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Use Title I Aid to Teach Through the Arts, Advocates Urge

Arts education advocates in California are promoting greater use of federal Title I aid to support arts instruction that is designed to boost student learning in math and English/language arts. They argue that Title I—the single largest source of federal K-12 aid—is rarely used for arts-oriented education because of fear that the practices may run afoul of state or federal authorities.

"The very children who might most benefit from arts education as a resource to improve their academic achievement never get close to those resources," write Joe Landon, the executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, and Danielle Brazell, who heads up a nonprofit group called Arts for LA, in a blog post published this week.

The authors say that in 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did make clear that the Title I program—currently funded at $14.5 billion—can support arts education activities aimed at improving the achievement of disadvantaged students.

"Unfortunately, in California and in all but a handful of states, that message is not getting through," they write.

I should note that Title I is certainly not the only program at the U.S. Department of Education that can support arts education. For one, there is a separate Arts in Education program, currently funded at $25 million. In addition, arts education initiatives have received some support under the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3 program.

And in a EdWeek story I wrote last December about the push to include an "A" for the arts in the popular STEM acronym, I highlighted a couple of initiatives driven by federal Education Department grants. In one example, the San Diego school district received a $1.1 million grant from the state—using a portion of its federal teacher-quality dollars—to support an initiative to link the arts with science in grades 3-5. A project in Philadelphia, also backed by a federal grant, is matching arts skills and processes to learning goals in math and science.

Last year, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities issued a report that makes the case for expanding access to arts education in schools, arguing that the arts hold great potential to bolster student engagement and academic achievement.

In their blog post, Landon and Brazell urge California state Superintendent Tom Torlakson to "work in partnership with a diverse mix of school districts to demonstrate how Title I can be utilized to support student achievement through the arts."

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