Arts for Learning Maryland (formerly Young Audiences of Maryland) announced that it has been awarded a US Department of Education grant to demonstrate arts-integrated school programs that improve academic performance and emotional well-being of students in low-wealth schools.

Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen informed Arts for Learning Maryland of the five-year $3,970,442 grant award to work with Prince George’s County Public Schools for Start with the Art: Arts Integration + Co-Teaching—A Transformative Approach to Increasing Academic Achievement and Fostering Socio-emotional Development in Elementary Students. Arts for Learning Maryland, a nonprofit organization that enriches the lives and education of 180,000 Maryland children each year through arts integration experiences, is the only organization in Maryland to have been awarded one of the 30 EIR grants in FY2021.

The DOE Education Innovation and Research grant, the largest in Arts for Learning Maryland’s 70-year history, will allow the organization to research, demonstrate, and model the effectiveness of the arts and artists in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The project will establish and sustain collaboration between Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) classroom teachers and Arts for Learning Maryland teaching artists as they plan and deliver lessons, including re-engaging students in the classroom following educational disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start with the Art will incorporate four arts-integrated instructional strategies that foster the academic achievement and socio-emotional development of students, particularly students placed at risk by poverty. The strategies use the arts to foster students’ engagement in the classroom; allow students into a wider range of emotional experience than is often possible in regular classroom activities; frame students’ experiences of setbacks and failure in their artistic work as pathways to develop perseverance; and capitalize on students’ collaborative work to foster positive peer relationships.

As part of Start with the Art, classroom teachers will participate in a Training Institute offered as an extension of the Prince George’s Artist Teaching Institute (PGATI), a long-running, highly respected summer professional development experience.

Start with the Art began in early 2022 by recruiting the initial cohort of schools, classroom teachers, teaching artists, and instructional coaches for the pilot. The first program for students will be offered in Fall 2023, with a goal to engage 2,500 students in kindergarten through third grade who are living in or near poverty and are attending school in PGCPS.

Start with the Art will be developed in collaboration with PGCPS, WolfBrown, and West Chester University (WCU). The program’s principal investigators from Wolf Brown and WCU will co-lead all aspects of the evaluation, including recruitment, assignment, data collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination to research audiences. We have collaborated extensively on other projects at the intersection of arts education and the impacts of poverty to early development.

The EIR grant accounts for 75% of the total cost ($4,962,000) of the project through 2026.

The US Department of Education Innovation and Research Program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, and scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students—and rigorously evaluate such innovations. The program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and support the expansion of effective solutions that serve substantially larger numbers of students.

Stacie Sanders Evans, President and CEO of Arts for Learning Maryland, enthused, “This grant is a testament to our artists, staff, and board, as well as the powerful work happening within our community. It recognizes the two strategies that have been at the heart of our Summer Arts for Learning Academy— collaborative lesson planning and co-teaching—and that has resulted in academic and personal growth for nearly 9,000 students at Title I schools. Start with the Art will build additional evidence of the transformational impact that our work has on children so that even more children will have access to this kind of learning in the future.

Commending Arts for Learning Maryland for the award, Senator Van Hollen stated, “The quality of our students’ education should not be determined by their zip code. As we continue working to invest in public education, I’m proud to support the work of organizations like Arts for Learning Maryland that take an innovative approach to helping all our students succeed. Arts for Learning Maryland’s critical work enriches students’ lives, sets them up for future success, and helps them achieve academically through hands-on engagement in the arts and their community. I will continue working to support Maryland students and to bring educational opportunities to our communities.”

“The PGCPS Department of Creative and Performing Arts has enjoyed a wonderful partnership with Arts for Learning Maryland for many years,” added Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson. “This collaboration will support both our educators and youngest learners through arts integration experiences providing alternative, creative, and engaging instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners.”

“The research team is thrilled to be partnering with Arts for Learning Maryland and PGCPS to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the impacts of arts integration on students’ development,” said Dr. Steven J. Holochwost, Principal and Director of Research for Youth & Families at WolfBrown. “We believe the results of this evaluation have great potential, not only to inform arts integrated instruction locally in Prince George’s County but to inform best practices across the country.” 

More information about Arts for Learning Maryland is available on their website.

About Arts for Learning Maryland:

Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in-education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Young Audiences partners professional artists from all disciplines with leaders and schools for over 7,000 hands-on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students annually. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

About WolfBrown:

WolfBrown helps funders, nonprofit institutions, and public agencies understand their potential, set priorities, and fulfill their promise. At the heart of our work is the belief that every human being has a unique creative voice of intrinsic worth and that every community has a responsibility to awaken, nurture, and sustain its cultural capital.

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