High-performing schools have strong arts programs. Low-performing schools do not. This fact remains true regardless of the demographics. In fact, in challenging circumstances schools show the greatest improvement when the arts are strong.
My audacious idea: at the end of each school day, each Baltimore City Public School student can answer “Yes!” to the question: Have You Had Your Arts Today?
To maximize the benefit of the arts to student learning outcomes, the following range of services should be covered: arts experiences, arts instruction and arts integration.
Arts Experiences – There are (at least) two important reasons for providing arts experiences for students. First, the arts tell the cultural history of humanity in an engaging, experiential way bringing classroom content to life. And, second, experiencing quality art develops students’ aesthetic judgment.
Every child in BCPSS should be familiar with the arts and cultural institutions in this city – all of them. We have tremendous resources and organizations that really want to help school children. Let’s bring them together.
Arts Instruction – Students should have the choice of instruction in visual, vocal music, instrumental music, theater and dance from highly-qualified certified teachers. Studying an art form sequentially develops skills in teamwork, creative thinking, divergent thinking, critical thinking, empathy, and self-evaluation. Perhaps most importantly, students learn to tell their own stories through art.
Arts Integration – Using an art form to teach a non-arts subject is a very effective method of teaching content without the dreaded “drill and kill.” For example, acting, dancing, singing or using puppets to tell stories from history is a much more engaging learning process. Students tend to learn both the arts and the non-arts subject matter more thoroughly using this method. I liked to end my classes with a gentle taunt, “surprise, you learned something!”
From around the city, we have collected stories of students who have blossomed after studying an art form, teachers who have a new energy when integrating the arts, parents who discover a hidden talent in their children and principals who want more arts in their buildings. Every story is filled with joy.