The Center for Arts Education: The First Five Years of the New York City Partnership for Arts and Education (1996-2001)

December 1, 2003

The Center for Arts Education (CAE) was established to restore and sustain arts education in New York City Public Schools. The Center's Partnership Program has stimulated and, in many ways, led the most comprehensive renaissance in arts education that the City has seen in the last quarter century. In 1975, in response to a fiscal crisis, New York City schools began dismantling their arts education programs. Prior to 1975, the City's schools featured extensive and high quality arts education in most schools, crowned by a highly select and prestigious group of specialized arts talent schools such as Music and Art High School and the Performing Arts High School (the Fame school). The arts curriculum was largely a classroom-based, scope and sequence curriculum supplemented in some schools by short-term artist-in-residence programs. Some cultural organizations had developed more thorough relationships with schools, but partnerships were not the predominant approach for delivering arts instruction.

Shortly after the 1975 fiscal crisis, some schools began to use their limited funds to hire cultural organizations and artists to restore some arts experiences or instruction to their curriculum. In the intervening years, more structured efforts such as the Board of Education-supported Arts Partners project and the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund-supported School Partners project came and went. In 1992, the Board of Education and the City Schools Chancellor's office, seeking ways to restore arts education to the schools, commissioned two separate studies of the status of arts education. The studies concluded that it would cost $100 million a year in 1992 dollars to restore the arts to their 1975 levels. The policy makers decided that that level of funding was not possible at that time, however, the reports helped shape future programs such as the Annenberg Arts Challenge and Project Arts in the mid-nineties.

In December1993, the Walter H. Annenberg Foundation announced the beginning of its National Annenberg Challenge initiative, allocating $500 million to support systemic change initiatives in the country's urban school districts. Annenberg funded 18 challenge sites in urban areas as well as a rural initiative.

In 1995, after an expression of interest by the Annenberg Foundation, the City's Department of Cultural Affairs commissioned a new needs assessment by Arts Vision, Inc. In response to their documentation and recommendations, The Center for Arts Education was created to administer the Partnership grants and to develop and support the partnerships among New York City schools and cultural and community-based organizations, colleges and universities.

An Intermediate Agent: The Role of The Center for Arts Education in a Changing Educational Environment
Following the practice of the Annenberg Challenge Projects across the nation, the Center for Arts Education was established in New York City as an intermediate agency working between the school bureaucracy and the civic, educational, and cultural resources that served as partners in the New York City Partnerships for Arts and Education program. The Center for Arts Education raised $24 million to match the $12 million, four-year commitment from Annenberg to four years to support these partnerships.

Representatives of the New York City Public Schools joined representatives of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to sit on the board of directors and other committees convened by The Center for Arts Education. The four institutions served as partnership role models for participants as they coordinated their efforts and initiatives to support school change through the arts, disseminating information to their respective constituencies, pooling resources where appropriate, and sharing experiences and lessons learned. The Center for Arts Education was instrumental in bringing these institutions together around a common cause.

In 1996, The Center for Arts Education established The Partnership grants program. The program evolved during the next five years as the conceptual framework, structural support systems, and participation adjusted to the many constraints and opportunities in participating schools. The initial cohort of 19 school partnerships began with six month planning grants and then became fullfledged members of the project during the first full year of funding - 1997-98. The Annenberg Foundation's and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform's Report, Lessons and Reflections, describes how The Center for Arts Education's Citywide request for proposals stimulated 430 schools-more than one in three of the City's schools-to come forward.

'There had never been such a response to an external organization's RFP,' said Hollis Headrick, the Center's executive director. And Mayor Rudolph Giuliani credited The Center for Arts Education's program with serving as 'a remarkable catalyst to restore arts education throughout the entire public school system.' He called the arts 'an extraordinary window through which other disciplines are learned, including important reading skills in the early elementary grades.' Harold Levy, the school chancellor, told The Center for the Arts Education leadership, 'If you had not existed, we would have had to invent you.'

