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Evaluating Impact in New Orleans Schools

For the last 20 years, KID smART has used arts integration- the blending of math, science, social studies and English with a variety of art forms- to make classrooms more joyful and effective places to learn. We’ve expanded student outcomes in over 40 schools by placing artists and teachers together in academic classrooms to teach more powerfully. We help teachers expand their teaching toolbelt and build more engaging classrooms through the arts.

In 2015, KID smART received a three-year grant from Baptist Community Ministries to work with two ReNEW Charter Schools to implement THINK smART. The THINK smART initiative was designed to answer this question: What happens when classrooms replace rote memorization with creative learning?

The initiative placed professional teaching artists in schools to co-teach arts integrated lessons with classroom teachers. Collaborating teachers received monthly professional development, strategic coaching, and a spot in a 13-week Harvard online course, Making Thinking Visible, a series of research-based strategies to elicit student thinking.
When pairing arts integration strategies with research-based thinking routines, KID smART and ReNEW teachers saw tremendous gains. The Program and Evaluation Research Group (PERG) evaluated the effectiveness of KID smART’s Think smART program. The data revealed:

87% of teachers rate their experience with the project as very or extremely worthwhile.
88% of teachers report that THINK smART changed their classroom practices somewhat or significantly.
100% of teachers who attend 4 or more KID smART Making Thinking Visible PDs regularly use strategies in their classes.

Teachers reported that arts integration and Making Thinking Visible improved classroom community and increased student engagement. Additionally, the THINK smART initiative showed that teachers engaged in co-planning and co-teaching improved their ability to independently integrate arts and thinking strategies.

Schools that partner with KID smART have seen growth in both student and teacher performance. Let KID smART help impact your school through Collaborative Arts Residencies, professional development, teacher coaching, and enrichment/afterschool arts courses. To learn more, reach out to India King Robins, Education Director, at india@kidsmart.org.

A New Stage for KID smART


Twenty years ago, KID smART was just a twinkle in the eye of its founders, Allison Stewart and Campbell Hutchinson. Over these past two decades, this local arts education organization has served over 30,000 students and 5,000 teachers, blending a variety of art forms with academic subjects in more than 40 New Orleans public schools. As these pre-kindergartners through 8th graders learn through the arts, they grow in both academic and creative skills like collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Those same values will serve the small-yet-mighty KID smART team well this summer as they begin a new chapter in the organization’s story.

KID smART’s founding director, Echo Olander, will be stepping out as Executive Director at the end of June. Since 1999, Echo has ensured KID smART’s growth and success and touched the lives of students and teachers throughout the city and beyond.

L to R: Echo Olander – outgoing Executive Director,
Phil Gunn – Board Chairman, Elise Gallinot Goldman – incoming Executive Director

As of July 1st, the work of directing KID smART’s next act will transition to Elise Gallinot Goldman. Elise brought her expertise to KID smART in 2000 and has served as Education Director for the last ten years. Elise has played an instrumental role in shaping and evolving programming to serve thousands of New Orleans students and hundreds of teachers each school year. Elise is an educator and maker who earned her master’s degree in Arts Administration from UNO and has served on the faculty of Harvard’s Project Zero Classroom since 2014.

“KID smART has been nothing but a labor of love for me. I’m abundantly excited that the board has hired Elise to carry the agency into its next phase of development. With her balance of passion, heart and head, she’s the perfect leader for this work. As I swing out to the next phase, I couldn’t be more proud of KID smART or more excited for its future.” – Echo Olander, outgoing Executive Director

KID smART’s incoming Education Director, India King, is a writer, theater artist and educator committed to affirming and uplifting youth and people of color through the arts. She moved to New Orleans in 2009 to teach special education at KIPP Believe College Prep, where she worked for eight years. Before transitioning into arts administration, India worked at KBCP as an assistant principal and family engagement chair. India recently co-launched a project focused on creating artistic experiences that highlight artists who identify as black and female. India will earn a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from UNO in December 2018.


