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Open Access Publications from the University of California



This contribution provides an overview of the articles featured in the 10th volume of the Journal for Learning through the Arts.


A View into a Decade of Arts Integration

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has been involved in an intensive, sustained partnership with schools, Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA), since 1999. The CETA program is a whole school reform model designed to impact student learning and attitudes by building teachers’ capacities to make arts integration one of their primary approaches to teaching across the curriculum. During its first decade (1999 to 2009), the program formally examined its impact through three independent, multi-year evaluation studies. Examined together, the three studies shed light on a decade of arts integration outcomes for students, teachers, and schools. Findings are reported in four areas—the CETA program design, and the program’s impact on students, teachers, and schools. Findings for the program design include: the structure of the CETA program’s professional learning model was integral to its success in schools and the most critical factor for improving practice; and the importance of opportunities for arts coaching in the classroom and participation in study groups as ongoing program supports. Findings for the impact on students include: increased student engagement, both socially and academically; a moderately high positive relationship between student engagement and the extent of teachers’ professional development; growth in students’ cognitive and social skills; and gains in standardized test scores for lower performing students. Findings for the impact on teachers include: development of strong support for the value of arts integration for reaching all kinds of learners, widening the opportunity for all students to be successful, and providing multiple ways for students to express knowledge and understanding; teachers’ increased use of collaborative learning strategies with students; change in the role arts specialists play in schools; and time as a critical factor for effective implementation. Findings for the impact on schools include: changes in school culture, including increased teacher collaboration resulting in a more positive and cohesive, and child-centered environment; growth of the school as a learning community; and the importance of administrative support and leadership.

Evaluation of Professional Development in the Use of Arts-Integrated Activities with Mathematics Content: Findings About Program Implementation

In 2010, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, was awarded an Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant to develop, implement, and disseminate a research-based program of professional development (PD) that equips prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers to infuse mathematics instruction with arts instruction in their classrooms. The PD includes summer institutes and classroom-based residencies in which music, dance, and drama performing artists work with teachers in teams. This instructional approach is often called arts integration. American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted an evaluation of the four-year grant from 2010-2014, examining the implementation of the PD and assessing its impact on teacher practices and student mathematics knowledge. This article reports on the experiences of the elementary school teachers and Wolf Trap teaching artists in the first cohort of participating schools during 2011–12 and 2012–13, drawing on data from a variety of sources (PD observations, residency artifacts, artist interviews, and teacher surveys). We find that the Wolf Trap PD program demonstrates features of effective PD. It is classroom-based, intensive, and focused on what teachers and students need to know to teach and learn mathematics. It is aligned with district standards and offers many opportunities to teachers for active learning. The Wolf Trap PD program delivered preparation to teachers to infuse performing arts-based strategies into their mathematics instruction, starting in the PD institutes and then continuing in the residencies and did so with fidelity to the planned model. Wolf Trap used several approaches to optimize fidelity: a planning year and practice sessions with teaching artists, consistent use of local content experts, and materials structured to reflect the concepts and approaches used in both institutes and residencies. The article concludes with suggestions for practitioners and questions for further research.

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Transforming Teaching through Arts Integration

Transforming Teaching through Arts IntegrationAI Implementation Results: Middle School Reform through Effective Arts Integration Professional Development In four years, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) increased sixth and seventh grade student achievement on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) by 20% at Bates Middle School, a low performing school that had been targeted for restructuring by the state. This improvement positively correlates with the implementation of the arts integration Supporting Arts Integrated Learning for Student Success (SAILSS) model funded through the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant. This model, offered to teachers across all content areas, incorporates extensive professional development opportunities including: an intensive weeklong workshop for teachers with artists followed by a two-week teaching lab with students; participation in an cohort to achieve an arts integration post-baccalaureate certificate,; and extensive trainings, conferences and workshops at local, regional, and national schools, museums, arts institutes, and higher education facilities.  Qualitative and quantitative data collected by AACPS was assessed through a quasi-experimental design from the treatment and comparison schools utilizing the following instrumentation: state and local standardized testing, School-level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ), Arts Integration: Classroom Observations for Middle Schools (AICOM), arts integration logs and parent, student, and teacher surveys. Through this study we found that in addition to increasing student achievement on statewide assessments, implementing this arts integration model positively correlates with a 77% decline in discipline referrals, and overall positive change in school climate based on teacher, staff, student, and parent perception.

