Teachers Asked, Children First Delivered
COVID is once again taking a toll on the arts. Stages are going black as performances are being canceled with band members sick or worried their concerts will become super-spreader events. Even the 2022 GRAMMYs, the biggest night for music, has been postponed. But hold on! There is also some great news for the arts scene in Philadelphia.
Back in the 1990’s, art and music classes were eliminated from the city’s schools to balance the budget. In response, we launched the Picasso Project to provide small grants and instructional support for schools to keep the arts alive and to galvanize Philadelphians to demand that the arts faculty be restored.
Because of the Project’s advocacy, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has since restored and expanded arts programs. Kudos to Dr. Hite and the SDP Board for making sure that, even in tough times, there is still a modicum of arts instruction to keep our students engaged and bolster learning outcomes.
Now, the state of arts instruction is going to get even better. Children First is beyond excited to be awarded a $4 million federal grant to partner with SDP to teach 7th and 8th grade teachers how to integrate arts into their classes, bringing their lessons on routine subjects like English, math, science, and history alive!
In the two decades of working with teachers to add arts instruction to their classrooms though our Picasso Project, teachers told us time and again they needed more training to feel confident in incorporating arts as a tool for boosting the quality of their teaching. We even worked on a three-year project with some SDP schools on this very issue and co-wrote A Blueprint for Building an Arts-Rich School.
Here’s what we know about why integrating arts in our schools is so important. Schools with arts education have fewer disciplinary infractions, better writing scores, and an increase in students who are more tolerant, curious, and empathetic. Students who receive an arts-rich education are five times more likely to graduate from high school and are 30% more likely to aspire to go to college. An arts integrated curriculum benefits all students, especially English language learners.
At the end of this amazing four-year grant for professional development of 7th and 8th grade teachers, Philadelphia teachers will have a wealth of information and experience to disseminate to every SDP middle school and serve as a national model.
When COVID has run its course, we’ll all be more than ready to dance and sing at concerts again. Until then, we’ll are keeping the arts alive where they are increasing important – in our schools.