The summer transitions go beyond staffing, as KID smART is moving to a new office space at the end of June. The new offices – within a complex named the Rose Collaborative and located at 2533 Columbus Street in the Esplanade Ridge/7th Ward neighborhood – will provide space to expand services, hold professional development sessions on-site, and offer arts integration workshops to children and families. Other tenants in the space will include Southern Rep Theatre, Fund 17, and Waldorf School of New Orleans.

What’s next for KID smART schools, students, and teachers? The cornerstone will always be arts integration: an educational approach in which teaching artists collaborate with classroom teachers to help students engage in a creative process, connecting an art form and academic subject to improve learning in both areas. In a rapidly evolving school system, KID smART offers a variety of other programs to meet the needs of all schools and students. Afterschool and enrichment classes taught by KID smART artists let children explore art forms like puppetry, musical theatre, and animation. Artful Families, which KID smART launched in 2017, engages whole families in visual art and drama activities to encourage healthy mental and social development through the arts. KID smART’s Homegrown Teaching Artist Institute is a comprehensive training program with a focus on supporting artists of color and artists born and raised in SE Louisiana in building marketable skills as teaching artists. Finally, with the recent announcement of a three-year grant from Baptist Community Ministries, KID smART will launch Arts Literacy NOLA, a program that will build critical reading skills through theater and visual arts.

“There are no intermissions in arts education. KID smART looks forward to being a critical part of the next 20 years of artful teaching and learning in New Orleans schools.” – Elise Gallinot Goldman, incoming Executive Director

Musing on Metrics

Musing on Metrics

Each July, as KID smART analyzes our student growth data and the Louisiana Department of Education releases LEAP scores, we find ourselves contemplating the contrasts of these two data sets. This illuminates some of our central questions: What skills do students need to succeed in a global, changing 21st century? What indicators tell us if students are ready to meet the myriad of challenges they will inherit as adults?

Louisiana 3rd-8th graders take standardized LEAP tests in four subjects: English, math, science and social studies. To look more deeply at 21st century skills not assessed on standardized tests, KID smART has developed and implemented independent measures of student success.

KID smART partners with 12 Orleans Parish public elementary schools, blending math, science, social studies and English with different art forms. Our teaching artists are embedded in these Creative Schools for a full school year.

Throughout the year of arts-integrated learning, KID smART gathers data points on the following objectives/creative skills:

  • Creativity & Imagination
  • Critical Thinking
  • Depth of Learning in Arts Skills
  • Joyful Engagement
  • Social-Emotional Growth

While LEAP scores tell one story about public school education in New Orleans, KID smART evaluations examine how schools are preparing students to be creative, innovative thinkers able to respond to the challenges of the future. As with the LEAP test, student achievements on skill sheets are measured on a five-point scale.

The following chart displays the percent of students reaching the top tier (mastery/advanced) LEAP test scores in schools in which KID smART teaching artists worked with students in testing grades:

We compared these LEAP scores to KID smART skill sheet results during that same time. Academic and creative skills were quantitatively assessed throughout the fall and spring semesters by classroom teachers and teaching artists. The following chart compares top tier LEAP results to top tier academic and creative skill scores gathered from KID smART skill sheets:

Some of of the variations in scores relate to the different skills being assessed. LEAP scores represent a broad spectrum of students: six grade levels across four academic subjects. Arts-integrated learning with KID smART focuses on individual classrooms with targeted academic and creative objectives in each unit. Measuring our students’ understanding three times over the course of a unit, we note progress on an individual level – a laser look at success rather than a standardized analysis.

Let’s look closer at KID smART Creative School 3 in which the percent of students scoring in the top tier on the LEAP test is the same as the city-wide average (23%). In School 3, KID smART compared academic and creative skills for students in 6th grade against the full school’s LEAP results:

We can see that students are learning deeply and creatively in this classroom, even if the school’s test scores are not showing that growth.

