130th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate will hold sessions and hearings this week.
Primary on May 7, 2013: Not all Ohio counties will have issues or candidates on the May 7, 2013 Primary/Special Election this year. According to the Secretary of State’s web site 33 counties will hold special and primary elections; 38 counties will hold special elections; and three counties will hold only primary elections. There are a total of 351 local issues on the ballot in 71 counties, and 138 of those are school issues. A list of the school issues on the ballot is available.
New Chancellor Appointed: Governor Kasich appointed on April 24, 2013 former state legislator John Carey as Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. The position has been temporarily filled by Interim Chancellor Stephanie Davidson after Jim Petro resigned as chancellor in February 2013. The newly appointed chancellor is from Wellston, OH, and is currently an assistant to the president of Shawnee State University. He will take office on April 29, 2013. The appointment must be confirmed by the Ohio Senate.
Credit Transfers Made Easier: The Ohio Board of Regents announced last week that it had created a web site to provide information to students about transferring credits within the University System of Ohio. The new web site will inform students about how to transfer educational courses/programs credits within the University System of Ohio earned at other institutes, such as high schools, career-tech centers, two-year or four-year colleges or universities, and the military. This initiative is part of an overall campaign called “Transfer to Degree Guarantee” to help traditional and nontraditional students earn degrees from Ohio’s institutions of higher education. The web site is available.
This Week at the Statehouse: The Ohio House and Senate will hold hearings and sessions this week.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The Senate Finance Committee Education Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Randy Gardner, will meet at 11:00 AM in the South Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony regarding HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget from the Inter-University Council, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, the Ohio Association of Career Colleges and Schools, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Senate Finance Committee Education Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Randy Gardner, will meet at 10:00 AM in the South Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony on HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget from the Ohio Education Association, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Arts Council, the Ohio Educational Service Center Association, and the Ohio Association for Gifted Children. The committee will also receive testimony about College Credit Plus and Dual Enrollment.
The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Gerald Stebelton, will meet at 4:00 PM in hearing room 121. The committee will receive testimony on two bills:
HB14 (Pelanda) School Records-Abused, Neglected, Dependent Child. This bill would change the way school districts withhold or transfer to another district or school the records of a child who is alleged or adjudicated an abused, neglected, or dependent child.
HB127 (Adams) Career-Technical Education and Skilled Workforce Development Month. This bill would designate the month of March as “Career-Technical Education and Skilled Workforce Development Month.”
Thursday, May 2, 2013
The Senate Finance Committee Education Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Randy Gardner, will meet at 10:00 AM in the South Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony on HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget from Auditor of State Dave Yost regarding school performance audits; the State Library Board; and testimony about unfunded mandates, career technical schools, career and vocational education, community schools, and non-public schools.
Budget Bill Hearings in the Ohio Senate: Last week state agencies, departments, and statewide organizations presented testimony to several committees and subcommittees in the Ohio Senate about Sub. HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget, which was approved by the Ohio House on April 18, 2013. The Senate has scheduled hearings on Sub. HB59 throughout May, with the intent of passing the bill the first week of June.
Senate President Keith Faber also announced last week that alternatives for expanding Medicaid would not be included in the biennial budget. According to Senator Faber, the Senate will work with the House to find an acceptable plan that reforms Medicaid in a way that addresses the needs of Ohioans and achieves the goals set by the General Assembly. Senate President Faber also announced that the Senate will work to reform Ohio’s tax structure, focusing on small businesses, and will probably revise the House-passed formula for funding schools.
The Senate Finance Committee Education Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Randy Gardner, received testimony last week from State Superintendent Dick Ross and Assistant Policy Director Barbara Mattei-Smith of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education. They answered questions about Governor Kasich’s proposed budget and policy changes for K-12 education included in the Executive version of HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget, and noted concerns about House changes for the “Straight A Fund”; requiring school districts to report average daily membership each month; and providing parents with state per pupil transportation funds in lieu of transportation provided by school districts.
