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Integrating the Arts - Chicago's Ingenuity

A few weeks ago, Valerie and I had the opportunity to attend a presentation put on by the Cleveland Arts Education Consortium with guest speaker Nicole Losurdo Upton from Ingenuity. Ingenuity is an advocacy organization that has been working with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Department of Arts Education, certified teachers, students, parents and Chicago’s arts and culture community to ensure excellence in arts education for every student in Chicago’s Public Schools. Ms. Upton spoke on Ingenuity’s process on integrating the arts back into Chicago Public Schools through the CPS Arts Education Plan, a plan designed to bring the arts to every student, in every grade, in every school. Ingenuity started in 2011, and has since made strong progress in increasing the percentage of Chicago Public Schools that have arts programs.

Here are just a few things we learned from Ms. Upton’s presentation: 

Integrate the arts.

  • It is important to help non-arts educators learn how to integrate the arts into the teaching of their content area. This process involves a great deal of creativity, so providing teachers with plans and ideas is crucial to this being successful. The Center for Arts–Inspired Learning is doing this type of work, which you can read more about in Marsha Dobrzynski’s blog. You can also watch videos of some of the work Progressive Arts Alliance is doing integrating the arts into classrooms and by doing arts programs outside of school. Of course these organization’s only scratch the surface on arts education work being done here in Cleveland.

Incentivize Data Collection.

  • Since the beginning of this program, within the Chicago Public Schools, there has been great increase in: the total number of arts instructors; the number of elementary schools meeting the 120 minutes of recommended weekly arts instruction; access to arts staffing and instruction, etc. Measuring growth allows schools to see that they are reaching their goals and providing more opportunities for their students. It also increases the value of education students are receiving. A critical piece of this process is getting the data. Not only is the score they receive on the front page of their report card displaying how well they are integrating the arts, the amount of funding schools receive for the arts (through this program) is tied to data collection.

Have someone on the inside.

  • In this plan, the person on the inside is referred to as the arts liaison. Arts liaisons serve as on-site school champions in the arts that lead arts opportunities and programming for their school communities. A key purpose of this person’s work is to ensure that the school’s data is collected and entered for the school’s progress in the plan. They are anyone from the principal to the school nurse. Having someone inside the school who is largely focused on the implementation of the arts in the school systems is extremely important. They can help determine that progress is consistently being made and that goals are being met in alignment with the Arts Education Plan.

Look at the arts education barriers. - Four main arts education barriers in schools: classroom time, collective will, funding, and instructional support.

  • One piece of the Arts Education Plan is The Full School Day Initiative. This initiative increases the number of minutes in a school day for grade schools to 7 hours and for high schools to 7.5 hours. This allows time to include the arts without taking much time from other subject areas.
  • The Arts Education Plan includes budget support for the arts, including funds for materials and resources as well as an external fund to support arts partnerships. This allows the arts to be a part of more schools core curriculums without forcing them to stretch their funds even thinner.
  • The Arts Education Plan calls for a stronger professional development system in arts education.
  • The Arts Education plan also helps teachers, schools, students, parents, communities, etc., view the arts as a core part of the curriculum instead of as an extra-curricular activity.

In the past, the focus of the Arts Education Plan was making sure schools had arts programs, but one of the next big steps with the plan is to start gathering data on the quality of arts education in these schools. Simply put, as Ms. Upton stated, “there is no equality without quality.”

Categories: advocacy, Artists, Arts Education, creative intersections, Education, evaluate, public policy

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