Studio to School Program Evaluation #3
Lorna Byrne Middle School, Project Lead
Gina Angelique, Lead Educator
The process for working out budget adjustments for year 2 of our Studio to School Program included meeting with project partners, meeting with Arts Educators, reviewing and reflecting on what worked and what could be better, and then making revisions to the programming accordingly.
Our programming drives our budget. Operating a quality arts integration component, effective sequential classes, and a meaningful, cathartic enrichment program dictates how we intend to spend Studio to School funds. Our changes are slight, reflecting some practical issues, like actual weeks of in school time, and some philosophical, like directing more funds toward enrichment to educate our community about the benefits of the performing arts. In general, our budget can now accurately reflect the staff in place from year one hiring…a lead educator, 2 arts educators, and 2 assistants. In year one we only had one assistant in theatre, but have found and will be adding a second assistant in dance for year 2. We are planning more prep and evaluation time for the arts educator who teaches our integration component, and lengthening the arts integration residencies for one week. This change reflects an emphasis on quality over quantity. We are also dedicating more funds to administration, as coordinating all partners and having school representatives at all sequential programming requires more administrative funds than we originally planned. The reasons for all these changes are described in more detail below.
Change: More hours directed toward enrichment activities. We have become more sensitive to rural generational and situational poverty, through year one experience, pedagogy classes and through attending workshops on the topic. Year one has taught us that a major obstacle in achieving our goals are the students’ parents, where too many are struggling financially and/ or they are immersed in a drug and alcohol culture that prevents them from being responsive to their students’ needs regarding their commitment to arts programming. Many students and their parents sign permission slips for performance opportunities and then fail to attend rehearsal, declare parental frustration with any ‘extra’ commitments such as showing up on weekends for shows, or use withdrawal from the arts classes and rehearsals as punishment for any ‘bad’ behaviors/school struggles their children have. Also, many families move frequently (within the Illinois Valley), and this creates a hardship for them to manage daily. To mitigate this challenge we will engage parents and students more about the opportunities and benefits of performing arts education. We plan to 1) hold an initial event with performances by the arts educators for the parents and families of program participants, 2) require less attendance by participants for performance whose parents are less supportive by giving them smaller roles, and 3) engage in field trips over the Summer to OSF to expose students and some of their parents to a professional theatre experience. We are still developing our complete enrichment plan for year 2, and will continue to do so over the 2015 summer.
Change: More admin hours are needed to accommodate our program’s many partners. An increase in administrative funds are needed for the arts educators themselves who must acquire a significant paper trail of permission slips, signed hold harmless forms, student evaluations and more, and engage in thoughtful communication with parents constantly. School representatives for Sequential Arts Instruction programming remain a priority. The Project Lead also needs to be compensated for his time at Learning Communities hosted by OCF, which was not previously accounted for.
Change: Fewer Arts Integration residencies with more hours allotted for each. We are reducing our Arts Integration classroom residencies from 8 to 5; however, we are extending each residency by 2 weeks. We found that our planned timing was just a bit too quick to realize all the benefits of good partnership with school teachers, and that our Arts Educators and Lead Educator needed a bit more planning time to custom-create each residency according to individual school teacher’s needs and parameters. For example, one of our most successful residencies in year 1 was on British colonization of India. We had just gotten to Gandhi when the residency was over. We would have liked to have another week for the students to plan their own non-violent resistance campaign. School periods are very short for large classes. Because arts education requires participatory reflection by many students, we simply need another week in each residency to accommodate for the large class size and short periods if we want all the students to have appropriate opportunities. We also feel strongly that the quality of our arts integration is significant enough that it should be properly documented and published for other program providers to benefit. Our Arts Integration educator will now have adequate time to do this for each residency.
Question 1: What have you learned about the resources (monetary and non-monetary) needed to be successful in implementing your project?
Our project is blessed with excellent arts educators, extremely talented at navigating the circumstances that working in an impoverished rurally isolated community bring. Our Arts Integration educator, for example, has worked extensively with the Rural Organizing Project, and brings that compassion and understanding to his work on this grant. Our theatre teacher for the Art Novas middle school students has founded a non-profit in our community called ‘Healthy U,” so she brings resources and sensitivity to some of the extreme challenges faced by our student’s families. Having adequate funds to support the hiring of this staff is the most important resource. Eliot Feenstra moved into the valley to work on this grant, and could not have done that if he were not being adequately compensated for his work, as is so often the case in arts education. Having adequate teaching funds has been of great support for the arts educators. For example, we all wanted to attend a workshop on generational poverty in our schools, and were pleased that there were funds to allow us to do so, even though those hours were not specifically planned for, nor could they have been as we were unaware of the opportunity. Also, the food we bring to the students for long rehearsals is essential, as hunger is a common and dominant issue for our students. In the past, money has not been available for such things, but we have found that in serving poor communities it is the only way our students will eat over the course of a long day.