Rethinking Curriculum and Instruction: Lessons From an Integrated Learning Program and Its Impact on Students and Teachers

CoTA (Collaborations: Teachers and Artists) is a professional development program that empowers teachers to access the arts in everyday instruction to support student achievement. CoTA schools commit to intense, 3-year collaborations for ten weeks each year where teachers learn to capitalize on arts content and strategies to promote knowledge and skills in other curricular areas, such as language arts and math. Teachers and artists work together to identify the learning needs of students, customize a project to meet those needs (while aligning to the standards), refine the project on a weekly basis through collaborative meetings, and formally reflect on the experience in a cycle of continuous improvement. As the program progresses, responsibility for designing arts-infused units increasingly falls to the classroom teachers as the artists shift into a coaching role. The result is a sustainable model with a legacy of confidence and skills in arts integration for teachers.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego are conducting a quasi-experimental study, which features a multi-site, mixed-methods design to examine CoTA teachers’ understanding of arts standards and potential impacts on students in grades 1-6.  Data sources include a pre/post-test to measure teachers' understanding of arts standards, teacher interviews that examine implementation, CoTA classroom observations, training documents, and student scores on language arts benchmarks. Analyses include thematic coding of qualitative data, as well as descriptive and inferential analyses of student outcome data collected by the District. This article will present preliminary findings from year one of a three-year evaluation.

“Some Things in My House Have a Pulse and a Downbeat” The Role of Folk and Traditional Arts Instruction in Supporting Student Learning

The authors investigated the association between participation in Nations in Neighborhoods (NiN), a program of folk and traditional arts instruction, and achievement in English language arts in a sample of low-income elementary school students, many of whom were recent immigrants and English language learners.  The program drew on the core practices of traditional and folk arts – sociocritical literacies that bridge home and school, multi-modal instruction, apprenticeship learning, and communal effort – to provide students with the confidence and strategies of accomplished learners. English language arts achievement was assessed using a standardized state proficiency exam. Students who participated in the program received significantly higher overall scores on the exam after controlling for gender, ethnicity, English language learner and special education classifications.  These findings suggest that an arts education program featuring folk and traditional arts engages students in practices that have measurable effects on their literacy development.

Found in Translation: Interdisciplinary Arts Integration in Project AIM

This paper will share the arts-integration methodology used in Project AIM and address the question; “How is translation evident in interdisciplinary arts instruction, and how does it affect students?”


The staff and researchers from Project AIM, (an arts-integration program of the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago), have collected data through student surveys and interviews and teacher and teaching artist interviews to research arts integration as a process of translation. The evaluation team observed planning sessions and classroom instruction, reviewed unit plans, assessment rubrics, instructional handouts and artifacts of student work. Data collection was focused on six of the thirty-two residencies that took place in Project AIM during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. Residencies were selected to ensure variability in terms of art and academic disciplines included in the residency, grade level and school.

The process of translation--making meaning across languages of learning and mediums of expression--has informed our data collection and analysis. We have borrowed the terms source language and target language from the field of second language instruction. Just as a translator searches for words/phrases in a target language to express words/phrases in a source language, Project AIM students search for words/images/gestures/sounds in a target discipline to express what they know in a source discipline. These translations across mediums of expression serve to deepen understanding across content areas.

Key Findings

Our research has found:

Teachers and teaching artists’ development of three specific translation approaches: scaffolded, multi-representational and interwoven, with each methodology serving different identified needs of instruction.A statistically significant increase in student learning across four variables measuring higher order thinking skills.When I am going to create something, I can make a plan.I can invent a new way of doing a project.I can create something that represents my ideas.I can understand many different points of view about the same subject.


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Arts Achieve, Impacting Student Success in the Arts: Preliminary Findings After One Year of Implementation

The Arts Achieve: Impacting Student Success in the Arts project involves a partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and five of the city’s premier arts organizations. Arts Achieve provides intensive and targeted professional development to arts teachers over a three-year period. The goal of the project is to improve the quality of arts teachers’ instruction through in-service professional development on the use of balanced (formative and summative) assessment, leading to increases in students’ arts achievement. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, arts teachers formed art discipline-based professional learning communities (PLCs) to work together, using a process of inquiry and action research that focuses on reviewing student data and examining impact on current instructional practice. Additionally, each arts teacher was paired with a facilitator from the arts organizations to support them over the course of the project. The specific professional development activities included: on-site consultancies, assessment retreats, inter-visitations, and an online community. Arts Achieve also provides participating arts teachers with resources to support this work, such as units of study and technology bundles.

