The Education Innovator
Volume IV
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The Education Innovator
 January 26, 2006 • Number 2
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Arts Education and Hurricane Relief
What's New
Innovations in the News

Arts Education Promotes Healing for Hurricanes' Kids
In Waveland, Mississippi, 75 kites recently flew defiantly against winds that once battered the town. Lumber collected from demolished homes became kite frames, and high school students' poetry scrawled on colored paper became kite tails. This project and other creative arts have enabled students affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to express their emotions, and go back to school with a sense of release and a return to normalcy. One student, Caitlin Dalgo, noted, "All of us put our thoughts into our kites as we made them, and when we let our kites go in the wind, the wind blew all the bad times and memories away."

The Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative, a comprehensive school reform group, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and DreamYard, a New York-based arts education nonprofit organization, sponsored the kite project in Waveland for students from Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis, and Laurel, each designated a disaster area after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to creating kites, with guidance from DreamYard teachers, students wrote original monologues, short scenes, and poetry, which were integrated into a collaborative arts project among the schools. The project and an anthology of students' poetry were recently unveiled to community members and students at a ceremony at Bay St. Louis High School.

The Waveland kites and other arts education initiatives have emerged as a way for students to heal after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The U.S. Department of Education has produced a resource for parents, educators, coaches, and children called Tips for Helping Students Recovering from Traumatic Events. In the "Tips for Students" section, the booklet acknowledges that, after a disaster, students may want to find ways to express themselves by creating artwork, writing, playing music, or singing. This approach is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association, as well.

An added benefit is that students may reap academic benefits while expressing themselves through the arts. At the "Coming Up Taller" Awards in 2004, for example, First Lady Laura Bush noted, "The arts...are critical building blocks for a child's development and they provide a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Drawing helps children improve their writing skills. The study of poetry helps with memory and vocabulary. Theater can bring history to life."

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example, schools and organizations recognized the potential of arts activities to help students deal with trauma. The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund established the School Arts Rescue Initiative where staff and artists, many from the New York City nonprofit ArtsConnection, created music, dance, theater, and visual arts programs to help students work through their emotions and learn about tolerance. In West Sacramento, California, second graders at Bryte Elementary School used their language arts unit on bravery to create a book called Some People Are Brave. The book with writings and illustrations of the disaster was published locally by Kinko's and then published nationally by SRA/McGraw-Hill. Dawn Imamoto, the teacher who organized the project and a participant in the OII-funded National Writing Project, recalls, "What my students could not express orally, they were able to do in writing and illustrating."

In line with Tips for Helping Students Recovering from Trauma, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers is providing students with a creative outlet through its administration of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In addition to the national awards that annually recognize outstanding works of art and writing created by students in seventh through twelfth grade, in May 2006, the Alliance plans to launch a virtual gallery and program entitled "Kids Reconstruct with Creativity." The student artwork will document how youth are coping with the loss and dislocation caused by the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and Florida.

At the local level, Fairhope, Alabama, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina, has ratcheted up resources to absorb victims from other communities that were more severely damaged. At Fairhope's Eastern Shore Art Center, both local and evacuee youth have been welcomed into its studios and galleries. Nancy Raia, the Center's Arts Bridging Creativity (ABC) Project Director, and Vicky Nix Cook, a former classroom teacher and current supervisor for fine arts at the Baldwin County (AL) Public Schools, organized a "Hurricane Hair" project for students at Fairhope Middle School. The project originated as a response to Hurricane Ivan that ravaged Fairhope in 2004, and was so successful that Ms. Raia and Ms. Cook brought it back for victims of Katrina and Rita. Students designed whimsical postcards for the project. Each picture depicts a person experiencing a "bad hair day." Students used straws to blow paints onto the surface of postcards, making it appear that the resulting brightly colored hair is blowing in the wind. Last year, proceeds from the Hurricane Hair postcards went to Ivan charities and tsunami aid. This year, in addition to helping students heal, these postcards were turned into a fundraiser for the American Red Cross.

Following a monochromatic theme, the Center also organized a Blue Faces of Katrina project for local students and evacuees from various Mississippi and Louisiana schools. Students discussed their experiences and painted faces using blue pigment. They learned about Pablo Picasso's "Blue Period" and how the artist used his art to depict human misery and alleviate his own depression. Henry Kutzenski, a seventh grade Louisiana student displaced by the storm noted, "[This project] helped me express a bit more of what I feel...sadness but also hope."

