2014: At the National Title I Conference in San Diego in early February, ArtsEd Washington presented on using the arts to improve student and school success with a panel of principals who used ArtsEd Washington’s Principals Arts Leadership (PAL) program to transform their own Title I schools. The Title I program aims to bridge the achievement gap between low-income students and other students by providing supplemental federal funding to underachieving schools to meet the needs of at-risk students.
Three principals shared their experiences working with the PAL program in Title I schools including Tracye Ferguson (formerly of Franklin Elementary and now Director of Title I/Early Learning for Tacoma Public Schools), Alan Matsumoto (Garfield Elementary in Yakima), and Farah Thaxton (formerly of Madrona K-8 in Seattle). ArtsEd Washington Executive Director Una McAlinden moderated the panel as they offered their leadership perspective and insights on how arts learning and specifically the PAL program has helped them improve their schools and can impact students and schools statewide. The session was introduced with pride by Gayle Pauley, Title I Director of Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“Integrating arts education strategies in reading, mathematics, and the sciences is having a positive impact on the achievement of students who are struggling academically. Title I, Part A programs are demonstrating how this integration has a positive impact on student achievement,” said Pauley. “I am a musician myself and know first-hand the impact arts education has on student success.”
Like many other schools across Washington State, Garfield, Madrona, and Franklin have used the PAL program to grow their arts capacities, impacting overall academic success, school culture, and student/family engagement. The panel shared their experiences in building effective arts plans, visions, and real world tactics to turn their schools into vibrant, successful places for their students to engage and learn. The session also covered tangible strategies to advance this instructional change and demonstrated a simple infrastructure for team-building, vision development, and planning for student success.
“Including the arts in the school day improves student engagement, academic achievement, attendance, graduation rates, and overall success,” commented McAlinden. “The fact that our session was chosen for this national conference demonstrates the growing understanding among education leaders that the arts are a path to both student and school success.”
The goal of the PAL program is to empower schools to create the fundamental systemic change that will ensure that the arts play a vital role in a complete education for all students, now and for years to come. PAL trains principals, as instructional leaders in all areas of curriculum, to expand their own capacities in arts leadership, to develop arts teams, visions, and plans, and to implement concrete strategies to integrate and sustain arts instruction for every student in every school.
Thaxton’s experience at Madrona K-8, where more than three quarters of the students fall below the poverty line, demonstrated the remarkable impact of arts learning. Citing more confident, engaged, and perseverant students at Madrona (which had limited arts offerings before she began work with the PAL program), Thaxton observes that the climate and culture of the school were transformed by the arts. She also sings the praises of the professional development she received through the program.
Notes Thaxton, “It was one of the most focused professional development experiences I’ve had as a principal. PAL brought everybody’s voice together and was a key strategy in our success.”
ArtsEd Washington is currently in the process of revamping the PAL program to be implemented at a district-wide level instead of the slower school-by-school approach. As part of the Creative Advantage, Seattle Public Schools has just begun implementation of PAL in its Central Pathway and will continue rollout to the whole district over the next few years.
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