To measure the impact of the Arts Achieve project on arts teachers and students, Metis Associates designed a cluster randomized control trial study, whereby 77 schools were assigned to treatment or status-quo control conditions by arts discipline (dance, music, theater, visual arts) and school level (elementary, middle, high). In the planning year of the project, Benchmark Arts Assessments were developed in each arts discipline and school level to measure students’ arts achievement.  Findings from Year 1 indicate that, while there were not statistically significant differences between the growth of treatment and control teachers, the students of treatment teachers demonstrated significantly greater growth in arts achievement from the students of control teachers. The results suggest that a more sensitive tool for detecting change in teachers is needed. Successes and challenges of project implementation are discussed, and potential areas for additional inquiry in the coming years of the grant also are recommended.

Increasing Engagement and Oral Language Skills of ELLs through the Arts in the Primary Grades

In this article, we look at the impact of an arts integration program offered at five large urban elementary schools on the daily attendance and oral language skills of children in kindergarten through second grade. Many of the children attending these schools spoke a language other than English at home. Teaching artists visited each class weekly for 28 weeks, co-teaching theater and dance lessons with the teacher. School engagement was measured by comparing attendance on days with and without scheduled arts lessons. Attendance was significantly higher on days the artists visited; absences were reduced by 10 percent. Speaking and listening skills were measured through standardized test scores. Qualitative analysis of interview and survey data revealed that teachers perceived the theater and dance lessons to provide rich opportunities for verbal interaction between teachers and pupils. Student speaking and listening skills improved significantly, as did teachers’ ability to promote oral language.

“Unlocking My Creativity”: Teacher Learning in Arts Integration Professional Development

This paper examines the impact of two approaches to teacher professional development in arts integration – a summer institute model and a model combining the summer institute with instructional coaching.  In an experimental design, the intervention trained third and fourth grade teachers to integrate visual arts and theater into reading curriculum.  Findings suggest the coaching plus institute intervention had a greater impact on teacher confidence, use and frequency of arts integration than the institute-only intervention or on the comparison group.

Coached teachers reported greater confidence integrating the arts, produced higher-quality work samples, taught more reading concepts with arts integration, implemented more arts standards, and used arts integration more frequently than did the institute-only teachers or the control group teachers.  Coached teachers reported in greater numbers about the positive impact the professional development had on their teaching practice, including feeling more creative, inspired and finding greater enjoyment in teaching.  Coached teachers were more likely than institute-only teachers to correctly use state VAPA standards and to perceive student progress towards those standards.

Institute-only teachers demonstrated greater confidence in and used arts integration more frequently than did the comparison group.  However, they did not reach the same levels as the coached teachers and were more likely to report time constraints and other roadblocks to successful implementation.

Teachers in both treatment groups reported high student engagement and better expression of learning by students when using arts integration instructional strategies.

This project was funded through the U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination program.

A Study on the Relationsh​ip between Theater Arts and Student Literacy and Mathematic​s Achievemen​t

Past studies have shown the existence of positive relationships between the arts and academic achievement when the arts are integrated into language arts, as well as mathematics and science.  This study employed a multi-stage cluster randomized design in which the effects of infusing process drama into a traditional language arts curriculum are investigated.  The study sample consists of sixth and seventh grade students enrolled in a high poverty urban school district. Study findings indicate that students in arts integrated classrooms tend to outperform their counterparts in both math and language arts. The authors conjecture that the arts reinforce theories that view student learning as a process of transmediation between different modes of making meaning.

