Philadelphia Schools Receive Grant To Improve Literacy With Art

Philadelphia Schools Receive Grant To Improve Literacy With Art

The Philadelphia Schools and the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) established a good working history in 2006 with the successful “Artist in Residence Program.” Through this initiative the Philadelphia Schools’ Office of Creative and Performing Arts teamed with PAEP to place working artists in ten-day residencies in schools without art or music specialists. Artists and teachers worked together to integrate literacy and arts instruction for over 14,000 students in selected Philadelphia Schools. While the project participants claim success, a full report of the model will be available at the end of 2007.

Apparently, the Department of Education has confidence in program. Philadelphia Schools will continue this successful model with a grant from the Department of Education to fund Art Bridges over the next four years. Art Bridges will provide 5 schools with onsite artists who will instruct students and collaborate with classroom teachers towards the goal of achieving state and local literacy goals.

The goal of the initiative is for Philadelphia Schools to: improve academic performance in reading; improve students’ attitudes of self and school; help classroom teachers integrate arts and literacy; improve teacher capacity; and improve teacher understanding of core curriculum. Philadelphia Schools will provide on-going professional development to both the artists and teachers involved in the project. Artists will represent organizations like the Philadelphia Theatre Company and the Clay Studio. Poets, playwrights, and artists are among those involved.

The proposed bridge will work by targeting 4th, 5th and 6th graders from underachieving Philadelphia Schools over the four-year life of the grant. “Hard to reach” students will be motivated by creative activities that are tied to specific works of literature, and driven by literacy standards. Philadelphia Schools were selected for participation based on the following criteria: a neighborhood elementary housing at least two grades of 4, 5, and 6 grade classrooms; the school must employ an art and music specialists; and it must be defined as low achieving by Adequate Yearly Progress markers. Qualified Philadelphia Schools that applied were then chosen by a random lottery.

Since President Bush enforced the “No Child Left Behind Act” in 2002 large, urban, schools districts, like Philadelphia Schools, have been challenged to find ways to meet the new standards. Instituting an art-based curriculum at a time when most schools are getting math and reading intensive to ramp up state test scores is a markedly different approach. Yet it is one that most educators in Philadelphia Schools approve of.

The issue of how to reach and connect with students from the city’s low socio-economic and minority base has puzzled administrators since public education began. Philadelphia Schools continue to deal with issues of truancy, high dropout rates, teacher turnover and low academic achievement. If Philadelphia Schools can show success with this approach, the impact on arts education and the education of at-risk students could be huge.