Education Organizations Testify: Representatives from the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA), and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) also presented combined testimony regarding the policy changes for K-12 education and the school funding formula in the Executive version of HB59 (Amstutz) Biennial Budget compared to the House version of the budget.
According to the testimony, which was presented by Barbara Shaner from OASBO, the education organizations agree with the Kasich administration that more resources above the basic level should be provided to school districts to support Targeted Resources, students in poverty, early childhood education, gifted education, special education, and students with Limited English Proficiency. The education organizations also support the proposal in the Executive Budget to provide state aid for transportation, supplemental transportation, and career tech education outside of the state school funding formula, so that school districts on the guarantee or subject to a “cap” on increases in state funding, still receive increases in state funds to support these vital components.
The organizations also support some of the changes made by the Ohio House to the “Opportunity Aid” formula. These include implementing a per-pupil base-aid funding component, even though the House per pupil levels in HB59 are $5732 in FY14 and $5839 in FY15, which “date back to FY2009”. The education organizations also urged lawmakers to establish a mechanism to determine the appropriate per pupil amount for the future. The organizations also raised the following concerns about the House version of the bill:
Expansion of vouchers. The proposed expansion of the EdChoice Scholarship Program based on family income for students in Kindergarten and first grade, would provide state funds for eligible students to attend eligible private schools, even though the public school of residence could be an excellent school. The program has the potential to expand to 12th grade and could cost the state millions of additional dollars. Although the program will not be funded through transfers from the public school district of residence, the program will still divert millions of public dollars in excess lottery profit funds away from public schools, with no accountability for how the money will be spent.
Expansion of vouchers. Another voucher program created in the bill would allow students in grades K-3 in schools not meeting the standards under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee/K-3 Literacy Component on the local report card to be eligible for a voucher to attend a private school. Concerns were raised about students moving from public schools, which are required to provide instruction to support the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, to private schools, which are not required to conform to the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Monthly ADM counts. This change would increase administration costs and could destabilize funding for school districts and undermine their ability to plan programs and services for students.
Six percent cap on state funding increases: The cap will not allow school districts to benefit fully from the formula or compensate school districts for increases in costs for fuel, supplies, utilities, and staff.
Charter school deductions: Increases in state funding for school districts are capped in the new House formula, but funding for charter schools, which is deducted from the state aid that school districts receive, is not capped. This means that charter schools will receive the full increase in state aid, and students who remain in the district will receive less state aid per pupil than students attending charter schools.
Special Education Catastrophic Aid: Although the House version of HB59 reinstates the current program for catastrophic special education aid, which reimburses districts for some special education costs in excess of the categorical amounts, only $40 million in each fiscal year is allocated for the program, while the Ohio Department of Education estimates the costs to be in excess of $110 million.
All School Districts Need State Aid: “With funding reductions to school districts over the past two biennia, including reduction of TPP replacement funds and the loss of federal stimulus funds that had replaced state funding dollars, districts have found their budgets stretched dramatically. We are hopeful that your interest in the development of a new school-funding plan will result in a formula that will be stable and reliable in the future.”
Analyses of School Funding Formula Presented: Dr. Howard Fleeter of the Education Tax Policy Institute (ETPI) also testified, explaining the history of school funding models used in Ohio over the past 25 years and the specific components of the Executive and House versions of the education budget included in HB59.
He also provided data to show why more lower wealth school districts are on the “guarantee” for a greater amount of state funds under Governor Kasich’s budget proposal, called Opportunity Grants, when compared to the Building Blocks formula under Governor Taft’s administration. According to Dr. Fleeter, “Because poorer districts receive a greater share of state aid, they are most adversely affected by the switch to a funding formula that is mathematically equivalent to a $732 reduction in the base cost. Similarly, the LSC example also shows that wealthier districts benefit the most from the effective reduction in the chargeoff from 23 to 20 mills.”
