Cultural Quarterly
Summer 2008
Volume XXI, Number 3
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Patricia Zeiler

Broward County Public Schools:
Strongly Committed to Arts Education
By Nadine Drew and Patricia Zeiler

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Broward County students have access to some of the greatest art programs in the nation because one of the goals of the School Board of Broward County is to promote a superior comprehensive arts education for all students. While many school districts are reducing their support for the arts, Broward County Public Schools is committing new resources and energy to them. This has been done in great part through successful community partnerships and collaborations.

Educators from all curriculum areas, working together with school administration, offer integrated training and programs that reflect quality arts education. Their areas of focus include an elementary and secondary assessment model that validates student success and learning in arts education; arts education models that exhibit excellence for school administrators and classroom teachers; support for programs to develop teacher leaders in the field of arts education; a comprehensive mentoring program for new and experienced teachers seeking to improve classroom practices; and continued district support for state policies, legislation and rules that offer equal access to arts instruction for all students.

Since the inception of the national standard in education, No Child Left Behind, and its companion program in Florida, the Sunshine State Standards, there are measurable achievements for students in all content areas. Science and math have detailed standards that need to be met in classroom instruction. Likewise, music and visual art have similar benchmarks. A well-rounded education requires that students are exposed to academic subjects along with arts instruction. Consider:  Albert Einstein, the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was a skilled violinist. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Prize-winning physician, was a classical organist, famous in musical circles for his work in cataloguing the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach!

Once a year, every Broward County teacher has the opportunity to attend an arts integration training day made possible through a collaborative effort of the Broward County Cultural Division, the Cultural Foundation of Broward, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Arts4Learning and many community partners. The Fifth Annual Arts Integration Conference, Exercising Creativity – Developing the Whole Child Through the Arts, is scheduled for August 13 and is offered at no cost to attendees.  This professional development day will focus on introducing educators to visual and performing arts instruction techniques that enhance students’ educational experience in all core curriculum areas.  The faculty of the Exercising Creativity conference will also endeavor to demonstrate healthy lifestyle choices along with creative activities that will stimulate students to succeed. The conference, which is one of the only professional development experiences of its kind in South Florida, features nationally recognized workshop leaders from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Partners in Education Roster of Teaching Arts, local university professors and teaching artists of the highest caliber.

Another successful Broward Schools collaboration is the Arts in Education artist’s residency grant program, which requires applicant schools to devise a plan to integrate the arts across the curriculum.  For the past 10 years, the School Board and the Broward Cultural Council have supplied additional funds to be used to hire professional artists, who provide teacher training and workshops that enable teachers and students to demonstrate cognition through artistic applications in the traditional academic disciplines.  Not only has the Arts in Education grant program been promoted through the school environment, but it has also been showcased through student projects and performances, which were shared with parents and local communities.

The Arts for the Future Scholarship Fund, a partnership of Broward County Public Schools and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, awarded over $65,000 in scholarships to 61 graduating seniors on April 22 at the annual “Stars on Parade” celebration. The event showcased and honored the best individual and school performers in dance, music and theater. Arts for the Future is the largest scholarship program in the state of Florida dedicated to high school graduates. Since 1999, over 450 talented high school seniors have continued their studies in the visual, performing and technical arts at colleges, universities, conservatories and institutes.  Many of these students would be unable to continue their education in the arts without the support of this community-wide initiative. Additionally in 2008, Gold Coast Jazz Society awarded $75,000 in college scholarships to graduating seniors, including many from Broward County, for continued studies in jazz.

The Student Enrichment in the Arts (SEAS) program offers a different style of learning by integrating theatrical performances such as music, dance and drama into the students’ education. Through the SEAS program, over 100,000 students annually attend educational theater programs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The SEAS program is recognized as the national model for infusing the arts in education. This year’s season of SEAS shows were targeted to improve reading and literacy. Students experience a dramatic presentation based on required reading for their grade level. Others are introduced to jazz or classical music, which is linked to their current social studies coursework. Different students learn in different ways. All of the SEAS programming is based on this concept of multiple intelligences. Arts programming seems to bridge the gap for some students who experience challenges in traditional classroom techniques.

Broward County’s SEAS program is the recipient of the Magna Award, a national educational award presented by the National School Boards Association and the American School Board Journal. The Magna Award recognizes school boards that are putting student achievement and community engagement at the center of their work. The program is also a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and National School Board Association Award. The district is further committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to become appreciators and producers of the arts by assisting students in pursuing post-secondary and career opportunities in the arts. This year’s season of shows covered a wide spectrum, including history and diversity all connected to reading. Through SEAS, reading and literacy come alive.

Through careful programming, entertaining and thoughtful instruction, and committed, content-centered educators, Broward’s students will meet the challenges of the 21st century. The Broward County School District seeks to form strong, collegial bonds through collaborative partnerships and relationships to convey the value of arts education as well as the integral role the arts play in our total curriculum and in developing the whole child.

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