At a time when budget cuts have forced many school districts across the country to cut arts programs, one of the largest districts has received funding to beef up their arts offerings. Los Angeles Unified School District recently received a large donation from an organization that will allow them to try out a new arts integration program in many of their schools. This new pilot program will extend over the next three years.
Bringing the Arts Back to the Classroom
The Sacramento Bee reports that the donation, totaling $750,000, comes from the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education. Referred to as the LA Fund, this organization is responsible for launching the Arts Matter campaign in public schools throughout the district. The new donation comprises the actual program phase of the effort, which has consisted of advocacy and fundraising to this point.
According to the Century City-Westwood Patch, this recent donation will be used to support teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District as they strive to integrate the arts into their classrooms. The students will also benefit, as the donation will increase student access to the arts. The donation will help advance the five-year arts plan, known as “Arts at the Core,” which was developed by the district to bring the arts into the classroom.
Arts at the Core provides methods for teachers to integrate the arts into all classroom subjects. This results-based program has already seen success in the school district and hopes to expand its success by expanding its program offerings. The program also complies with the Common Core Curriculum that requires arts integration in all subject areas.
“From these pilots, the L.A. Fund and LAUSD will learn best how to support and train teachers to integrate the arts so that we have creativity in every classroom,” Megan Chernin, CEO of the L.A. Fund, said at the Sacramento Bee. “Arts integration fuels creative thinking, and research shows that students are more fully engaged in learning when the arts are used as teaching tools. Underperforming students particularly benefit from an integrated curriculum.”
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Recipients of the Funding
The first grant recipient for the funding has been identified as the Music Center. This organization will conduct a three-year investigation of instruction strategies based in the arts, using 20 partner teachers from five different schools in the district. The idea is to pair artists with teachers for various training sessions that include workshops and coaching. Participants can show off works in progress and use those as training tools to hone the program process.
The key purpose of this pilot phase is to develop an effective curriculum that other schools in the district can use. By demonstrating the need for arts integration in all fields of study, those supporting the program hope the pilot can serve as an example to expand the use of arts training in other schools in Los Angeles and even across the country.
“We hope to be a catalyst to expand arts learning in our five LAUSD middle schools and to develop curriculum resources that can be shared with others. By aligning with district priorities, our goal is that these efforts can help students and teachers succeed for years to come,” Mark Slavkin, vice president for education at the Music Center, told the Sacramento Bee.
About Arts Matter
According to the program’s website, Arts Matter is an eight-week curriculum designed specifically for third through fifth-grade students. The instructors for Arts Matter teach lessons right in the classroom, integrating lecture-style teaching with hands-on training for a total learning experience about history's most significant artists and works. Students can apply art fundamentals to various subjects, including social studies, science, and language arts. The program also provides training for teachers to help them integrate arts studies in their classrooms.
According to the Los Angeles Unified School District website, Arts Matter is the district's first program of its kind. The program partners with local artists, businesses, and cultural institutions to launch a public art campaign that helps schools in the district focus on the importance of art education. The curriculum for Arts Matter aligns with California Visual and Performing Arts standards and other areas of district curriculum.
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About the L.A. Fund
The L.A. Fund is behind the Arts Matter campaign. According to the L.A. Fund website, the organization was formed to “address the creativity crisis existing in Los Angeles Public Schools.” The website states that only two percent of instruction time in district elementary schools is dedicated to art instruction. The organization hopes to change that by integrating art instruction with core subjects to “increase creative thinking and learning for all students.”
The L.A. Fund website reports that budget cuts in the Los Angeles Unified School District have forced the district to make major cuts in arts programs at the elementary school level. Within four short years, this district has gone from leading the pack nationally in art instruction to a district struggling to piece together any instruction in the arts for its younger students. Even in a location where arts and entertainment are primary industries, the schools fail to train students in these local industries.
With the grant from the L.A. Fund, the hope is that a focus on the arts will return to L.A. schools. With a large picture in view, this organization hopes to raise awareness, appreciation, and training in the arts that will take L.A. students far into the future.
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