During his report about the House changes to the school funding formula, Dr. Fleeter states that many of the following features of the Executive Budget proposal in HB59 for education were retained in the House version of the budget, but were amended:
Core Opportunity Aid. This provision is now based on $5,732 in FY14 and $5839 in FY15 per pupil with a modified state share index based on both district property wealth and median income determining the amount of state aid.
Targeted Assistance. This provision uses the same formula as proposed in the Executive Budget, with the only modification being that the target millage rate remains at 6 mills in FY15 (rather than increasing to 7 mills as originally proposed). A second tier of targeted assistance funding based on the percentage of agricultural property in the school district is also added.
Economically Disadvantaged Student Aid. This provision is modified. The per pupil amount is lowered from $500 to $340 in FY14 and $343 in FY15.
Special Education Funding. This provision is based on the disability category weights in current law, applied to the per pupil amount, but is funded at 90 percent. The State Share Index is the same as that for Core Opportunity Aid. The 15 percent deduction in the Executive Budget for funding the catastrophic cost fund is eliminated.
Limited English Proficient Funding. The House version is the same as the provision proposed by the governor, except that funding for category 4 students is no longer provided.
Early Childhood Access Funding. This program is replaced with a new program called K-3 literacy funding. Rather than basing funding on $600 per pupil times the early childhood access index, funding is $300 per pupil in FY14 (increasing to $303 in FY15) for all pupils in grades K-3.
Gifted Program Funding. This program is changed to unit funding and $5 per pupil is allocated for the identification of gifted students.
Career Technical Education Funding. State funding for career tech is now included as part of the formula through a weighted pupil approach with the state share index used to determine the level of state support for each district.
Transportation Funding. State support for transportation is now included as part of the formula. House modifications to the transportation funding formula simplify the calculation and base funding on the greater of per mile or per rider costs for each district. A Transportation supplement for low wealth and low population density districts has been added and is included in the application of the guarantee and cap calculations.
Guarantees. Some districts will receive state aid based on FY13 funding, including Transportation and Career Tech funds. The number of districts on the guarantee is cut by more than half and the cost is reduced by 75 percent as compared to the Administration proposal.
Gain Cap. Increases in state aid is limited to 6 percent from FY13 funding levels compared to the 25 percent cap in Governor’s budget. The exemption of Core Opportunity Aid from the cap is eliminated. The provision that the Gain cap is also based on 10 percent of district total state and local resources is also eliminated.
According to the testimony, an analysis of the Executive school funding formula compared to the House plan shows that the House funding formula provides $1.071 billion more for school districts than the Executive Budget in FY14, prior to the application of the guarantee and the gain cap, and after being adjusted for transportation and career tech education. However, after adjusting for the guarantee and the gain cap, school districts lose overall $48.2 million in FY14 in the House version. In other words, what the House adds to school district state aid through the House formula, is eliminated through the gain cap, also included in the formula.
The new State Share Index, which replaces the charge-off, is also discussed in the testimony. According to Dr. Fleeter the State Share Index is based on a districts’ relative property valuation per pupil and its relative median income level. This produces a variable millage charge-off for districts ranging from about 7 mills to about 23 mills. The charge-off in the past has ranged from 20 mills to 23 mills under the Taft administration.
Testimony from all witnesses is available.
Support Increases for Addressing the Opportunity to Learn Gap: Over the past months education stakeholders, policy makers, researchers, and pundits have raised more and more questions about the efficacy of the current education reform movement, which is focused on the Common Core State Standards, standardized testing, the privatization of K-12 education, teacher evaluations based on student test score results, etc.
Will these market-based education reforms really increase student achievement and close the achievement gaps among groups of children who are poor, don’t speak English, have special education needs, are gifted, and come from diverse family and racial backgrounds? Or, have the results of these reforms reached a plateau?
