Empire State Partnership Project Summary Five-Year Evaluation Report

November 1, 2002

In 1996, the Empire State Partnership program (ESP) was initiated as a collaboration between the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the New York State Education Department (SED). This report chronicles the program from its origins through its initial five-year implementation phase. The report concludes with a synthesis of impacts derived from the evaluation reports of the participating sites and from CCT's evaluation interview, observation, and survey data.

By the year 2000, the ESP Program had funded 56 cultural organization-based partnerships involving 84 separate cultural organizations and reaching a total of 113 schools, 2,200 teachers, and more than 34,000 students.

The program continues to fund cultural organizations to further develop long-term partnerships with schools to develop innovative arts-integrated curriculum at multiple grade levels. The arts curriculum is explicitly tied to core curricular areas-such as English literacy or mathematics-and is intended to support the development of arts skills and understanding, while at the same time reinforcing and deepening learning in non-arts domains. The work is not only (1) geared to the NYS Learning Standards, but is also (2) interdisciplinary in nature, (3) is supposed to include development of new ways of assessing student learning, and (4) develops from partnership and collaboration among a variety of people and institutions.

This report reflects the growth and change that resulted from the ESP program from 1996 to 2001. It is based on the data evaluators collected from surveys, inventories, interviews, and observations. The data are mostly self-reported by participants and anecdotal, but they are confirmed, when possible, by multiple methods and member checks. Some of the points come from reviews of local site evaluation reports and some from EDC/CCT's data collections.

The focus in this report is on the development of the program, its organizational and program impacts, and thematic development, especially in the Summer Seminar Sections. The chronological time frame changes with topics so that the account circles back in time as new topics or themes are discussed. CCT returned to early 1996 data and traced through to 2000-01 data. The program showed progress over the years, as one would hope and expect it would. The reader will find that there are many bumps along the way, especially early on with the early years showing uneven implementation and development, a need for greater clarity, greater need for support at the site level, and mixed implementation and impact results. In the later years of 2000 and 2001, the more positive responses of participants and the generation of positive impact data indicate the successful development of a large and important school/cultural organization partnership.

In 1985, NYSCA and the New York SED instituted a formal partnership through NYSCA's Arts in Education program. The initiative was guided by an Interagency Committee (IC) comprising staff from both agencies. Over the years, several written documents were drafted that record the changes, adjustments, and additions made to the initiative.

In the early 90's, budget cuts and staff reduction began to take their toll on the initiative. The IC meetings became less and less well attended and soon stopped altogether. In 1995, NYSCA commissioned an outside evaluator to assess the Arts in Education initiative, specifically how the partnership with SED was functioning. The results of this assessment were summarized by Hollis Headrick, the then director of the NYSCA Arts in Education program, as revealing that despite the ten years of working toward a common goal, there was still an us/them mentality at the table; in fact, the evaluator reported representatives from the agencies considered themselves in "separate camps."

In 1996, the New York State Regents issued the State Learning Standards in seven disciplines, including the arts. In response to the Standards, the SED Office of Cultural Education (OCE) internally circulated the Report of the Working Group on Cultural Resources for Excellence in Education.

This report built on earlier findings in "The New Compact for Learning" to describe strategies for increasing the use of cultural resources and materials in formal education. Collaboration was the key, the report indicated, both collaboration among different offices at SED-notably the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education (EMSC) and the Office of Higher Education (OHE)-and among cultural organizations and schools. Staff from NYSCA, SED, and the Alliance for Arts Education began to informally discuss and design possible new collaborations taking into account these developments and others occurring in the cultural organizations domain. At about the same time, there was a change in leadership at SED and NYSCA. The new SED Commissioner, Richard Mills, was experienced in and committed to improving student learning in and through the arts. Newly appointed NYSCA Chairman, Earle Mack, was committed to substantially increasing the role of NYSCA in the formal K-12 education realm. In the spring of 1996, the IC was reconvened to begin to formalize discussions about how the agencies could rejuvenate their partnership and what they could do in the field to reflect new understanding and thinking around the Learning Standards. Staff from the two agencies and the Alliance attended the first meeting.

Meanwhile within the arts community, there was a perceived need to do something to support the momentum being developed through SED and the Learning Standards. In late April 1996, NYSCA, the Alliance, and SED staff invited approximately 50 arts education advocates from across the state to attend the New York State Arts Education Summit. At this meeting, Commissioner Mills spoke to the educators for about an hour expressing his strong interest in working with them to achieve change in and through arts education. The Summit had the effect of directly signaling the Commissioner's support of arts education and directly challenging the arts education field to think about what it could do to help student achievement of the Learning Standards through the arts. As Headrick put it, "The Learning Standards created an intersection point for all of us concerned with improving learning experiences and outcomes for K-12 students." There was a shared understanding that to create change, more than one organization, more than one point of view, and more than one agenda needed to be leveraged. Mills requested that OCE work with Headrick to develop a plan for a new collaborative project.

Carole Huxley, the Deputy Commissioner of OCE, assigned Mary Ellen Munley and Kadamus assigned Mary Daley to work with Headrick. Elissa Kane, of the Alliance, joined this working group to begin to put together a plan for the project. All four had been crucial in helping the conversation and vision develop along lines that Mills and Mack found intersected with their own visions and institutional priorities. The leadership for the project developed a common vision and put tremendous drive behind it, bolstered by the history of success of SED and NYSCA's collaboration and the vision and commitment of agencies' staffs.

In August 1996, NYSCA Chairman Mack secured $260,000 through the State Legislative budget process to fund the startup of what is now called the Empire State Partnerships Project.

Theories that underlie this initiative included the concept that students learn through exercising many of their "multiple intelligences"-that is, some students learn kinesthetically while others may be better visual or aural learners. Learning through the arts allows different learners to approach the subject matter in different ways thus providing avenues into the content for to more students. Another theory that underlies the work was that allowing students to encounter the subject matter in a variety of ways-for instance, mathematics is taught at the blackboard by a teacher but later encountered again through dance instruction-builds a redundancy that enhances learning.

A third theory was that the work brought in by teaching artists not only introduces novelty to the classroom-a stimulating "difference" from the typical classroom presentation-but it also serves to stimulate student engagement in new ways. Engaged in active visual arts instruction, students incorporate learning from their social studies units that they might otherwise find less compelling.

They explore other social and work-related experiences first hand by working with professional artists who make their living outside the schools. They see these professionals working as partners with their classroom teachers to demonstrate the relevance of school learning to life beyond the school.

Another theory at play is that the arts, by their very nature demanding personal expression and commitment to perspectives, allow non-communicative students whether they are English learners, shy or disaffected students to join the social fabric of the classroom by participating in group dances, writing, or responding to a theatre performance.


Ansley Erickson
Terry Baker
Peggy Clements
Bronwyn Bevan
Sarah Adams
Noga Admon