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D65 has plans for integrating arts with academics

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It’s long been known that music education is an aid to enhancing a student’s math skills, but the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board this week received an update on plans for formalizing the process and to bring it into more schools.

It’s called arts integration, and the district has been dabbling in it through a partnership with Chicago’s Columbia College for eight years, thanks to research grants from the U.S. Department of Education, under a program called Project AIM (arts integration mentorships).

Much of the work to date has been in the district’s two magnet schools, King Lab and Bessie Rhodes.

But now they’re discussing the expansion of the model to the three middle schools—Chute, Haven, and Nichols– as well as a pilot program with the four elementary schools with the largest percentage of low-income students—Walker, Washington, Dawes, and Oakton.

Assistant superintendents Susan Schultz and Ellen Fogelberg assured the board that the program would enhance, not diminish, any fine arts education currently under way in the district.

Jean Luft, who heads the district’s teachers union, said at the outset of the discussion that, while the arts teachers are excited about the prospects for arts integration, they are concerned that they have not been actively solicited by the administration in the planning to date.

Schultz and Fogelberg said the arts staff would be involved as plans progress. They were supported by Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who said the objective “is to elevate the importance and presence of art in our school instructional program.”

Schultz asserted that “arts integration is a highly effective way to engage and motivate students to enhance their academic achievement.”

The initial programming would cost about $185,000, but most of that would come from grants and contributions, while only about $75,000 would come from district operating funds, they contended.

In a memo to the board, Schultz and Fogelberg said that “as support and expansion develop, District 65 will be well placed as a national model for showcasing how the arts support development of the whole child, including greater abilities for innovation, creativity, and academic success.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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