Emerging from discussions about the current status of education reform initiatives is more support for addressing the “opportunity gaps” in our schools. “Opportunity gaps” are the differences in the quality and rigor of the learning experiences available for students of different races, family economic status, and educational needs, compared to the learning experiences available for students in more wealthy communities and schools. Even though opportunity to learn standards were formulated in the early 1990s in several areas, including the arts, they were passed over by many policy makers, who became focused on student and teacher outputs, and state accountability systems based on student test scores in math and language arts.
Last week, on the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk (April 1983), David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College of Arizona State University, and co-author with Bruce J. Biddle of The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools, wrote that the public has endured thirty years of lies, half-truths, and myths about the failure of our nation’s public education system. He goes on to say that, “It really is not an achievement gap between the United States and other nations that is our problem. We actually do quite well for a large and a diverse nation. It’s really the opportunity gap, not the achievement gap that could destroy us. If only the wealthy have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a post-industrial economy we are, indeed, a nation at risk.”
Three Decades of Lies by David C. Berliner, Education Week Op Ed on April 23, 2013.
David Berliner is not the only education policy expert talking about “opportunity gaps”. Last week several prominent education scholars released a new book entitled Closing the Opportunity Gap, What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance, co-edited by Kevin G. Welner and Prudence Carter.
Twenty-two education experts contributed to the book, including Hank Levin, Linda Darling-Hammond, Gary Orfield, Richard Rothstein, Amy Stuart Wells, Yong Zhao, and more. The book argues that federal and state education reform efforts to close the achievement gap among groups of students have not worked and won’t work until the opportunity gap among students is closed.
According to a press release the authors offer research based policies to address the opportunity gap that exists across the nation. They point out that supporters of the standards-based reform movement, which includes measuring outcomes through standardized testing and rating and ranking schools and districts, have focused on closing the achievement gap between groups of students based on race, family income level, and educational needs on standardized tests. However, in doing so these supporters have “…neglected the basic truth that achievement follows from opportunities to learn”.
According to a statement by the book’s co-editor Prudence Carter from Stanford University, “Quite simply, children learn when they are supported with high expectations, quality teaching and deep engagement, and made to feel that they are entitled to good schooling; the richer those opportunities, the greater the learning. When those opportunities are denied or diminished, lower achievement is the dire and foreseeable result”.
The authors describe several policy recommendations to narrow the opportunity gap:
•Provide high quality early childhood education.
•End segregation in housing, schools, and classrooms.
•Provide crucial funding and resources so that high-need students can achieve outcomes.
•Provide more and better learning time, including summer and after school.
•Focus on childhood health.
•Focus on teacher experience and support.
•Provide access to libraries and the Internet.
•Create safe and well-maintained school environments.
•Improve policies on student discipline.
•Understand student cultures and schooling.
•Change the focus of testing and accountability. “Instead of continuous batteries of high-stakes tests, the focus should be on low-stakes, informative testing that enables teachers to understand how well their students are learning. The focus should also be on a portfolio of work that expects students to use the full range of critical thinking skills expected of more advantaged children.”
•Address the needs of language minorities
The book is available.
Education Stakeholders Launch the Closing the Opportunity Gap Campaign: Along with the release of the book Closing the Opportunity Gap on the 30th anniversary of the publication of A Nation At Risk, the authors of the book also announced the launch of the Closing the Opportunity Gap Campaign, to build the capacity of stakeholders, communities, and schools to provide all children with rich learning opportunities.
According to the book’s co-editor Kevin Welner, any gains in student achievement through current education reform initiatives, including high-stakes, test-centric teaching, have already been made, and now a different approach is needed. He states, “When we start creating more equitable opportunities and gauging how well states and districts are doing to create those opportunities, we will join our best international competitors in showing strong academic progress.”
