November 29, 2017

BPS Arts Expansion: Reflecting Back and Continuing Forward

As the holiday season is upon us, it is hard to believe that the new year is about one month away. With the new year comes the opportunity to reflect on BPS Arts Expansion, the multi-year initiative focused on increasing access, equity, and quality of arts learning for all BPS students. EdVestors has always believed in the power of arts education to support students’ social emotional learning, increase student engagement, improve school climate and encourage family involvement.

This current school year marks the last year of the third phase of BPS Arts Expansion. Since 2009, BPS Arts Expansion has focused on four main strategies: expand direct arts instruction; build district and school capacity to support arts education; strengthen and coordinate partnerships; and ensure long-term sustainability by building broad ownership of arts education in Boston Public Schools. By leveraging increased public funding for arts teaching positions in BPS schools, nearly 17,000 additional students now receive arts instruction during the school day as a result of the overall efforts of BPS Arts Expansion. This past June, EdVestors announced that there will be a fourth phase of BPS Arts Expansion, continuing our close partnership with the City of Boston and Boston Public Schools.

Two of the main strategies of BPS Arts Expansion have been the consistent practice of data collection (both quantitative and qualitative) and strategic philanthropy to move the needle on the stated goals. These strategies will continue as important components of Phase 4, with more details outlined below.

 

New BPS Arts Expansion School Arts Index

Each year EdVestors administers the annual BPS Arts Survey in collaboration with Boston Public Schools. This survey, now in its 11th year, helps BPS Arts Expansion better understand the availability and distribution of arts education in the district and guides investment of external funds to support the initiative’s goals. This year’s survey includes questions that will inform a school’s School Arts Index, a new tool developed for all schools to measure school arts offerings in their buildings. This measure will capture dosage, depth, sequential opportunities, and other indicators of arts learning offered by schools. Developed with the input of school leaders, teachers, and arts partners, this tool will connect with current and future BPS tools for sharing school information, such as the BPS Performance Meter and the BPS School Quality Framework, the public tool for parents to assess school quality when selecting schools for their children. The School Arts Index framework for preK-8 schools and high schools are accessible by clicking here.

Schools who have not completed their annual arts survey should contact artsfund@edvestors.org for the survey link.

 

BPS Arts Expansion Fund Guideline Changes

The goal of the BPS Arts Expansion Fund (“the Fund”) is to empower BPS schools to embrace, expand and deepen arts instruction in schools.  The Fund was created by local funders as part of the larger BPS Arts Expansion effort, and is a key component of the strategy to help meet its goals. The 2018-2019 school year grants will be the tenth year of grant-making for the Fund and the first year for Phase 4 of the initiative and the Fund (2018-2021). In Phase 4, the Arts Expansion Fund will evolve to advance the current goals of BPS Arts Expansion through the following focus areas:

  • Increase dosage of arts instruction to twice weekly, year-long for preK-8 schools: Prioritize schools that strive to increase their arts education offerings to twice a week for 30 weeks (or equivalent) in the same or different arts disciplines.
  • Increase number of high school students receiving semester or year-long arts instruction that fulfills the arts graduation requirement: Expand access to arts experiences for high school students, giving priority to partnerships that enable more high school students to meet the BPS arts graduation requirement; projects enabling students to explore career pathways in the arts are encouraged.
  • Deepen arts experiences for schools with strong arts programs: Schools categorized as ‘Expanding’ or ‘Excelling’, based on the Schools Arts Index will be eligible to apply for a one or two-year grant that further strengthens the arts experiences of their students through the creation of sequential pathways, increasing arts disciplines, implementing curriculum integration, or through an innovative project that introduces a new approach or opportunity to deliver arts education.

The following guideline changes will be in effect for the next round of funding for the 2018-2019 school year:

  • Proposals must include a school cash contribution as part of the Total Project Budget. This School Contribution should equal at least 10% of the Total Grant Request. Schools that have received BPS Arts Expansion support for 4 or more years with the same partner are strongly encouraged to include a School Contribution equaling at least 20% of the Total Grant Request.
  • Schools can be connected with no more than 2 proposals to work with different Arts Partners. It is recommended that arts partners apply for support to work with no more than 4 schools.
  • Other guideline changes and opportunities will be detailed in the full Grant Guidelines and Application to be released in late January.

We encourage interested applicants to begin planning now with current and potential school and arts partners. The complete grant guidelines and school arts data will be available on the EdVestors web site on January 31.  The grantmaking timeline for 2018-19 BPS Arts Expansion funding can be found here. For questions regarding the grant application process, please e-mail artsfund@edvestors.org or call 617-585-5740.

Much of BPS Arts Expansion’s success is due to the shared ownership of the effort among its many stakeholders: the school district, philanthropic institutions, school leaders, teachers, nonprofit arts organizations, teaching artists, parents, and students. Your input into this work has been invaluable and EdVestors is grateful for all you do to ensure there is quality arts learning for all students. We look forward to continuing our work together.

Ruth Mercado-Zizzo is the BPS Arts Expansion Director at EdVestors. To learn more about BPS Arts Expansion, click here.