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Arts Integration, Common Core, and Cultural Wealth: An Ethnographic Case Study of a Title I Elementary School


This ethnographic case study examined the processes of a Title I elementary arts academy in developing, implementing, and sustaining an arts integrated curriculum in relation to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In addition, this study explored the possibility of an arts integrated curriculum as a conduit for students’ cultural wealth. The sample consisted of 10 participants from 1 elementary school in southern California. The research design consisted of semi-structured interviews with teachers, a teaching artist, 2 teachers on special assignment (TOSAs), and the principal. In addition, observations of arts integrated lessons and an analysis of institutional documents were conducted.

Findings were organized around 4 themes: (a) relationship between CCSS and arts integration, (b) essential structures in developing, implementing, and sustaining an arts integrated curriculum, (c) arts integration as student centered and disruptive education, and (d) arts

integration as cultural wealth. Findings reveal that arts integration strongly supports the CCSS. To support arts integration, the following structures were put in place: arts integrated curriculum, dedicated arts classes, arts schedules, professional development for teachers in arts integration, and funding sources. Some challenges participants reported when implementing arts integration included how the CCSS and CAASPP testing took precedence over arts integration, and the fear of losing the federal grant that provided funding to write the arts integrated curriculum. In addition, the findings indicate that arts integration was student-centered and suggest that arts integration empowers students to take control of their learning, inspires respect for their peers, and instills confidence. Finally, the findings show that students’ cultural wealth was not present in arts integrated lessons, even though there was evidence of it school-wide.

Although the findings in this study are not generalizable, other schools may use these findings to help inform their consideration to implement arts integration at their sites. Perhaps some of these schools can find similarities between their site and the research site, thereby rendering the findings more meaningful.

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