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