Summary of Arts Integration Project
High Quality Professional Development
Visual Thinking Strategies
Habits of the Mind
River Rouge borders Southwest Detroit. The town’s population has decreased from 11,326 in 1990 to 7,903 in 2010 according the U.S. Census. Both the loss of business and individual jobs have contributed to the city’s dwindling population. The local economy was driven by ship building, steel and the manufacturing industry.
Consequently, the decreased tax base made it difficult to support schools. Between 1990 and 2010, the percent of White residents of the town’s population has decreased from 62% to 39%; while African-American and Hispanics populations have increased from 36% and 3% to 56% and 11%, respectively. The high school graduation rate of River Rouge High School in 2012 was 60.9%, compared to 76.24% for Michigan. The population of adults over the age of 25 without a high school diploma is 27%. The median household income was $25,641 (ACS 2007-2011). The unemployment rate is 16%, and the percent of individuals living in poverty is 40%. While there are still proud residents, these realities challenge the city to create a sustainable community. The district’s student enrollment declined nearly 55% over a ten-year period. The enrollment decline was driven by long standing misconceptions over student achievement and safety concerns, racial tension, unemployment, and concerns over open enrollment.
River Rouge has one elementary school, Ann Visger; and one middle school, C.B. Sabbath. Both schools are Title I schools. The student population for the 2013-2014 school year was 542 at the elementary school and 279 for the middle school. In 2009, 45% of elementary students living in River Rouge and 23% of middle school students attended school in a different district. However, due to a door-to-door canvas of River Rouge, there was been an increase in the student population, especially Hispanic students. Since the 2011-2012 school year, the increase at the elementary school has been 405-542 and middle school, 220-279. In the 2012-2013 school year, 97% of elementary students were eligible for free and reduced lunch, while 95% of the middle school students were eligible (Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI)). Ann Visger Elementary School had no clear leadership for three years, when the principal changed six times. Currently, Joseph Emery, Jr. is the principal. He has brought the passion, energy, and vision to lead the school. Sabbath Middle School made adequate yearly progress (AYP) in the 2011-2012 academic year. Teachers are highly qualified in their subject area at both the elementary and middle schools. Teacher turnover at the schools is low. However, teacher absenteeism is high. For example, at the elementary school, for the 22 FTE teachers during the 2011-2012 school year, there were 185 days of absenteeism due to illness.
An analysis of MEAP test results reveals that the most difficult concepts for students in reading were reading global themes, summarizing, and analyzing text. The most difficult mathematics concepts included relationships and meanings, meaning notation, place value and comparison, as well as fluency with operations and estimation. In both reading and mathematics, none of River Rouge’s Hispanic students were proficient and African-American students made up the majority of the bottom 30% of those who were not proficient. In both reading and mathematics, 35% of students who were non-proficient had disabilities. One explanation given by teachers for lack of proficiency is lack of student motivation to do homework. The main areas of need that will be addressed in the proposed project are as follows: Low-Income: Both Ann Visger Elementary School and C. B. Sabbath Middle School are populated with students who live in poverty. Research reveals a correlation between low academic achievement and poverty (Petrilli et al., 2006). Achievement Gap: Reducing the academic achievement gap between minority students and their peers has been identified by the River Rouge School District as a major goal in the current strategic plan. Research shows that arts integration can have an impact on the academic performance of disadvantaged learners (Corbett et al., 2001).
Through instruction that strengthens students’ achievement of the national arts standards, students will be engaged by dual learning objectives as they work in the creative process to explore connections between an art form and ELA or math Common Core Standards. Thus, they will gain greater understanding in both (ArtSedge). Social/Emotional Development: Early adolescent years are a time when students are grappling with issues of authority, autonomy, identity and self-actualization, which can lead to decreased motivation and increased behavior issues in school (Roeser, Eccles & Sameroff, 2000). Art- integrated instruction puts to use students’ motivation to foster perseverance and achievement in reading and mathematics. Needs have been identified through teacher observations, interviews, and surveys. Both elementary and middle school principals said that core curriculum teachers “rarely” worked with the art teacher.
In the elementary school, there is one certified art teacher, who meets with kindergarteners for two hours per week; while meeting with students in grades 1-5 for one hour every third day. In the elementary school’s hallways, children’s artwork appears on the walls, but there is no focus on thinking as an artist. In the middle school, there is a cultural studies teacher (who is not certified in art) who teaches an art class to both 6th and 7th graders for one hour per day for 10 weeks. The 8th graders receive no art instruction at all. Budget limitations mean that not all students in the district receive art instruction. Thus, our low-income students of color lack access to art-integrated instruction that develops creative thinking and is linked to improved academic outcomes.
According to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, (2011 cited in Kraehe & Acuff, 2013, p. 32), “students in schools that are most challenged and serving the highest need student populations often have the fewest arts opportunities.” Recent studies have reported racial, economic, and gender gaps in art achievement (Keiper, et al., 2009) and access to learning opportunities in art (Rabkin & Hedberg, 2011). “Why art when my students need to know how to read and do math?” From research cited, we learn that art strengthens learning skills, increases a learner’s attention to detail, incites the imagination, and encourages new perspective on the world.
The importance of the arts, literacy, mathematics, and multimedia is immediately of interest to professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the International Reading Association (IRA), and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Art integration has been shown to be an ideal method of learning (Deasy, 2002; Eisner, 2002; Burnaford et al., 2007; Hetland et al., 2007). A survey of our elementary and middle school principals reveal the need for teacher training and integration of technology in instruction. Joseph Emery, Jr. reported that although all teachers use learning pads, there is no use by any teacher of other technologies. Brandon Cox noted that 10% of middle school teachers used iPhoto and 30% used Wifi enabled cameras, but no other technologies were used.
Needs of River Rouge Teachers
- Need to have a better understanding of the benefits that the integration of the national arts standards have for the achievement of low-SES students in ELA and math.
- Need the opportunity to explore ideas with art-integration and math methods instructors, teaching artists, as well as literacy, technology, and cultural competency faculty.
- Need a way to connect to art, ELA, math, and technology resources. Such support in the development of curriculum across subject areas has been found to support more complex teaching and learning (Lindsley, 2006).
- Need to know how to integrate the national arts standards into Common Core Standards for in ELA and math, as well as strengthen the place of visual art as a core academic subject in the school curriculum.
- Need to create innovative teaching lessons for ELA and math that focus on and integrate the national arts standards.
- Need the knowledge and expertise to use creative and innovative teaching strategies and approaches that integrate the national arts standards into ELA and mathematics instruction in the elementary and middle schools.
- Need the knowledge and confidence to integrate digital media into ELA and math instruction. They need to develop lessons that include technology (Nobori, 2012). Teachers need coaching to help ensure effective implementation (Saraniero & Goldberg, 2011; Knight, 2004, 2005). They need to give students access to the digital media skills in order to create, share, and present work that demonstrates high levels of learning (President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, 2011). 8. Need the knowledge to assess students’ work in art-integrated instruction. Our interviews with teachers reveal that they are unaware of high quality assessment tools to measure student learning in the arts (PCAH, 2011; Herpin, Quinn, & Li, 2012).