Skill sheets aren’t the whole story. KID smART Creative Schools participate in a multi-layered set of evaluations that includes qualitative assessments where students reflect on their growth and teachers focus on both student and teacher development through the KID smART program. The complete system provides a robust picture of student progress and how teachers are adapting their teaching strategies by using the arts. By pioneering an original system of evaluation tools, KID smART is working to understand whether students are gaining critical skills and striving to broaden the definition of student success.

Continuing research demonstrates that the skills young people need to be successful in the 21st century are not always measured on standardized tests. At the same time, industry-sponsored studies emphasize the need for creative and innovative students capable of critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. Industry leaders now recognize that collaboration and symbolic representation are central to the modern workforce. Few of those skills are being captured by LEAP, and if something isn’t being assessed in our high-stakes testing environment, will school leaders create room for it in the busy school day?

KID smART continues to advocate for a broader spectrum of evaluations to be used in determining school and student success, as part of a larger a strategy for ensuring students grow into well-rounded young adults ready for their next phase of life. We hope this exploration helps examine what we learn from different forms of assessment and spurs thoughts about how can we use a variety of observation criteria, qualitative and quantitative data to guide what and how we teach and prepare our youth.

Donate Art Supplies to Baton Rouge

Leading up to the first week of school, teachers spend countless hours preparing and decorating their classrooms. They use personal funds for supplies and resources for their students.

When the first week of school arrived, many Louisiana classrooms were underwater.

We’ve heard from our colleagues at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge that six schools in the district are completely flooded out, several others have damage, and a large portion of faculty and students have been displaced by flooding.

KID smART is collecting art supplies for ACBR to distribute to schools impacted by last week’s flood. With your donation, we can help students and teachers rebuild, reimagine, and recreate.

Art Supplies Requested:
-Colored Pencils
-Construction Paper
-Theatre Props/Costumes
-Musical Instruments

Art supply donations can be dropped off at the KID smART office:
1024 Elysian Fields Ave. | New Orleans, LA 70117 | Open Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm

One of our teaching artists has kindly volunteered to transport supplies to Baton Rouge.

A message from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge:
We would greatly appreciate a donation of art supplies for the affected schools. If you are making a monetary donation to specific schools, it would be best to go through the Foundation for East Baton Rouge Parish School System. The contact there is Keila Stovall and the number is 225-226-7936. If you would like to make a donation to the Arts Council’s Education programming, that can be submitted by clicking here

Our Eyes on Local Youth Programs

Students deserve the best quality education both in and out of school time. To enhance services to students, New Orleans has embarked on a proven process to increase the quality of out-of-school programming, the Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI). In use throughout the country, YPQI provides training and reflective practices to adults working with children to ensure that quality is central to the work. Spearheaded by the Baptist Community Ministries, YPQI is changing services for youth for the better – increasing student safety, engagement and voice.

photo-ta-bonnieBonnie Gabel, KID smART Arts Coach, has been a spirited leader for our collaborative residencies, afterschool & enrichment programs for the last two years. Now, she is sharing her talents with YPQI as an external assessor. In the Louisiana cohort, she is one of four certified trainers in the youth work methods, the YPQI training modules, allowing her to present professional development sessions to help improve youth programs. To achieve her certification, Bonnie completed a month-long online course and attended a national training summit in Houston. KID smART Director, Echo Olander has also been part of the steering committee for the initiative since its inception.

“One of the benefits of YPQI’s assessment process is that it gives people a shared language around the quality of programming,” Gabel explains. Fifteen New Orleans organizations that span disciplines and age groups are piloting this training and assessment system. Previously lacking common terms and consistent measurements for such diverse providers, YPQI is unifying the community with a nationally validated process.

KID smART is proud to be a part of this community-wide initiative to provide continuous quality improvement for services for students. For more information about the YPQI process and the 15 organizations piloting the work in New Orleans, click here.