BY LAURA PERILLE
As more than 1,000 students were performing on the Boston Common last week, a new phase of BPS Arts Expansion was announced to ensure equitable access to quality arts education remains a hallmark of the Boston Public Schools.
Much progress has been made since 2009 when BPS Arts Expansion launched. Specifically:
- Compared with eight years ago, there are now 80 percent more BPS arts teachers working with 70 community arts partners to deliver arts instruction to 17,000 more students annually.
- From 2009-2017, the percentage of BPS pre-K-through-8th-grade students receiving a minimum of weekly, year-long arts instruction or its equivalent increased from 67 percent to 95 percent.
- Access to arts learning opportunities for high school students has jumped to 68% from 26% in 2009.
As we spoke with stakeholders including teachers, arts partners, funders, and district and city leaders, it became clear that while there is much to celebrate, there is also more work to do. With a continued focus on arts education through BPS Arts Expansion, Boston can sustain its progress toward current student access measures and deepen efforts to increase quality arts education in both preK-8 and high schools.
In the next phase of work (2018-2021) our emphasis will be on raising the bar for arts access measures. For preK-8 students our focus will be on increasing dosage to a minimum of twice weekly instruction for the 95% of students currently receiving weekly arts, while continuing to work toward 100% meeting the weekly benchmark. At the high school level, we will aim to ensure 100% of BPS high school graduates meet the Massachusetts Core Curriculum requirement of one year/one full credit in the arts.
Our goal is to raise $2.5M in private funds over the next three years to sustain high levels of arts education in the district. To date, over $1.75M has been raised toward the new goal. We are grateful to The Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, The Klarman Family Foundation, and the Linde Family Foundation who have stepped up to support this next phase.
So what can you expect from the next phase of work? For one, we will continue grantmaking through the BPS Arts Expansion Fund aligned with the goals of Phase 4. While the scale of the fund may shift during this phase, these tenets will remain central to the work:
- Incentivizing and tracking investment in hiring BPS arts teachers, a teaching corps that has grown to 290 FTEs from 160 FTEs in 2009. This equates to an $11M annual increase in public funding for the arts within the BPS budget since 2009.
- Supporting partnerships that focus on cultural responsiveness, amplifying community connections, expanding arts disciplines, and working in coordination with in-school instruction.
We have heard clearly from students, families, teachers, and principals that arts matter in their schools. We are proud to work with the City, the Boston Public Schools and our committed nonprofit and philanthropic partners to promote increased access to arts across the system. This initiative has made an enormous difference by giving thousands more children the opportunity to express their creativity and increase engagement with each other, their schools, and the community. We are delighted it will continue.