Action Research: A District-Wide Model for Arts Integration in a Low Socioeconomic Urban School District
Clark, Joseph R.
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Background: The benefits of the arts in public education are well documented, and interest is developing for integrating arts into academic subject areas in order to enhance student success with creative and effective new learning opportunities. However, introducing arts integration into public education is challenging as districts struggle to manage increasing accountability for student achievement in conjunction with diminishing financial support. Professional and non-profit organizations have experienced success with arts integration, yet very few studies address arts integration programs through the lens of public schools. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to develop a district-wide plan to implement arts integration in a large urban Title I public school system. This study explored the challenges, solutions, opportunities, and essential prerequisite conditions associated with successfully implementing the district-wide arts integration plan. Methods: The qualitative tradition of action research provided the structure needed for participants to collaborate as the primary architects of the implementation plan for arts integration. Participants, included fine arts teachers, staff, administrators, and other stakeholders. The data collection included a research journal, meeting agendas, informal observations, feedback from community experts and focus groups. Results: The study revealed that six essential components of successful arts integrated implementation plans were clearly addressed: administrative leadership, professional development; curriculum alignment and instruction; assessment; resources and staffing; and partnerships and collaborations with professional arts organizations. Participants identified four overarching themes that reoccurred in the literature: Arts Advocacy, Arts Education, Arts Integration, and Arts Partnerships. Conclusions: Further study is needed on the process of organizing the essential components and framework into a strategic plan for implementation. By continuing to follow the qualitative tradition of action research, the collaborative properties of strategic planning will remain authentic and provide stronger prospects for sustained success.