By 1997-98, The Center for Arts Education was seen by participants as a "catalyst for action." Through the partnership network developed by The Center for Arts Education, three professional development workshops-one geared toward program planning and sharing, one geared toward helping arts organizations learn about education issues, and a third geared toward program evaluators- allowed program participants to begin to develop a sense of professional community and camaraderie. Fostering this community became a primary function for The Center for Arts Education.

By 1998-99, there were 50 local school programs scattered throughout the reaches of the City, representing 61 schools and more than 100 cultural organizations. In 1999-00, The Center awarded an additional 21 grants, bringing the total number of funded partnerships to 81 schools and 135 cultural organizations. These partnerships served more than 54,000 students and 3,400 teachers, teaching artists, and administrators annually.

Once the basic Partnership program was in place, The Center for Arts Education began the development of new and ancillary programs that either supported the Partnership Program or expanded arts education practice.

Parents as Arts Partners
With support from the DCA, a parent involvement in the arts program was initiated that served parents and children in partnership schools. Local sites seldom reported on parental involvement in their evaluation reports until The Center for Arts Education and The DCA conducted The Parents as Arts Partners initiative that was associated with The Center for Arts Education Partnership Program. There was $5,000 available for 80 of The Center for Arts Education schools. A total of 58 schools applied for the funding and 56 sites were funded during 2000-2001. The evaluation of this initiative was not included in the contractual responsibilities of The Education Development Center/Center for Children and Technology (EDC/CCT) evaluation team. The information reported here, while not evaluative in nature, is derived from The Center for Arts Education Program Summaries and Time Lines in the interest of presenting a historically complete picture of The Center for Arts Education program.

The program was intended to educate families about the value of the arts in their children's education. Among the activities supported by the grants were:

  • Thematic workshops on the integration of the arts into the school's social studies curriculum, including aesthetic education and studio art experiences.

  • A family arts festival and storytelling workshops.

  • Four days for parents at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Hands on workshops in dance, drama, the visual arts and literacy for parents.

  • Storytelling and Family Stories workshops and a Dance through History workshop.

  • Photography and Literacy Workshop Series and two Family Mural Making days.

  • A series of Shakespeare/Renaissance activities for parents supporting the school's spring Renaissance Faire.

Career Development Program
In the fall of 1999, The Center for Arts Education launched a 10-month pilot Career Development Program that was extended to full implementation in 2000. The program was designed to build on The Center's Partnership Program by bridging The Center for Arts Education-supported school activities with workplace opportunities in the professional realm of arts and arts-related industries. This program had two main goals:

  1. To expose students, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and parents to the many career paths associated with the arts and arts-related industries.

  2. to create relationships that will foster future opportunities for careers in the arts by placing young people in interships.

During the 2000-2001 school year, thirty-two students from eight schools participated in a fifteen- week internship program at twenty-five work sites. Each student was assigned a mentor at the workplace, as well as a workplace supervisor. Twenty-eight of the students, including two special needs students, successfully completed the program. Eight educators, one from each of the eight participating schools, became educator interns.

This initiative was the sole Center for Arts Education-operated program that worked directly with students. It brought many local NYC arts-based institutions into the dialogue about the need for arts education in the City. Although the size of the program was small compared to the range of the Partnership program, it modeled for the participating schools how they could develop connections with local arts-based organizations and businesses to support the development of student skills and interests.

Advocacy and Public Awareness
An important part of the work of The Center for Arts Education was to raise the public's awareness of the value of arts education in the City schools, and included Promising Practices, a book published by The Center in collaboration with UFT. The Center for Arts Education leadership consistently participated in meetings and forums where education policy issues were being discussed and decided. The Center for Arts Education launched a public awareness campaign in the spring of 2000 that placed ads all over the City's subway and bus systems that celebrated the arts as part of a well-rounded education.

The Center established an exhibition gallery in downtown New York at 180 Maiden Lane, where student art from participating schools was curated and displayed in the lobby. The gallery emphasized excellence and high quality in students' arts products. As one student exhibitor said, "In school, they hang stuff up to make us feel good, I guess, but in the gallery, it's got to be good to go up." Besides providing a venue where members of the arts education community could gather to view student work and meet with invited funders and education policymakers, the gallery raised the profile of the work of the partnerships by placing it in a publicly accessible venue.

