Can the Arts Help Turn Around a Failing School?

Cutting back on arts programs in schools across the country could be an even bigger mistake than some educators have already charged. Art and music programs tend to be early victims of difficult budgets, but some schools have found that they can be integral to reform. Clarence Edwards Middle school in Boston has managed to go from a failing school in 2006 to having a waiting list in 2013. The remedy consisted of expanded learning time and arts education, writes Take Part’s Suzi Parker.

In 2006 the school applied for a grant to add 300 hours to the school year. Upon receiving the funds, the school redesigned the academic day to incorporate more enrichment and teacher collaboration.

The success of the program has resulted in the school receiving more autonomy from the district.

Clarence Edwards is one of the schools featured in the recent report, Advancing Arts Education Through an Expanded School Day: Lessons From Five Schools, by The National Center on Time & Learning and The Wallace Foundation.

The report states that schools are dismissing the No Child Left Behind concept that arts cannot exist in tandem with literature and math.

The elongated curriculum that includes dance, painting, theater, and music was designed to create well-rounded students.

An arts education is likely to help students long after they leave Clarence Edwards Middle School. Low income kids who are participate in arts programs are two times more likely to graduate college then those who never were exposed to the arts.

One project students worked on was a mural full of current events articles that saw students get excited about following the news. Contributing to the mural served as a creative outlet and a scholarly means for discussion.

Music plays a role, too. An English teacher at the school made use of popular song lyrics to teach kids about similes, metaphors and alliteration.

The school believes art is a right for every student. A full-time arts faculty and partnerships with dozens of organizations ensure that the students are able to be successful on their creative pursuits.

“Education in the arts is more important than ever,” Margo Lion, co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, said in the release. “To succeed at school and in the workforce, America’s children need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. Arts education fosters those skills at a critical time in childhood development.”