Boston Schools Get $4M Boost For Arts Instruction

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An arts collaboration in the Boston Public Schools system has just gotten a big boost. The Wallace Foundation is giving $4 million to the arts expansion initiative.

The new grant, along with about $4 million already committed, puts the arts expansion initiative much closer to its $10 million goal. The group is a collaboration of philanthropic foundations and private donors who want the money to go directly toward arts education in all Boston public schools.

One school already close to that goal is the Frederick Pilot Middle School on Columbia Road in Dorchester. It's where students performed as part of the grant announcement Wednesday.

The Frederick has been part of the arts expansion initiative since it started three years ago. Principal DaQuall Graham said there is separate arts instruction and it's integrated into other classes as well for the 700 sixth-through-eighth-graders enrolled there.

"We've had double-digit gains in math and language arts, and we believe a lot of it has to do with the arts programs and how we have incorporated that within our curriculum, Graham said. "We have a long way to go."

Right now almost nine out of 10 elementary and middle school students receive weekly arts instruction, as do more than half of the city's high schoolers. Mayor Thomas Menino said expanding arts brings new energy to classrooms.

"We found out that when kids are involved in the arts, they do much better on standardized tests, it opens up their eyes to new worlds," Menino said.

Superintendent Carol Johnson said the arts initiative is a key piece of the agenda to transform the city's schools and keep more families in Boston schools.

"Parents want their children to have a well-rounded education. Of course, they want them to pass the MCAS, English and math. But they also want them to be introduced to the arts, have wonderful music experiences, learn to dance," Johnson said.

Boston school officials say that since the initiative began in 2009, there's been dramatic growth in the number of students receiving visual and performing arts instruction during the school day. The goal is for 100 percent of all Boston students to receive arts instruction by 2015.

This program aired on February 9, 2012.

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Delores Handy Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.



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