Influence on City Arts Education Programs
Beyond the impact of direct funding to program schools, the Partnership Program initiative influenced others in the City to support arts education. Since the Partnership Program was created, the arts education landscape in New York City changed significantly.

First, partly in response to The Center for Arts Education's initiatives, Mayor Rudolf Guliani funded ProjectARTS (Arts Restoration Throughout the Schools), a program that in the first year (1997-98) earmarked $25 million for arts personnel, materials, and programs for approximately one third of the City's schools. In 1998-99, this amount was increased to $50 million with the addition of $25 million from the Board of Education to add another 300 schools. During 1999-2000, another $75 million was earmarked so that all schools could receive ProjectARTS funds. Additionally, the Board of Education created a position at the Central Board of Education, Special Assistant for the Arts [later changed to Special Advisor to the Chancellor for Arts Education], who was responsible for the administration and support of city-school arts education and who served as liaison to The Center for Arts Education. Up until that time, the City had endured two decades of virtually no mandated and curricular support of arts programming.

Concepts, Themes, and Issues
The theory of action supporting Partnership Program was that infusing the arts into instruction in schools where they had been removed constitutes significant school change, and partnerships with cultural organizations are an effective ways of infusing the arts in schools. These partnerships build upon the high caliber of New York's cultural resources and can alter and enhance the nature and quality of education, providing the City's schools and students with unparalleled opportunities to learn from and with some of the most preeminent artists, arts institutions and programs in the world. Through this work, school change and improvement were effected and supported.

To encourage partnerships and programs, The Center for Arts Education required all projects to focus their design and efforts on five guiding principles:

  • Committed partnerships, where the strengths and missions of the school and cultural organizations complemented one another

  • Arts curriculum and instruction that included (a) skills-based instruction in at least two art disciplines, (b) aesthetic education, and (c) integrated the arts with core curricular areas

  • Extensive professional development for teachers and teaching artists

  • Program evaluation and assessment of student learning

  • Support for existing school reform and school improvement plans.

Project Evaluation Methodology
EDC/CCT was contracted to document the program and conduct a program evaluation and assessment. The result of the evaluation team's work is a conceptual and practical account of how a large-scale school change project, based on the reintroduction of arts education to the schools, works. Synthesizing five years of creative design and implementation work on an evolving arts in education project required that EDC/CCT staff pay attention to the stream of practices and ideas across time. A simple chronological framework can mask many of the complexities of program implementation, the assessment of the implementation process, and the outcomes, but, at the same time, such a framework established the evolution of complex program implementation on a base that all practitioners, policy makers, and funders share. This account traces and interprets the conceptual development of The Center for Arts Education's program and attempts to keep the chronology clear. In large school change projects, goals that are firmly in place at one time, are adjusted at another and the management of resources is altered to reflect changing priorities. Concepts that seem clear early on, are revised as conditions change and both programs and the assessment of the programs revisit earlier definitions and positions to better account for changes and to help readers understand the change process as it evolves. Most importantly, early stage implementation inevitably contains rough and undeveloped features that may well be refined by the later stages. Readers should keep in mind that things usually get better as time passes. (Ordinarily a minimum of three years is needed for change efforts to become mature parts of the school culture and for positive outcomes to be seen. Pogrow (1998) indicates that ten years are needed for truly exemplary programs to be developed, implemented, tested, and made ready for dissemination.)

The evaluation and assessment plan for the Partnership Program was initially designed in 1997 and called for EDC/CCT to conduct formative evaluation of the Partnership Program with partnership projects responsible for developing an evaluation process using school or cultural partner staff or an outside evaluator to document individual program effectiveness and to gather student impact data for annual reports submitted to The Center for Arts Education. The EDC/CCT plan is keyed to the impact levels and responsibilities of participants identified in the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Annenberg Challenge Grant Research Group's assessment design.


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