Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership joined 177 other organizations working at the federal, state and local levels in Washington, D.C. to be a part of the Arts in Education National Forum: Arts, Education and the Next America.
Two days were packed with 22 concurrent breakout sessions to discuss the future — and importance — of arts in the American education system. PAEP applied to be a presenter at one of the sessions, eager to discuss the work they’ve done as part of the Arts Link program. This program is applied in and around Philadelphia public schools, using a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to research how to improve core content learning in mathematics and science using art and art concepts.
“We’ve been testing an arts integration model in schools since 2006 first to improve literacy learning and now mathematics and science concepts and skill acquisition.” says Raye Cohen, the Director of Education at PAEP.
PAEP’s research is applicable to the common core, which is the national standard adopted by the state for public school education. “Our model is well-aligned with the common core, and it helps teachers in the classroom to implement it.” explains Raye.
The common core engages students in their learning, making them actively learn and in return, absorb the information for future applications.
“The common core promotes discussion and debates,” says Mary Dupre, PAEP Special Projects Manager. “[For example], if a student looks at a photo from Hurricane Sandy, they might look at it and see destruction, but [do they understand] the long-term implications?”
For many students, the answer is no. “What we’re finding with the ‘no child left behind policy’ [is that we’re] teaching students how to answer test questions, without understanding the information to get to that answer,” says Mary.
“Now, there’s a shift in thinking about education, so they came up with this common core state standards; we’re actually going back to teaching students concepts and linking the facts back to those concepts,” Mary says.
Raye and Mary, along with Pearl Schaffer, CEO at PAEP and Dennis Creedon, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Academic Enrichment and Support, School District of Philadelphia, presented their findings at the National Forum in a presentation titled, The Common Core in Action: How Arts Integration and the Common Core Converge.
With close to a decade of experience behind them, 2013 was the first year PAEP had the opportunity to display their findings at the National Forum. “This was our chance to make our impression on people; otherwise there’s not really an opportunity to meet people, other than informally,” Raye says. With close to 300 leaders in the arts, business, culture, government and philanthropy sectors, it was a great event to disseminate the findings and network to create future opportunities.
PAEP has a lot to share with its peers. “The arts promote conceptual understanding, and using the tools, or the facts, to create the art — this is artistic process,” says Mary. “Unfortunately it’s stored away from all the other subject areas, but this process it the best for any type of learning.”
In an effort to break down those silos and integrate arts with the common core, PAEP has been applying arts integration in schools through the Arts Link program. “That’s why we wanted to present at this conference — to show them what this convergence is,” says Mary. “We believe we’re on to something.”
While some attendees had a general understanding of the common core and arts integration, they didn’t understand how it could be applied. “[During] our presentation, we took them through the process. We asked them to create questions that they would use in their classroom,” says Mary.
“Some of them would go partially into what they could do, then we gave them suggestions for what they could do,” Mary explains. “That’s when they really caught on; that’s when they saw what was possible.”
The research and presentation was well-received among their peers. “There was a lot of people afterwards who came us to and told us that it was the most informative, and for some, the best presentation they attended,” says Raye.
The PAEP team came equipped with a 40-page catalogue, detailing year two of Arts Link with unit plans and photographs that conveyed the power of arts integration to deliver common core state standards, arts and humanity standards, and grade level academic content. plans and photographs in regards to the work they’ve done with arts integration and the common core. “We had it hot off the press and were able to hand it out,” Raye says.
After the National Forum, PAEP plans on continuing to spread their research. “People are just learning about the common core,” Mary says. They’ve been invited to New York, Miami and San Francisco, among other locations, to share their presentation. Their main goal: “To continue to evolve our model through research and application and demonstrate that PAEP’s arts integration model is a roadmap for others to follow.” Mary says.