The federally funded 21st Century grant for the high school provides in-kind support for bus transportation home from our programming, and that has been another important resource. We have found that it is rare for a student in our programming to have functional transportation to rehearsals and other events, and we usually have to coordinate extensive plans to get kids to performances. Finally, having the space available at the schools for programming has been key to our success.
Question 2: What were the most important ways you used your OCF grant funding in year 1?
Without a doubt, our best use of funds is on the educators who do the teaching and rehearsal/ performance work, and that is reflected in our budget. We have been able to offer an average of 17 hours a week in professional programming, which is having a substantial impact in our community. We hear students and families all over town talk about the ‘Art Novas’ at the middle School, the ‘Art Stars’ at the high School (funded by the 21st Century grant), and the ‘Everstars’ at the elementary school as viable and real opportunities to study the performing arts here in the valley. Before this grant, there was no such reality. The programming excites young people, which is why we have enjoyed attendance greater than our proposed/ expected attendance for all of our classes (this, despite parental obstacles noted above). Within our programming, it is the pedagogy that has made the most impact on the quality of our project. The time that the whole arts education staff has together to discuss problems and appropriate responses, coordinate our individual program content, reflect on successes, and in general focus on the art of teaching art, has been a valuable part of our work. We cannot say enough about what good, weekly pedagogy time does for successful arts programming. We hope to spend more time next year documenting the content of this time for other projects to understand its impact.
We also feel that the enrichment activities have influenced quality, and galvanized community wide support. Our productions are both an education tool and a participatory mechanism for imparting the values of discipline, dedication, and delayed gratification to a community where hopelessness, endemic drug and alcohol use, and a quitting/ fading mentality dominate. Children are so proud of what they accomplish with their performances, and they are doing something they have never done before. In sports activities the winner or loser is declared the day of the activity, but in theatre, practice and we work for a final performance where a different kind of closure ensues. And here in Cave Junction, that closure has been an opening to community excitement and enthusiasm. So much joy has come from these performances, and we cherish this process because of the impact it has on students and the community. For our project we have been able to bring together more developed performers from dancefarm’s community classes with each of the Sequential Arts Instruction program groups, and that has been an incredible experience for all.
Question 3: How might you apply what you have learned in using resources for year 2?
In our summary above, we expressed the changes we hope to implement based on the actual experiences we had in year one. All of our budget adjustments are meant to reflect what we learned in year 1. Below we will describe them by programming component, since it is our programming that drives our budget. Please note the extensive detailed descriptions in the budget below.
Sequential Arts Instruction: We have created performance groups at each of our schools, and students study dance for 2 hours a week, and theatre (Viewpoint Theory and Theatre of the Oppressed), for 2 hours a week. This programming and budget only reflects a slight change dictated by the actual number of weeks programming should occur in the school year, dropping from 32 to 28. There is nothing we’d like to change regarding this programming, or the pedagogy hours associated with it.
Arts Integration: Through this programming, we work to change overall school culture, and to involve all students, even those less inclined to think the arts will have value in their lives. We also work to improve the quality and creativity of the schoolteachers’ experience. Here we are proposing fewer residencies with longer durations, bringing the total number of residencies to 5 at 5 weeks each, 1 week specifically dedicated to planning the forthcoming residency and evaluating/ reflecting on the previous residency. Our payment to the schoolteachers reflects a general stipend rather than an hourly wage, because of the way the teachers actually like to engage in pedagogy- by e-mail, over lunch, and in frequent, shorter meetings with our arts educators. We believe the work we are doing here will have greater impact when we can publish the curriculums we are developing through the grant, and will now be able to dedicate more time to this process.
Exposure and Enrichment: We are allocating more hours toward enrichment to account for the complexities of bringing together so many different groups into performance, and to develop the process in which we handle our yearning students with uncooperative parents. We also feel that enrichment nurtures a deep attachment between student and the arts in general, whether they eventually become arts patrons, or performers. This is the main mechanism through which we galvanize community wide support.
Administration: Our increase accounts for the administration necessary for the arts educators to organize and implement programming noted above, and we have added hours for the Project Lead, principal Scott Polen, to invoice for meetings and Learning Community convenings.