Embracing the Burden of Proof: New Strategies for Determining Predictive Links Between Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development, Student Arts Learning, and Student Academic Achievement Outcomes

This article provides a window into Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education’s (CAPE) Partnerships in Arts Integration Research (PAIR) project conducted in Chicago public schools (CPS) (, which statistically demonstrates how a three-year arts integration project can impact treatment versus control students in both academic and arts cluster schools.  A multivariate design framework featuring the development of survey, interview, and performance assessment instruments was used to document and rate multiple aspects of individual teacher and student performance.  This design also included a series of correlation and stepwise regression analyses[i] demonstrating that statistically significant links existed between various teacher professional development outcomes, student arts and arts integration performance assessment outcomes, and academic test results. Overall, these findings offer evidence that students at schools with an arts focus combined with arts integration programming scored higher on state academic tests than did students who received exclusively academic or conventional arts learning instruction. Furthermore, these data revealed that the achievement gap between previously designated low, average, and high performing students had narrowed or disappeared. Because these findings are based on multivariate statistical methods,[ii] researchers were able to identify what sequence of factors was most predictive of achievements in student outcomes.

[i] A statistical process used to sort the single most powerful predictor of academic achievement in the context of many competing factors, which, when considered in isolation, all correlated significantly with a primary outcome variable.

[ii] Methods that allow for exploration of a broad range of possible interrelationships among variables, rather than narrow the scope of inquiry testing for simple one-way causal relationship between two variables


Cultivating Common Ground: Integrating standards-based visual arts, math and literacy in high-poverty urban classrooms

The Framing Student Success: Connecting Rigorous Visual Arts, Math and Literacy Learning experimental demonstration project was designed to develop and test an instructional program integrating high-quality, standards-based instruction in the visual arts, math, and literacy. Developed and implemented by arts-in-education organization Studio in a School (STUDIO), in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, the Framing Student Success curriculum was designed by experienced professional artist instructors collaborating with school-based visual arts, math, and literacy specialists and classroom teachers.  The Framing Student Success curriculum units were designed to make explicit connections between subjects (visual arts and ELA or math), while maintaining the integrity, depth and rigor of instruction in both subject areas. While students were receiving arts-integrated instruction during each of the twelve six-week units, classroom teachers and arts specialists were receiving embedded professional development. Regular cross-site professional development was also provided for teachers, specialists, and school administrators.

As a randomized control trial study, the three-year Framing Student Success study provides robust evidence of the potential impacts of an interdisciplinary, arts-integrated curriculum for students growing up in poverty. The mixed-method study assessed the effects of staff professional development and standards-based arts-integrated instruction in three urban, high-poverty elementary schools. Results indicate that rigorous interdisciplinary instruction that links visual arts, literacy, and math skills, and supports cognitive skill development, can increase students’ literacy and math learning while nurturing their art making skills and enhancing their ability to meaningfully reflect on their own work and that of their peers. Qualitative findings suggest that interdisciplinary educator collaborations were critical to project success, and highlight the project’s successful engagement of lower-performing students and students with disabilities. Survey and focus group results suggest that training can build the capacities of teachers, arts specialists, and administrators to implement an interdisciplinary curriculum, providing educators with additional tools to teach engaging, Common Core aligned lessons addressing academic and cognitive competencies.

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The Mirror and the Canyon: Reflected Images, Echoed Voices How evidence of GW’s performing arts integration model is used to build support for arts education integration and to promote sustainability

The Global Writes (GW) model is a well-designed performing arts integrated literacy program that builds local and global support among students, teachers, and arts partners through the use of innovative technologies. Through local partnerships between schools and arts organizations forged by GW, classroom teachers and local teaching artists build collaborative relationships to impact teacher practice and effectiveness, school culture and environment, and student development and achievement in the arts and English language arts. Classroom-based interventions for students include residencies providing instruction in writing original poetry and the art of performance, and poetry performances for authentic audiences including local community-based and inter-city poetry slam sessions. Dissemination, growth, and sustainability have been the cornerstones of the GW mission, promoting the improvement of teaching and learning. Throughout this process the GW team has embraced the metaphor of “the mirror and the canyon” by formatively reflecting on the model of practice, continuously improving the program model by “looking in the mirror”, building on what works as evidenced through research, and tailoring the program to meet the needs of individual schools and arts organization partners in each location.  The authors will provide a review of the GW program, tracing its history and development, and focusing on how specific aspects of the model and evidence of its academic, social-emotional, and professional successes have been used to expand, build local support, and sustain the program in several communities across the country. Evidence of increases in student performance on state ELA exams, long-term impact on teacher practice, and sustained use of technology to continue collaboration among participants are highlighted as hallmarks of demonstrated success of the GW model in cities throughout the country.