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EdTA Among Arts Organizations Awarded $8.5 Million Grant for DEI, SEL

A presenter leads a group of teachers in a theatre workshop.

Arts education across the nation could become even more integral to student and school success as well as more inclusive of diverse student experiences and cultures over the next five years as a result of a groundbreaking partnership between arts education organizations led by the National Art Education Association (NAEA), a national nonprofit for visual arts, design, and media arts educators.

Partners received a more than $8.5 million federal grant to fund their project, Connected Arts Networks (CAN): Leveraging Arts Learning Communities for Teacher Leadership and Student Achievement, which focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusion; social and emotional learning; and professional learning communities for arts teachers. All work is aligned to the National Core Arts Standards which recognizes arts education as dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts.

In addition to NAEA, project partners are the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), and the New York City Department of Education’s (NYCDOE’s) Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP). Moreover, a comprehensive five-year evaluation of the project will be conducted by Metis Associates. The grant is from the U.S. Department of Education.

The project is based on a New York City program in which arts educators across disciplines and grade levels meet monthly in professional learning communities to investigate how to incorporate best practices into arts education content, instruction, and leadership. The methodology has proven successful, so national arts education organizations want to take the approach nationwide.

“Through this unique and unprecedented partnership, the four national arts education organizations can leverage the foundational work in New York City and move the model to a national scale, with the ability to impact over 800,000 students across diverse communities as well as more than 1,600 dance, music, theatre, and visual arts educators,” said Mario R. Rossero, executive director of NAEA.

“The NYCDOE is honored to collaborate with the nation’s premier arts organizations and deliver a high-quality arts education to thousands of students across New York City’s public schools and beyond where self-expression and all artistic voices are valued and honored. This partnership grant will provide essential supports and resources for arts educators committed to nurturing our student artists,” said Maria Palma, executive director of the Office of Arts and Special Projects, New York City Department of Education.

“The Educational Theatre Association is honored to represent theatre education and contribute to this dynamic collaboration that will have a long-lasting impact on theatre education, student learning, and teacher practice,” said EdTA Education Director Cory Wilkerson.

The national project has four goals:

  1. To develop highly effective arts educators, building their capacity to address diversity, equity, inclusion, and social-emotional learning in their standards-based arts instruction;
  2. To develop a local and national cadre of teacher leaders in the arts by building their content knowledge and leadership skills to expand the impact of arts learning for students and their communities;
  3. To develop accessible arts-based instructional materials, strategies, and tools to disseminate to the field nationally;
  4. To create a model for developing, deepening, and maintaining effective partnerships among school communities, local education agencies, and national arts education associations.

Participating arts educators will:

  • Be part of learning communities, where they will engage with their peers teaching in the same arts disciplines and grade bands to focus on strengthening their instruction and addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion; social-emotional learning; and leadership in their standards-based instruction and practice;
  • Participate in semi-annual observations and visits to peers’ classrooms;
  • Attend workshops with experts in the fields of equity, diversity, and inclusion; social-emotional learning; and educational leadership;
  • Lead their own learning communities;
  • Engage in summer institutes; and
  • Provide service to the field including designing and implementing professional learning, creating guides and toolkits, and participating in school leadership teams.

In Year 1 of the project, partner organizations will recruit teachers to participate in national teacher leader learning communities, which will begin fully in Year 2. The national teacher leaders will facilitate learning communities with peers during Years 3-5, creating a mechanism to expand the reach of the project and for continued service to the field and professional learning.

Additionally, CAN’s participating educators will create comprehensive sets of instructional materials and resources culminating in online toolkits and guidebooks. NYCDOE will serve as an incubator and laboratory for testing, implementing, and revising the materials and approaches. The content will be further tested and honed with hundreds of arts educators across varied settings, further ensuring broad accessibility and relevance.

Arts educators are expected to increase their self-efficacy in and use of practices that incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusion; social-emotional learning; and leadership in their standards-based arts instruction. For students, this will lead to improvement in their expression of their identities, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs; understanding of their peers’ artworks and processes; and knowledge of the societal, historical, and cultural context of artworks.

Moreover, students may develop enhanced social-emotional learning skills, specifically with regard to their self-esteem, self-awareness, emotional resilience, social awareness, and conflict resolution skills. Overall, CAN will enable the successful replication of NYC’s professional learning communities with arts educators across the country and result in the development and dissemination of accessible, arts-based tools and resources for the classroom and for national partnerships.

Program activities for this project are fully funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistance for Arts Education Program, projected for a total of $8,515,648 over five years.


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