Like Henry, as many as 200,000 displaced students have found safe haven in new schools and cities across the country. In Texas, the Theatre Action Project (TAP), an educational interactive theater company serving over 50 schools in greater Austin, organized creative arts classes for thousands of evacuees in the Austin Convention Center. A TAP program specialist developed the curriculum for pre-kindergarten students. TAP also arranged classes, which consisted of theater games and writing and drawing exercises, for older children at the Convention Center in the evenings. In addition, classes are led by TAP teachers at Heart House, a local after-school program. They represent a collaborative effort between TAP and another Austin arts organization, Outreach Productions. Also in Texas, Big Thought, a learning partnership that supports community partnerships, cultural integration, youth development, and family learning, is offering arts programming to students through 56 cultural partners involved in the Dallas ArtsPartners program.

In addition to providing services to students, schools and arts organizations have coordinated fundraising efforts. For example, Virginia Commonwealth University is spearheading an exhibition of artists' work from around the world based on the theme of "The Power of Water." Proceeds from the sale of the artwork go to the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Hurricane Katrina Recovery Fund, where the aim is to rebuild schools in areas hardest hit by the storm. The U.S. Department of Education website "Hurricane Help for Schools" also continues to link donors who wish to help hurricane-affected schools and those that have taken in students displaced by Katrina and Rita. As of early January, 551 connections had been made through the website.

On a musical note, the VH1 Save the Music Foundation is focused on donating instruments to students in affected areas, and reaching out to its Arts Coordinators in the Gulf Coast. MENC: The National Association for Music Education (formerly Music Educators National Conference) has funneled donations through a fund set up by NAMM: International Music Products Association to assist with the efforts of charities such as the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, MusiCares, and the American Red Cross.

Across the country, the arts are connecting resources, students, and communities to each other in an effort to heal and rebuild. KID smART, a local New Orleans nonprofit that teaches life skills to underprivileged children through visual and performing arts, is crossing its borders and organizing arts programming at KIPP-NOW (Knowledge Is Power Program - New Orleans West) College Prep in Houston, Texas, a K-8 school recently created for students displaced by the hurricane.

On December 10, a group of artists, educators, and community members, coordinated through KID smART, convened at the Crescent City Farmers' Market in New Orleans. They carried shells from Lake Pontchatrain, branches from fallen trees, and pine needles from the North Shore. The group collected these materials to create a giant mandala, a Hindu and Buddhist circular design containing symbols of wisdom. The mandala was used to redirect the city's painful symbols of destruction into a representation of change and hope.

The Office of Innovation and Improvement funds Arts in Education grant programs and the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). The Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative, ArtsConnection, and Big Thought have received Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grants. The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, the National Art Education Association (NAEA), the Mississippi Arts Commission, NAMM: International Music Products Association, MENC: The National Association for Music Education, the National Network for Folk Arts in Education (see What's New), the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, and the VH-1 Save the Music Foundation are all members of AEP.

Resources: Note: There is little research available on the benefit of art therapy in helping survivors of traumatic experiences; however, a randomized, controlled trial of "mindfulness-based art therapy" (MBAT) was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This study of women with cancer found that, as compared to the control group," the MBAT group demonstrated a significant decrease in symptoms of distress... and significant improvements in key aspects of health-related quality of life..."


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that more than $253 million from the Hurricane Education Recovery Act will be immediately available to restart school operations and meet the education needs of displaced students in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama. (Jan. 5)

Secretary Spellings wrote a letter to Chief State School Officers announcing that President Bush signed the Hurricane Education Recovery Act into law on December 30, 2005. The legislation authorizes three new grant programs: Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students; Assistance for Homeless Youth; and Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations. (Dec. 30)

Secretary Spellings issued a statement on the Florida Supreme Court's decision to strike down the state's Opportunity Scholarship program. She said this ruling "could cause parents to remove their sons and daughters from good schools and, in some cases, return them to underperforming schools." (Jan. 6)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

The Teaching American History program grant application deadline has been extended to February 9, 2006 at 4:30 p.m. (EST). The e-Grants system will be unavailable from 7:00 p.m. on February 2 until 7:00 a.m. (EST) on February 6, and grantees will not be able to access the site or work online between those times. Please contact the Teaching American History program, if you have questions. (Jan. 3)

American History

The Horace Mann Corporation and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have partnered to create the Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship, a program for educators who wish to study the life and impact of America's 16th president. The program features a five-day institute and a maximum award of $1,000 to cover expenses for the program. Full-time K-12 educators are eligible to apply. The deadline is March 4, 2006. (Jan. 12)

