School District to Redesign Arts Education with a Focus on Driving Student Success

Posted on October 17, 2017
Categories: News from SDP

Student-focused Arts & Creativity Framework aims to significantly bolster arts resources and curriculum  

Charles W. Henry School choir of 70 students performs at Arts and Creativity Framework announcement.

PHILADELPHIA – The School District of Philadelphia unveiled its new multi-phased Arts & Creativity Framework, which establishes a path forward for a comprehensive redesign of arts education in the City.  Supported by the Neubauer Family Foundation, the Framework was developed from 16 months of comprehensive analysis of local and national arts efforts, executive workshops with 50 arts organizations and conversations with key stakeholders such as students, teachers, principals, and civic leaders.

This research showed that students wanted more opportunities, teachers were eager for resources and relevant training, principals needed more support in scheduling and training, and partners hoped for easier ways to connect with schools. With this knowledge, the District explored new approaches to how it could increase access and drive connectivity on behalf of its students.

The Arts & Creativity Framework is rooted in the transformative effect of arts education on student success. Aligned with the District’s Anchor Goal 1, research shows that students who participate in arts and music programs are five times more likely to graduate high school. Although nearly 90 percent of District schools currently offer at least one art discipline and 60 percent have both an art and a music teacher onsite, the Framework recognizes that additional resources are needed to offer equal access to culturally relevant arts experiences for K-12 students across the District. To address this issue, the Framework calls for improvement of quality, sequential arts education through:

  • Redesigned scope and sequences for arts classes and courses;
  • School-based arts planning teams;
  • Increased access to music and art classes for all elementary school students and multiple college and career aligned arts pathways and activities for high school students;
  • Enriched learning experiences and engagement through integration of arts activities into non-arts subjects like reading, math and history; physical education; and
  • Alignment of Community Arts Partners with schools and articulated needs to supplement and enrich student experiences.

“Our students thrive when schools provide creative outlets for them including art, music, dance, theater and media arts,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. “Exposure to arts education leads to creative, civically-minded students who are more likely to graduate and aspire to college. Through the research supported by the Neubauer Family Foundation, we have been able to identify the disparity in the District’s arts education resources and now, we can develop real solutions to address this critical issue. This Framework will encourage and enable the local community to provide meaningful support to schools in every neighborhood by more intentionally aligning the tremendous resources available in Philadelphia with our schools.”

“Exposure to the arts at a young age can have an enormous impact on a student’s college and career aspirations as well as their overall academic performance,” said Joseph Neubauer, Trustee, Neubauer Family Foundation. “With 450 thriving arts organizations in the city, it is incumbent upon us to leverage these resources to provide such important experiences to our students. Understanding how the District could better deliver those experiences – for all of its schools – was a key reason we supported this project.  The robust research now available through the Framework will allow the District to make data-driven decisions that deliver meaningful arts education benefitting our schools, principals, educators and most importantly, the students.”

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education served as a key partner in the comprehensive research that led to the Arts & Creativity Framework. Part of that research is a newly-launched interactive map that illustrates schools’ current arts education resources – from instruments to technology to teachers. As the arts education ecosystem continues to evolve, this Arts Mapping tool will provide an up-to-date visual representation of resources available at every public school in the District, including the number of certified arts educators, established Community Arts Partnerships and extracurricular arts activities. The interactive map currently captures the resources of District and Charter schools and will ultimately incorporate Faith-Based schools in an effort to provide the most complete representation of arts education resources in Philadelphia.

“The arts are essential to developing a creative and engaged generation of learners and the District is at the core of Philadelphia’s arts education ecosystem,” said Frank Machos, Executive Director, Office of The Arts & Academic Enrichment.  “We have an incredible opportunity to redefine arts education to be more reflective of the diversity of our students and city, building on an already strong foundation and legacy of arts programs in our schools while increasing accessibility and engagement.  This Framework provides a pathway and structure to better align efforts, articulate roles, provide support and ultimately serve the greatest needs of our students and teachers.”

With the research completed and decision-making tools in place, preliminary elements of the Framework are launching this fall. Initial groundwork is now underway for development of a new scope-and-sequence, strategic art planning tools for principals, and Arts Partner alignment – all to be completed in the 2017-2018 school year.  The 2018-19 school year will mark the roll-out of this arts education redesign with implementation informed by the work completed over the next eight months.

In addition to the Neubauer Family Foundation, the Framework was supported in partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra and the University of Pennsylvania.   For more information on the Arts & Creativity Framework and to view the interactive Arts Mapping tool, please visit