District Receives $1.2 million Arts Integration Grant from USDOE

ZinnThe Sarasota County Schools, through Any Given Child Sarasota, have been selected by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to receive a $1.2 million grant over four years to implement an initiative entitled Elevate with Arts Integration, also known as Project Elevate. The grant, which is designed to enhance teaching and learning through arts-integrated instruction in local schools, was one of only 17 awarded nationwide by the USDOE this year as part of its Professional Development Arts Educators Program.

Project Elevate aims to increase students’ academic performance in reading, writing, math and science through arts-integrated instruction at four Title 1 elementary schools in the Sarasota County School District. The schools participating in the grant program are Atwater, Brentwood, Emma E. Booker and Tuttle elementary schools. Funds will help second- through fifth-grade teachers at those schools gain proficiency in developing and providing arts-integrated instruction.

Title I is a federally funded program designed to address the academic needs of students, particularly in the areas of reading, writing, science and math. Schools are designated as Title I based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious grant,” said Any Given Child Sarasota Program Director Brian Hersh. “Project Elevate will enable Sarasota County Schools and Any Given Child to continue developing innovative learning practices in arts-integrated education that benefit thousands of students in the district each year.”

Through Project Elevate, Any Given Child Sarasota will hire a full-time, experienced arts integration specialist beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The specialist will provide coaching, training and mentorship in creating and teaching arts-integrated lesson plans at each of the four Title 1 schools selected for the program. In total, more than 75 classroom and arts teachers, as well as additional pre-service interns, will benefit from the program in its first year alone.

Of equal importance, hundreds of students at the Title 1 schools involved in Project Elevate will benefit from increased opportunities to engage with the arts through enhanced arts-integrated instruction and arts experiences, in addition to the arts instruction they already receive. Numerous studies have shown that students who participate in the arts and arts-integrated learning perform better academically and have lower dropout rates than students who do not have such engagement with the arts.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT) will serve as the official evaluator for the program, helping collect and analyze student learning outcomes, academic performance results and other metrics. Dr. Brianne Reck, senior fellow and executive director of Center for PAInT, says she and the faculty in USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education share the commitment of Any Given Child Sarasota and Sarasota County Schools to transforming learning experiences for children through the integration of the arts.

“We are thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking work and to provide the evaluation expertise that is critical to the project,” said Reck. “It is through the power of this partnership that we support innovation that will make a difference in the lives of our children and our community.”

Any Given Child Sarasota is a partnership between the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and Sarasota County Schools. The program is designed to provide students with expanded and enhanced opportunities to benefit from the arts in our community and quality arts education in all local schools.

By working with the school district, local arts organizations and corporate and private donors, Any Given Child Sarasota is helping build high-quality arts, theater, music and dance programs in schools throughout Sarasota County; providing access to theater and musical performances, museum visits and other arts experiences for students; and securing funding to help teachers and schools better integrate arts education into their curriculums.