District launches initiative to expand and redesign arts education
Jacob Hernandez first picked up a trumpet as a child, and his father tried to teach him how to play. When Jacob went to Sheridan Elementary School, he was thrilled to find out that he could get trumpet lessons there.
That led to stints in several all-city student music ensembles, to Temple University to study music education, and ultimately to what he does now: He goes from school to school to teach brass instruments to students around the Philadelphia School District.
Hernandez told his story Tuesday, Oct. 17, at an event kicking off what the District is calling an "Arts & Creativity Framework" that tries to match up the city’s 450 arts organizations and institutions with city schools in a productive way.
Many partnerships already exist between schools and arts groups, but students wanted more opportunities, teachers wanted more training, and arts partners wanted better ways to make school connections.
So the District, with support from the Neubauer Family Foundation, spent 16 months studying existing partnerships and researching what schools and communities wanted.
The framework will not necessarily mean an additional monetary investment on the part of the District, which already spends $50 million on arts education.
William Hite, the superintendent for the Philadelphia School District, emphasized that national studies have consistently shown that students who participate in arts and music programs are significantly more likely to graduate from high school.
The District’s own research yielded new approaches, including redesigned arts classes, school-based arts planning teams, increased access to music and art classes for all elementary school students, more arts-related career pathways in high schools, and more integration of arts activities in reading, math, history and physical education courses, in addition to better alignment of partner organizations with schools.
The impetus for the initiative came from Frank Machos, the District’s director for music education, and Dan Berkowitz, who had been the director of educational outreach at the Philadelphia Orchestra.
City Councilwoman Helen Gym’s office had conducted a study of access to instrumental music teachers, like Hernandez. Fifty of the 51 schools that lacked such access had a higher than average percentage of students of color.
Now, according to District data, 90 percent of District schools offer at least one arts discipline and 60 percent have both an art teacher and a music teacher on-site.