSESD, ArtsEd Washington and forty K-12 teachers met on an ongoing basis to guide the arts plan development and create enduring products as part of the planning process (new curriculum, partnership website and tools, and integrated arts model)
One huge piece of this work - they had 100% participation in the gathering of data from schools.  I'm not sure I can remember the last time this happened.  I think it speaks highly to the outreach AND the interest from within our schools.

Key Finding:
The district found that (1) this is an issue of equity and can be predicted based on race, ELL-status and F/RL status and (2) that arts education was low across the board.

Some interesting other findings from the survey:
  • the elementary school a student attends has a significant impact on the likelihood of arts course taking in middle/high school.  Some of the patterns are so significant, they may override other demographic trends and warrant further analysis.
  • Gender does not seem to figure into art course enrollment.
  • Non-F/RL students take more art courses.  These students have a lower discipline count (more in music than visual arts).  There are more white students in all arts disciplines, more Hispanic in the visual arts.   
The counselor focus group also revealed key data:
  • costs - does the school have the funding for the teacher?   Should they have photography or ceramics because of the high costs to families?  Can a student with no music background take band in high school?  PTAs that can fund versus those who cannot.  
  • the need to cross-credit (like music production being a CTE credit)
  • more "out of school experiences"
Focus group report.
What was the takeaway from the survey/focus groups?

Basically they learned that the community wants consistent arts access everywhere.  The community wants what you see above - arts as part of the curriculum and not just as an elective.  Meaning, arts that will help create those 21st century skills that we desire in students.  And, the community wants an updated curriculum that is relevant to students.

The students want arts "early, broad and consistent."  They want to be able to show and perform their work publicly.  They want to see the direct line from education to work.

What was proposed back in December 2012 (before it was announced that the district had not received the Wallace grant to complete this work):

SPS already invests over $16M annually in arts staffing and materials.  We propose enhancing this investment with seed funds for staff, materials for the regional model pilot, eventually increasing baseline funding for arts staffing for a total enhancement of $8.8M over four years."  

It was noted that this was based on the funding in the budget for 2013-2014 and receiving the offer of the additional grant from the Wallace Foundation.

The City's work involved creating a team including the arts funding group,  PONCHO, to help with this planning. Also, the City has been giving the district money to help fund arts staffing in our schools.  

The City - from the Chamber of Commerce to the Mayor's Office, from the philanthropic sector to the nonprofit sector - will be engaged in this effort to provide ample, equitable and quality access to arts education for all SPS students.

Going forward:
 All schools will rely on core arts classes, integrated arts instruction, and school-community partnerships to engage students, deepen learning in all subjects, and prepare students for participation in the creative, innovation-based economy and culture of Seattle. 

Every principal will be empowered with tools, knowledge, and skills to be an arts champion and an instructional leader.  Every school will have an arts plan that is a road map for creating an arts-rich school community and growing and sustaining the arts as an integral component of the schools' and region's education plans. 

Want to learn more about the effects on art and education?  Ms. Campbell gave me an excellent study, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies by James Catterall, UCLA with Susan Dumais, Louisiana State University, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, University of York, U.K.


Anonymous said…
Melissa, thanks for your update on the arts plan. There are, however, a few things that are confusing to me. You say the “City has been giving money to help fun arts staffing in our schools.” I am an SPS art teacher and I don’t know any colleagues whose positions are funded with city money, PTA $ maybe, but not the City. I know the district had a position a couple years ago that was funded by the City which helped art teachers find community partners and put out a newsletter of art opportunities and grants. That position was really helpful to us, but the district eliminated it during one of their rounds of layoffs. Ms. Campbell is not so helpful to us. She may be a good talker and planner, but she is not there for us art teachers in the trenches. (She doesn’t even have a background teaching art.) So be careful with her…my experience is that she makes promises to teachers but there is no follow through.

You also wrote about the City creating a team of funders including PONCHO, but isn’t PONCHO dead? I read that they closed down operations in April. Will another leading philanthropy take their place since we know Wallace is not ponying up the cash? Again, be careful of a lot of talk and little action for this one.

Unfortunately Cynical Art Teacher
Art Teacher, I will check but I am certain that the City is funding some arts positions (but maybe I misunderstood and it's Central).

Part Two will update that yes, PONCHO is gone.

I do ask that you understand that this is a huge volume of work, a real plan, and that is a big pushoff to better things. The City is really committed to this work and I hope you read my thread about the $500K start they are putting into it.
Anonymous said…
I agree this all sounds good, and the $500K the city is putting up to use in the central region seems like a great start. However, I've heard skepticism from more than one principal that this will amount to much for anyone, particularly if their PTA currently foots the entire bill for what little art, music or drama is available at the school.

There is also grumbling about the "survey" of available art, music, and drama programs. My understanding is they counted the school as having the program, regardless of whether it was funded by the district itself or by the PTA paying the district salary (which is not uncommon in the central district). Since some schools, such as Stevens, have their PTA pay their music teacher directly (which I understand is illegal since it's supposed to go through the district process) they are tallied as not having music, according to the survey, since the district has no record of the salary. I expect this will end up being fairly contentious, unfortunately.

Understand the Cynicism
Anonymous said…
I couldn't get the link to the focus group report to work.

Heidi said…
So, what exactly happened with the Wallace Foundation money? It sounds like they were initially very supportive, but then withdrew at the last minute. What happened and what can we learn from that?
Anonymous said…
I echo "understand the cynicism's" concerns. Central area PTAs that follow the rules and commit precious resources to art & music instruction through district staffing are concerned that they will be punished for placing a high value on arts instruction by not getting their fair share of the central district arts money. There is a concern that some schools with PTAs that support music & art will lose out to other schools that use PTA money for things like reading, math & computer specialists. The district needs to develop a fair system for allocating the central area arts fund that doesn't disincentivize parents from supporting the arts. It is sad that we are fighting over scraps when every child should be receiving art and music instruction in our schools. Every central school should receive some of this money, and perhaps schools with hiigh FRL could receive more.
- Central area parent
Heidi, there were two Wallace grants. The first one, for planning, was for $1M.

They did not get the second one, primarily because the district's plan wasn't what the Wallace people wanted (only one district got both planning and implementation money so it was just SPS).

Central parent, I'm pretty sure every single Central area school will get those first dollars from the City.
Anonymous said…
Is there a way to find out how much each school receives from the district for arts and music?

Anonymous said…
I couldn't disagree more with the first commenter's assessment of Carri Campbell. I have been an art teacher for a long time and have seen a lot of people in her position come and go. I learned to ignore most of what came from the arts manager since it didn't help me or just wasted my time. But I am highly impressed by Ms. Campbell. She has organized great meetings that informed my teaching and put me in touch with great resources. She is highly responsive. She actually answers her own phone and follows up. And she is the first administrator I have seen that is helping people see the arts are a serious academic pursuit and not just window dressing. And I have seen her enough to see she has a cheerful, stubborn passion about making the arts available to all kids in the district.

I might not see as many arts newsletters anymore but I am seeing real progress being made in the arts in SPS during a time of annual budgets cuts. I'll take that any day. Its wonderful to see people complaining about how new arts resources might be distributed instead of how we are going to cope with further cuts.

That's my two cents. I think she is a gem too and hope she doesn't bolt for greener pastures any time soon.

Less Cynical Art Teacher

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