National Arts in Education Week

September 8-14, 2019

#BecauseOfArtsEd, New Orleans students write, dance, act, sing, paint, and sculpt their way to success

The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education. Students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance. Students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to be in schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers. Research shows that schools serving students with limited resources who invest in arts education see a graduation rate three times higher than similar schools without arts programming. Arts and music education programs are mandatory in countries that rank consistently among the highest for math and science test scores, like Japan, Hungary, and the Netherlands. (source: Americans for the Arts)

National Arts in Education Week (September 8-14) is a celebration designated by Congress to bring attention to the transformative power of the arts and support equitable access to the arts for all students.

New Orleans has never been a stranger to the arts. NewOrleans.com notes, “Theater and drama are everyday occurrences in New Orleans, a city where costume closets are a must and dressing up happens on a myriad of occasions. New Orleans boasts impressive firsts, from the first documented performance of opera in America, back in 1796 to the first-ever commercial movie theater. The birthplace of jazz is also home to a world-class philharmonic orchestra, ballet and other dance companies, both touring and locally-produced theater, and a rich array of museums and art exhibitions.”

How does a city with a population under 400,000 continue to produce world-class art in such a wide variety of mediums? It starts with our students.

“Drama helps you express your feelings and KID smART helps you do that while you learn.” – 8th-grade student studying English Language Arts through theatre

“Being able to experience learning in new ways is the most meaningful impact for students. Students learn differently, and for many of my students, concepts became more clear via integrating through the arts.” – 3rd-grade teacher after co-teaching with a KID smART artist

Over the last two decades, KID smART has collaborated with more than 40 New Orleans public schools to blend dance, music, drama, poetry, and visual art into English, science, social studies, math, and special education classes for 30,000+ students. Through full-year artist residencies, students in KID smART Creative Schools prove to grow academically, artistically, and emotionally. When learning through the arts, 92% of KID smART students reached proficiency in academic skills by the end of the semester and 85% of students said that they were more engaged in arts-integrated lessons.

To sustain their work, KID smART provides monthly arts-integrated professional development sessions to educators. This equates to roughly 7,200 additional New Orleans students learning through the arts every year.

Since their founding in a 1st grade class of 43 students in 2010, 826 New Orleans (formerly Big Class) has celebrated transformative impact on thousands of students’ lives. Throughout their work, 826 New Orleans aims to energize and elevate educational practice across the city, supporting teachers with possibilities for writing and creativity in their classrooms. 826 New Orleans partners with dedicated teachers for anywhere between two weeks and six months to create books with their students. They also offer curriculum and educator workshops. Outside of school partnerships, the 826 New Orleans Youth Writing Center is a hub of creativity and collaboration, offering after school programs, workshops, and field trips.

Students, parents, and teachers overwhelmingly report improved writing skills and academic performance as a result of 826 New Orleans’ programs. Countless 826 students shift their attitudes about writing from reluctance and intimidation to affinity, confidence, and pride.

Goat in the Road Productions’ Play/Write program began in January of 2010 and is based on the idea that students learn from doing. It combines theatre activities – games, improvised scenes, students staging short works – with lessons on writing – exploration of dramatic conflict, believable dialogue, and developing a plot map.

During the 20-week Play/Write residency, each student in the program writes a short play that demonstrates mastery of Common Core writing standards. The teaching artists lead students through the playwriting process: prewriting and drafting, individual and group conferences, revisions, and finally, publication. Each year, GRP presents a performance showcase featuring 10 student-written plays produced by professional theatre and dance companies. In addition to attending the Showcase at the end of the program, each student receives a bound copy of his/her very own play, typed, formatted, and printed in professional script format.

Between these three programs, nearly 5,000 New Orleans students are learning through the arts every year.

In the tradition of many New Orleans artists before them, these arts education organizations are spreading their work throughout the nation. KID smART provides professional development to schools around the country through a partnership with Michelle Obama’s Turnaround Arts program. In 2018, 826 New Orleans joined the 826 National network with chapters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Ann Arbor/Detriot, Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City.

Throughout National Arts in Education Week, join local students, teachers, artists, orgs, and institutions in advocating for the arts in New Orleans schools. Use the hashtag #BecauseOfArtsEd to share your story and follow your favorite arts organizations on social media:

KID smART: @KIDsmARTnola
826 New Orleans: @826neworleans
Play/Write: @goatintheroad

Visit americansforthearts.org for more information about National Arts in Education Week.

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