Teachers object as LAUSD expands plan to cut arts instruction time (updated)

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Some art teachers are protesting as Los Angeles Unified expands a plan to provide arts education to more students by shortening the time spent on each subject.

Under the plan, elementary students would receive nine weeks of instruction in each of four art forms — visual arts, theater, music and dance. Historically, these were taught in longer increments of up to one year.

The program, known as the Creative Network Pilot, launched last year in 31 schools and will expand this fall to an additional 10 schools. Third to sixth-graders take part in the program. Younger students at the schools involved receive instruction in the arts that is blended into other subjects throughout the school day.

Many art teachers expressed concerns when the district first rolled out the nine-week pilot program. The move to expand it is renewing their worries.

Katherine Williamson, a long-time elementary music teacher, described the nine weeks of instruction as a "breadcrumb" approach. She sees the program as a rollback rather than an expansion of arts instruction in the district.

"It just doesn't make sense to me. And every art teacher that I talk to — we're just dumbfounded that we would go backwards," she said. 

The criticism comes as LAUSD and other California school districts struggle to comply with a state law that mandates arts education in public schools for all four core art subjects. The districts have generally said they lack resources to provide the required instruction.

LAUSD's head of arts education Rory Pullens defended the Creative Network Pilot program during an interview with KPCC in late June.

"This is a step in the right direction when we talk about, you know, access and equity for all," he said. But Pullens acknowledged the program has its limitations.

"There certainly, in this model, are some structural deficiencies in the sense that students are getting arts exposure, but they're not getting the same depth of instruction that we would actually like them to have," he said.

Pullens said as more funding becomes available, the district is looking at expanding the program from nine weeks for each art form to a full semester per subject. 

When the program was announced during a school board meeting in April 2014, Steven McCarthy — the district's head of arts education at the time — described the new program as a bit of a step backwards. “This is pruning,” he said at the time. 

But in a report released in May, which McCarthy helped prepare, the program was described more positively:

"The Creative Network pilot is both ambitious yet practical in that it has uniquely marshalled the limited arts financial resources, instructional time, and teacher talents to effectively implement an arts education model that can positively affect future equity and access to the arts far all LAUSD students."

The report also notes the district is currently out of compliance with the state's education code, which requires that first through 12th-graders have access to arts instruction every year of their public school careers. Under the current system, which the report calls “void of equity and access,” a student could go through elementary school without receiving any formal arts instruction. 

Data update: Check to see if your school is part of the pilot program

According to district officials, 31 elementary schools volunteered to be a part of the Creative Network Pilot program for the 2014-2015 school year. The table below gives a detailed picture of arts education at some of the schools that participated in the program. The data comes from a survey that LAUSD sent out to school principals asking detailed questions about arts education at each school.

Some caveats regarding the data: Not all the schools that participated in the nine week program filled out the survey. The 26 schools that filled out the survey and participated in the new program are listed below, along with information on the time spent in different subjects, the percentage of students at the school that receive an arts education, and their Arts Equity Index Score. 

The Arts Equity Index Score is a rating that the district assigned to schools based on the answers to the arts survey; it's a broad measure of the success or failure of the school to provide students an arts education. It is calculated by assigning different levels of importance to 14 different survey questions that each have a different maximum score. The higher the score, the better the school is doing with respect to that category. There were 89 possible points. The 14 questions measure things such as instructional time in different disciplines and the budget for art supplies and resources. Though instrumental music is not a part of the program, it is a part of calculating the equity index score, which is why it is included here.

Additional elementary schools that will be added to the program for the 2015-2016 school year: 2nd Street, Aragon, Clifford, Fletcher, Ford, Hillside, Logan, Burbank, Fullbright, Hubbard, Mayall. (One school, Blythe, from the 2014-2015 pilot year is dropping the program.)

Elementary schools that participated in the 2014/2015 program that did not complete the survey: 49th Street, El Sereno, Latona, Blythe and Newcastle.

School name Enrollment Arts Equity Index Score Percentage of Students Receiving Arts Education Instructional time per week in minutes: Theater Visual Arts/ Media Arts Dance Vocal music Instrumental Music
Ambassador School of Global Ed. 411 31 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 1-30 31 - 60
Anatola 445 27 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0
Annandale 316 31 76-100% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60
Bertrand 425 32 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 1-30 1-30 0
Bridge 249 18 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 0 0 31 - 60
Bushnell Way 348 29 76-100% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0 31 - 60
Calvert 345 25 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 1-30 0 0
Cesar Chavez 337 23 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 0 0 31 - 60
Dahlia Heights 377 42 76-100% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 1-30
Delevan Drive 512 41 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60
Esperanza 805 46 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 0 31 - 60 31 - 60
Gault 401 21 1 - 25% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0
Glen Alta 205 19 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 0 31 - 60 0 0
Huntington Drive 453 32 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60
Kester 959 39 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0
Lemay 393 33 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 1-30 1-30 0
Lizarraga 445 27 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0
Lorne 595 41 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60
Panorama City 567 31 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0
San Jose 717 38 76-100% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60
San Pascual 221 29 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0 31 - 60
Sierra Vista 257 21 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 0 31 - 60
Stagg 470 54 76-100% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 31 - 60 61 - 90
Topeka 569 43 26-50% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 1-30 1-30 1-30
Utah 490 23 1 - 25% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 1-30 1-30 1-30 0 1-30
Vintage 793 27 51-75% of my student enrollment receive some arts instruction 31 - 60 0 31 - 60 31 - 60 0

This story has been updated. 

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