Arts Education

The Mockingbird Foundation currently offers grants for in-school music projects that promote creative expression through music. The program encourages projects that will explore diverse or unusual musical styles, genres, forms, and philosophies. Nonprofit organizations and public schools may apply. The deadline for applications is February 1, 2006. (Jan. 3)

The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has joined forces with the Music Education coalition's initiative. was created by the coalition and represents the largest online effort to support school music programs across the country. On the website, visitors can learn how to build music programs, rate their current programs, and address challenges schools face in regard to their music programs. (Dec. 14)

The Coming Up Taller Awards program, which recognizes outstanding after-school and out-of-school arts and humanities programs for under-served children and youth, is currently accepting applications. Programs initiated by museums, libraries, performing arts organizations, universities, colleges, arts centers, community service organizations, schools, businesses, and certain government entities are eligible. The deadline to apply is January 30, 2006. (Jan. 3)

Teachers are using to help students share their culture and traditions with others in their new schools. Some students are acting as "regional culture docents," sharing elements of folk life that are unique to their part of the state. To learn more about folk art, visit the Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students (CARTS) website. (Jan. 11)

Parental Involvement

New Heights Family Health Center, a Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC) in Baton Rouge, LA, opened its satellite office on January 15, 2006. The PIRC is housed in a formerly abandoned school building that has been renovated over the past two months to serve families of Hurricane Katrina who have left shelters and are now living in the Baton Rouge-Baker area. It is located down the road from Renaissance Village, the largest evacuee park for hurricane victims. (Dec. 6)


Innovations in the News

Arts Education
The Florida Music Educators Association believes that what is measured is valued. This association, along with The Florida School Music Association, began developing a music test several years ago. The two groups piloted the test last spring with fourth graders, and, if the State Board of Education signs off on it, fourth-graders across the state could take the test in the spring of 2007. [More-St. Petersburg Times] (Nov. 28)

Charter Schools
Researchers have found that traditional public schools in North Carolina have responded to competition from charter schools by improving their average proficiency rates. The research also suggests that students switching from traditional public to charter schools appear to be above-average performers compared with the other students in their school. This fact may understate the true effect of charters on traditional public schools. [More-Education Next] (Winter 2005)

Hurricane Relief
Before floodwaters devastated New Orleans (LA), 60,000 students were enrolled in the city's public schools. By the 2007-2008 academic year, 25,000 public school students are expected to return. This month, 17 public schools will be open with a capacity for 12,000 students, and three other schools plan to open in the fall. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will begin accepting proposals from nonprofit organizations, including universities, interested in running schools the Legislature voted to place under state control because they were performing below the state average. [More-New Orleans Times-Picayune] (Jan. 3)

The Algiers Charter Schools Association is the first system of charter schools to open in New Orleans (LA) since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped through the Gulf Coast region. So far, 2,150 students have enrolled, and the Algiers System plans to open five new schools. Principals will have a great deal of freedom to control their budgets, design their curricula, and hire their own teachers. Teachers who wanted to join the system had to participate in interviews and take a test that consisted of basic mathematics problems and an essay prompt. [More-The Times-Picayune] (Dec. 14)

Intel is organizing efforts to rebuild technology infrastructures at schools in the Gulf Coast region along with other technology organizations such as Cisco Systems and BellSouth. Futurekids will donate professional development services to affected schools; SMART Technologies will provide schools with interactive whiteboards, and Scantron Corporation will offer testing and assessment technologies to teachers and administrators. The State Educational Technology Directors Association, the U.S. Department of Education, and eSchool News also are participating in the initiative. [More-eSchool News] (Dec. 9)

Raising Student Achievement
At the Minnie Howard School in Alexandria (VA), every student is a ninth grader. Minnie Howard is one of 160 other ninth-grade-only schools across the country. "Ninth grade in America's public schools has become an increasingly severe hurdle to student progress," explains Walter Haney, a Boston College education professor who has done research on why more ninth graders are currently being held back and eventually drop out of school. Ninth-grade-only schools attempt to ease students' transition into high school. At Minnie Howard, students get personal attention and are counseled on the rigors of the high school experience during teacher advisory classes, where groups of no more than 15 students meet daily with a teacher or other professional at the school. Every student sets goals at the beginning of the year with his or her advisory class. [More-The Washington Post] (Dec. 13)

Many students at Haviland Middle School in Hyde Park (NY) will use Saturday mornings for extra help in math. Beginning in January, the Hyde Park school district plans to use an $11,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide students struggling in math and other subjects with extra classes. The "Saturday academic intervention services program" will be held over the span of five weekends and will each run for about two to three hours. [More-The Poughkeepsie Journal] (Dec. 14)


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