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Evaluation of Arts in the Middle, a Partnership of Lincoln Center Education and the New York City Department of Education

Over the past several years, data from the Annual Arts Education Survey conducted by the Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP) of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) have revealed that arts programming in middle schools—often a weak link in education—is losing ground. Despite the state standard that middle school students participate in two years of sequential instruction in one art form led by a certified arts teacher, the survey found that some schools were not providing this level of programming.

With the support of New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Wolcott, Arts in the Middle was launched. It is a three- to five-year initiative created by Lincoln Center Education, a division of Lincoln Center, in close collaboration with the NYCDOE. The initiative aims to provide arts programming and teacher training to NYC middle schools that are underserved in the arts. Metis, which has assisted the NYCDOE with the Annual Arts Education Survey since 2008, helped to identify 50 schools that would benefit from increased arts offerings, and these schools were given an opportunity to apply for assistance from this initiative.

The six initial schools selected for the program each receive help from a teaching artist who comes regularly to work with staff and students and who participates in a school arts team composed of both arts and non-arts teaching staff, depending on the make-up of the school faculty. The program aims not only to transform arts instruction in these schools but also to use the arts as a vehicle to improve school climate in terms of student behavior, attendance, and motivation and parent involvement.

Now that the project is under way, Metis is evaluating it, exploring through interviews and data analysis issues such as the quantity and quality of arts programming; the involvement of parents in the schools; teacher engagement and retention; and student enrollment, attendance, and engagement in the arts. Metis is also applying a rubric that examines students' and staffs' “Capacities for Imaginative Learning”—a set of pro-cognitive skills identified by Lincoln Center Education. In fall 2015, an additional five schools will be added to the initiative, and Metis will bring them into the evaluation as they come on board.