By Dr. Kristen Paglia, Executive Director of Education & Programs
“We are convinced that excellence in education is possible only with the full inclusion of the arts. An education that encompasses and respects the wonderful diversity of people and cultures in the nation is possible only when it includes the arts.”
– National Arts Education Partnership Working Group
P.S. ARTS is dedicated to improving children’s lives by providing arts education to underserved schools – a daunting prospect when there are approximately 1.7 million K-12th grade students in Los Angeles county public schools alone, but one that, on the surface, seems relatively straightforward. Schools need the arts, P.S. ARTS provides them with arts, and we’ve been doing that for over twenty years.
Of course, providing quality arts programming that contributes to overall school improvement is not so simple. While arts education research focuses heavily on the impact of the arts on students’ performance in school, it is also clear to anyone who visits a school where the arts are integrated into the culture that the benefits are not limited to the classroom. The arts play an important role in elevating teaching practice, establishing a positive school climate, and engaging the broader school community. All of these elements knit together create the fabric of high-performing schools.
As California schools are faced with implementing a new, more rigorous, and more complex set of educational standards, P.S. ARTS took the opportunity to revise and expand our approach. Most notably, we recognized the dire need for quality after-school programming that aligns with what students are learning during the school day and that engages the whole family. In January 2014, P.S. ARTS entered into a merger with Inside Out Community Arts, a Venice-based arts organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth through after school theater education.
We anticipate the merger will be finalized by the start of the 2014-2015 school year, and are thrilled to be able to expand the scope of P.S. ARTS’ services beyond the school day. The Inside Out Community Arts Program of P.S. ARTS is our inaugural Extended Learning program, and will serve hundreds of additional middle and high school students right away. We hope over time P.S. ARTS Extended Learning opportunities will evolve such that all of our 15,000 (and growing) elementary school students will have opportunity to continue their P.S. ARTS education through graduation.
Illustrated in the diagram below, the new and improved program model encompassing the Inside Out Community Arts program keeps student success in school and life at its core. We have expanded our program objectives to address all aspects of school improvement by: preparing our Teaching Artists to support the academic and cultural priorities of our partner schools; actively contributing to a vibrant, inspiring learning environment; and engaging the whole school community in the arts through Extended Learning programs, Family Arts Nights, and other community arts events.
The impact of the arts on overall school improvement is apparent to anyone who visits our programs. P.S. ARTS schools are lively, creative places. The Inside Out Community Arts program and Family Arts Nights extend that vibrancy into the after-school hours when students are sometimes joined by their parents and siblings, making school a social hub. As a result, students are more motivated to learn and more invested in their academic and professional futures. All of that, combined with rigorous standards-based arts instruction taught by professional artists, yields a truly comprehensive, customizable, and sustainable model of arts-based school improvement.
 Wolfensohn, J.D., & Williams, H.M. (1993). The Power of the Arts to Transform Education. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the J. Paul Getty Trust.