The Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago, in partnership with School District 65, has been selected as only one of eight arts programs in the country to receive an “Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination” grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The $1.3 million grant will be disbursed over four years.

The District has been partnering with CCAP through Project AIM (Arts Integration Mentorships) for eight years to provide arts-integrated programming in targeted classrooms and grades at King Lab and Bessie Rhodes magnet schools. Project AIM is a research-based arts-integration methodology that allows artists and teachers to co-create original curriculum aligned with Common Core State Standards.

“Arts integration is a subset – it is a piece of – arts education,” said David Flatley, executive director of CCAP, at the District 65 School Board meeting on Oct. 21. “We’re not supplanting teaching the arts for its own educational sake when we talk about arts integration. But arts integration is a shift. It’s using the arts and looking at the arts as a vehicle or a catalyst to teach or engage across the core curriculum.

“The core of our model is we use teaching artists to team-teach with teachers to increase their capacity to bring creativity into the curriculum and to engage students in their own learning,” Mr. Flatley continued. ‘When we talk about higher-order thinking skills and critical-thinking skills, that’s what we’re looking at when we talk about arts integration.”

On June 3, School District 65 administrators presented preliminary plans to expand the Project AIM model to the District’s three middle schools, Chute, Haven and Nichols, and to implement a pilot program with the District’s four Title 1 elementary schools, Dawes, Oakton, Walker and Washington.

The $1.3 million grant will enable CCAP and District 65 to “jump start” arts integration at seventh- and eighth-grades at Chute, Haven and Nichols middle schools, said Mr. Flatley. While not covered by the grant, CCAP will also work with the District to integrate arts at one grade level at each of the District’s four Title I schools, he said.

Lynne Pace Green,  project manager for the grant, said the first year will be a year of “planning and exposure.” She said a “Leadership Team” at each school will advise CCAP on a strategy for their school. A “Learning Community” will also be formed at each school “that will allow us to hit every seventh- and eighth-grade student in the school community.” As an example, she said, the principal at Chute has designated the social studies team as the Learning Community at Chute. That team will receive professional development training in arts integration and will observe how it is done at Bessie Rhodes and King Lab.

In response to a question by Board member Claudia Garrison concerning whether arts specialists and teachers were involved in the planning process of this initiative, Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz said they were aware of it and it would be important to inform them more about the program and obtain their buy-in during this year.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with CCAP to expand the arts-integration initiative that has been so successful at our magnet schools,” said Ms. Schultz. “This grant allows us to address student achievement and student engagement along with the Common Core State Standards as we develop a culture of arts integration in our middle schools.”

Board President Tracy Quattrocki said, “Arts integration has been a very hot topic in our school community lately. So this seems very timely and a direct response to a clearly articulated desire in the community. I think this is a very exciting initiative.”

When parents protested a reduction in the number of fine arts teachers that was proposed by administrators two years ago, they cited research that the arts were an important way to engage children from low-income households.

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...