On June 3, School District 65 administrators presented preliminary thoughts on a way to integrate the arts – dance, drama, music, and visual arts – into the core subjects, such as reading, literacy, and math. 

“Arts integration occurs when there is seamless blending of the content and skills of an art form with the core content,” said Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz. “It is highly effective in engaging and motivating students and enhances academic achievement and social development.”

The District has been partnering with Columbia College Center for Community Partnerships through Project AIM (Arts Integration Mentorships) for eight years “to provide high quality arts integrated programming at the magnet schools [King Lab and Bessie Rhodes],” said Ms. Schultz. “Based on the success of the Project AIM model, the District has been discussing the expansion of the model to the three middle schools and a pilot program with the four Title 1 elementary schools.”

Each school in the program would have designated classrooms where teaching artists provided by Project AIM would co-teach arts integrated units with classroom teachers. The teaching artists would also coach selected arts specialists at the schools to create and implement arts integrated units with classroom teachers. In addition, school-wide workshops would be held to explore strategies to integrate the arts into the core subjects. 

King Lab and Bessie Rhodes will be demonstration sites for teachers to observe how teachers in those schools integrate the arts into the curriculum.

“This is not a replacement for any of the fine arts programs we have,” said Ms. Schultz. “This is simply a way to enhance learning by students.”

Assistant Superintendent Ellen Fogelberg said the plan is to have two or three pairs of teachers at each school who would participate in the program. Participation will be strictly voluntary, she said, and teachers who choose to participate will be required to participate in a professional development program.

Ms. Shultz added that Project AIM “has specified goals and an evaluation component.” She said the evaluation plan looks at student engagement, the impact on student achievement, and improving students’ ability to translate ideas and concepts and processes between arts, literacy and math.

“This represents an evolution of some initiatives that [Ms. Schultz] started at the magnet schools,” said Superintendent Hardy Murphy. “We’ve had meetings with principals, researchers and program managers for Project AIM, and it represented an opportunity to move out the concept of arts integration in the District in a very planned and intentional manner.”


Jean Luft, president of the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union), said, “We are excited about the possibilities of art integration. The one concern I have is I want to make sure our fine arts departments and the department chairs are included in the planning.”

“In general, this is a great model of collaboration,” said Board member Candance Chow.  She asked to see evidence of the success of the program at King Lab and Timber Ridge. Ms. Schultz said she would circulate a 2010-11 program evaluation prepared by Deborah Ingram at the University of Minnesota.

Board member Suni Kartha asked that administrators take a look at how this expansion will affect differentiation and inclusion in the classroom.

Richard Rykhus said, “Conceptually it sounds very promising” but he raised a question “in terms of long-term sustainability. I want to make sure if we’re committing to a long-term investment for District 65 funds that we do it as sustainable.”

The estimated cost of the program next year is $184,800. The proposed funding plan is that Foundation 65 would contribute up to $80,000, that District 65 would contribute up to $75,000, the Evanston Community Foundation $7,000, CCAP $7,000, and the balance through other sources.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said his initial reaction was that “this may be the most cost effective way to address arts integration. As we roll forward to the Finance Committee we’ll see some analysis and this will be part of the conversation.”

Board President Tracy Quattrocki said, “We’ll look forward to bringing this back in the context of the budget development,” which is scheduled to be discussed by the Finance Committee on June 10.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...