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Articles: Art/Music

Mt. Airy City Schools in North Carolina revitalized arts classes to launch its STEAM programs.
The Tukwila School District is one of the most diverse in the nation. Administrators say STEAM instruction provides a more sure pathway to college and career success.
<div class="box"> <h2>STEAM leaders learn to innovate</h2> <ul> <p>Teachers and principals in Florida’s Santa Rosa County School District this fall began training to become STEAM leaders by writing jingles about the Wright Brothers.</p> <p>They also learned about the physics and history of flight as they worked in teams to develop products that improved upon Orville and Wilbur’s aeronautical inventions. Then they wrote the jingles for ads they devised to promote their products, says Karen Barber, director o

Injecting the arts into science, math, engineering and technology encourages students to think creatively and critically in traditional STEM subjects that, until the recent and widespread adoption of new standards, didn’t often encourage students to think outside the box.

Little Kids Rock, a national organization dedicated to ensuring music ed through modern bands, partners with Nashville Public Schools’ guitar students one day last spring.

Some districts can’t find music teachers while others struggle to buy instruments. Many administrators must cut music classes to prepare students for testing. Still, schools large and small have kept the music playing with innovative grants, online fundraising and by scouring their budgets for any available resources.

Teachers from Perry Township Schools in Indiana use their school library’s makerspace to create T-shirts for Dr. Seuss Read Across America Day.
Perry Township students use a 3D printer in the library’s makerspace.

Transforming school libraries into communal learning “playgrounds” offers students technology support, remote access to research resources and expanded opportunities for creative exploration. One of the biggest trends is “makerspaces” where students use their imaginations to create crafts, electronics, videos and other projects.

At Metro Nashville Public Schools, students learn about criminal justice, science, media and music. Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School students perform all roles of a live broadcast on TV, from cameraman to reporter.
A Stratford STEM Magnet High School senior processes a mock crime scene with skills obtained through his criminal justice class in the Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies in Nashville schools.
A Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School student prepares for a live broadcast from the school’s radio station.
A Stratford STEM Magnet High School Stratford student examines various chemicals used in her classes in the Academy of Science and Engineering.

Magnet schools have made a big comeback in America’s education system, offering curricula that span the spectrum—from medicine to the arts to language immersion. The revitalized programs provide plenty of hands-on experience, while the academic themes are infused into traditional classes such as math and English.

The National Core Arts Standards were released in October. They emphasize developing artistic ideas, refining them, and following projects through to completion. (Americans for the Arts/Scott Cronan Photography)

You think math and English have high standards? Try the arts.

The National Core Arts Standards were released in October. They update the initial standards released in 1994, which included instructional guidelines for dance, music, theater and visual arts.

Students from District of Columbia Public Schools learn photography skills to draw attention to changes needed in their community.
Students take photos that are shared with the public through travelling exhibits in galleries, libraries and other public spaces.
“My name is Daniel. I am limited by only what I cannot imagine. I believe that social change and community organizing is important because this kind of change lifts up the voices of the suppressed and helps the powerless be heard. To lift the cover of discrimination, we can come one step closer to making our world a better place. I took photographs that show where and how I live.” —Daniel J., Critical Exposure Youth Internship
“The American flag symbolizes the rights we are granted as citizens and the freedom we have to manifest ideas and expand our knowledge. The bars represent restriction and confinment. Two conflicting ideas. We should not feel like our school system is detaining us and preventing us from flourishing.” —Anaïse, Banneker High School
“We have been talking about healthy foods that we like and foods that we don’t like. We want to talk to people and have meetings to change the lunch policy.”  —Brittanie, Ballou Senior High School

Critical Exposure is a nonprofit after-school program that trains District of Columbia Public Schools students to use photography and advocacy to make real changes in their schools and community.

High school students gain skills in documentary, photography, leadership and advocacy as they critically examine their schools and communities, and document issues that affect their lives. The photos are shared with the public through travelling exhibits in galleries and libraries. They are also shown to public officials as a means of advocating for policy changes in the community.

Some Jennings School District students play the violin and viola—using music to help them make connections in core subjects of math, science and language arts. The students above rehearse for their district gala recently.

When students in music class at Jennings School District in Missouri started taking violin lessons, they would show when they were frustrated. After a year of playing beautiful music, the students wait a beat, and calm down, instead of acting out. With troubled schools where standardized test scores are abysmal, absenteeism runs rampant and aspirations of breaking out of poverty feel like a pipe dream, the district in urban St. Louis County has the look and attitude of a feisty kid that wants to overcome the long odds for success.

The Whole Schools Initiative's arts program is helping drive up test scores in Mississippi schools.

The arts are driving up test scores and closing achievement gaps in more than 30 Mississippi schools that are blending music, theater, visual art and dance into core subjects.

Philadelphia schools are taking a new approach to arts instruction by introducing students to art and music they can find in their own backyard. With the new Literacy Through the Arts curriculum, created with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, students in grades one through eight are not only learning about these local institutions but also about the musicians and artists whose work featured there.

Meghan Reilly Michaud says art is no longer used only to teach students about culture.

Today’s students encounter art in many aspects of everyday life. From the icons representing the applications on their smartphone to the paintings hung on the walls of a museum, the arts teach our students to interpret information. But art also instills skill sets for students pursuing any field of study.

These days, no discipline stands on its own. Visuals can simplify complex data in science in the same way that mathematics can structure appealing rhythmic patterns in music.

Students in Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky benefit from arts classes, which Superintendent Tom Shelton strengthened when he joined the district two years ago.

In a world of constant technological change, the ability to adapt is priceless. Creativity is a necessary skill in the modern workplace, and in a 2010 survey by IBM, American CEOs identified it as the best predictor of career success. But those same CEOs said they believed that Americans were becoming less innovative.

Dorris Place Elementary students get ready to practice. A neuroscience study released this year revealed that music instruction rewires children’s brains and improves their ability to process information.

Blaire Lennane was thrilled when a charity offered a year ago to provide the teachers and subsidies necessary to start a music program in her daughter’s elementary school.

The new Taft Information Technology High School was among the buildings in the Cincinnati Public Schools that was renovated or newly built under the master plan.

It’s not little and it’s not red, but the schoolhouse remains the center of Cincinnati Public Schools’ neighborhoods. The schools are where students and residents alike have access to free health care, civic programs, and mentoring provided through partnerships with social service agencies.

These partnerships have transformed schools into Community Learning Centers and are central to the district’s nearly completed $1 billion construction project, Superintendent Mary Ronan says.

Create CA arts

“Everyone likes the arts—people like the idea—but public support doesn’t equal political will,” says Craig Cheslog, principal advisor to Tom Torlakson, California’s superintendent of public instruction. For this reason, Cheslog, along with other California officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and organizations such as the California Arts Council, have joined together to form Create CA, an initiative to make arts education a priority.

PCAH Turnaround Arts

The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) has a theory: that placing robust arts education programs in low-performing schools will narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement. To test this theory, the committee, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Policy Council, and numerous private organizations, has developed the Turnaround Arts Initiative, a pilot project in eight schools deemed low-performing around the country.