NYC grants helped schools expand arts programs

NYC grants helped schools expand arts programs

(N.Y.) New York City schools now employ a record high number of full-time credentialed art teachers that are giving more students across various demographics greater access to a range of creative disciplines, according to a new report.

Officials at the New York City Department of Education credit increasing investments in arts programming and professional development that they say are beginning to pay off. For instance, the report found that in the past couple of years, more than 90 schools were able to hire an arts teacher for the first time.

“The arts are essential to a well-rounded education, bringing classrooms to life and fostering creativity and passion,” Carmen Fariña, New York City Department of Education chancellor, said in a statement. “Investments in arts education is a game-changer, and I’m proud we have the highest number of arts teachers in twelve years and that we’ve increased arts programing for students with disabilities, in pre-k classrooms and for middle school students.”

Arts education has long been shown to improve soft skills as well as social-emotional and academic outcomes among children who participate. Students exposed to various art programs tend to demonstrate higher levels of self-confidence, imagination, cooperation, communication skills, memory and empathy and tolerance.

Multiple studies from the U.S. Department of Education show that students with a history of in-depth involvement in the arts also tend to have better academic outcomes even beyond graduation, have higher career aspirations and are more civically engaged. When focusing on at-risk students, achievement levels of those with extensive arts experiences are much closer to that of the general population compared to those with little history of in-class or extracurricular arts experiences.

Schools in New York City increased arts spending by $17 million between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, according to the education department’s annual arts in schools report. Officials said the increase reflects a growing commitment of individual schools to invest in rigorous arts instruction for students and a focused effort to expand arts learning to new disciplines. Last year, spending on teachers, curriculum and art supplies across all schools reached $416 million.

That is in addition to the annual $23 million investment made by the city, through which a number of hiring initiatives have been launched to increase access to certified arts teachers to schools across the city, leading to a record twelve-year high in the number of teachers with art credentials.

The Arts Matter initiative, which predominantly partners schools in high-needs areas so they can share one or two full-time arts teachers, has been credited with bringing almost 100 certified arts teachers to 123 schools citywide. According to the report, it was the first time an arts teacher had been hired in 91 of those schools.

Another hiring initiative–the F-Status Pilot Program–began during the 2015-16 school year, and provided schools with additional support to hire a part-time licensed arts teacher. The program expanded last fall and now serves 20 schools.

Combined, the Arts Matter initiative and the F-Status Pilot Program have allowed students in more than 140 schools to receive high quality art instruction for the first time. According to education department data, nearly 380 full-time certified art teachers have been hired since the 2013-14 school year, and in 2016-17 the department recorded a total of 2,770 in pre-K-12 schools.

The report also found that, through grants and partnership programs with community arts and cultural organizations, more than 340 schools last year were able to offer meaningful arts opportunities for students with disabilities and English learners–a jump from just about 140 sites during the 2014-15 school year.

Last year also marked the second of a three-year professional development program that teaches pre-K instructors how to incorporate visual arts, dance, theater, and music into their ongoing instruction. The program–Pre-K Create–is on track to train 2,000 pre-K teachers, teaching assistants, administrators and instructional coaches at 490 pre-K sites across all 5 boroughs by the end of its third year.

“Our schools have shown unprecedented commitment to giving all our students a strong, rigorous arts education,” Paul King, executive director of the department’s Office of Arts and Special Projects, said in a statement. “Whether its theater, music or visual arts, the arts are a critical part of every student’s education and I look forward to continuing the important work of expanding arts programming to every student across the City.”