In addition to a press conference held in Washington, D.C. on April 25, 2013, to publicize the Closing the Opportunity Gap Campaign, leaders of the campaign will address the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association and a meeting of the Education Writers Association next week. The campaign will also release in September a state by state “Opportunity to Learn” comparison. Model legislation will be available by this fall for advocates at the state level to use to address and remedy the causes of opportunity gaps.
Information about the campaign is available.
More Support for Closing Opportunity Gaps: The Closing the Opportunity Gap Campaign is focusing on issues recently identified by The Equity and Excellence Commission and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, which released a report on April 15, 2013. (“Reversing the Rising Tide of Inequality: Achieving Educational Equity for Each and Every Child”, by Robert Rothman, principal author. An article about this initiative was included in the April 22, 2013 issue of Arts on Line, Education Update.)
The purpose of the report is to bolster efforts to achieve both quality and fairness in our nation’s public education system, and implement the recommendations developed by the Equity and Excellence Commission, chaired by Christopher Edley, Jr. The 27-member commission was chartered by Congress to provide advice about “….the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap, with a focus on systems of finance, and to recommend ways in which federal policies could address such disparities.” The commission, which met for over two years, submitted a report to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan in February 2013. The report summarizes “…. how America’s K-12 education system, taken as a whole, fails our nation and too many of our children.”
According to the report, the education reform initiatives of the past sixty years, based on standards and test-based accountability, have made some progress, but not enough. The report urges members of Congress to conduct hearings on the impact of fiscal inequity on under-served populations and on the nation’s well being, and target federal resources to students and communities most in need. Congress should reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and hold local educational agencies accountable for student outcomes and closing the achievement gaps among groups of students. The report urges the Obama administration to enforce compliance with federal civil rights laws barring discrimination and inequality, and enforce provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The report is available.
Current Education Reforms Not Working: The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education released on April 22, 2013 a report by Elaine Weiss and Don Long that examines the impact of current education reform policies, included in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, in Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago. (Market-Oriented Education Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality: The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. by Elaine Weiss and Don Long, The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, April 22, 2013.)
The report finds that the market-based reforms used to improve the education systems in these cities, including test-based teacher evaluation, increased school choice, closing failing under-enrolled schools, “…delivered few benefits and in some cases harmed the students they purport to help. It also identifies a set of largely neglected policies with real promise to weaken the poverty-education link, if they receive some of the attention and resources now targeted to the touted reforms.”
The researchers found the following:
- Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
- Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
- Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
- School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
- Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.
- Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
- Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multi-pronged.
The report also found that in all three cities, “…a narrow focus on market-oriented policies diverted attention from the need to address socio-economic factors that impede learning.”
“Achievement gaps have their root in opportunity gaps. Only by closing the latter can we begin to shrink the former. Effective reform must recognize the huge impact of community factors, leverage the community’s resources, and establish supports to compensate for gaps. Without such supports, gaps in kindergarten readiness, physical and mental health, nutrition, and extracurricular enrichment opportunities will continue to thwart even the most effective reforms that stop at the classroom and school walls.”
As a comparison the report describes the successful reform efforts used in Montgomery County, Maryland to increase student achievement among an ethnically diverse student body. According to the report, Montgomery County has been able to produce some of the highest test scores among minority and low income students, decrease the achievement gaps, and increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, without using student test scores to evaluate teachers or charter schools. Instead the district supports teachers, professional development, and collaboration; small class size; intensive literacy instruction; art, music and physical education teachers in every school; high quality prekindergarten; health clinics; after school enrichment; and other opportunities to ensure that all students have high quality learning opportunities.
The report states, “Every school district has unique needs and resources. But providing all students with the enriching experiences that already help high-income students thrive would represent a big step forward, and away from narrow reforms that miss the mark.”
The report is available.
Dance Opportunity for Elementary Students Comes to Vern Riffe Center: Momentum engages 800 elementary-aged boys and girls in movement, music, and choreography to develop confidence, self-discipline, focus, and an appreciation for the arts. Classes are held weekly during the school day at nine Columbus City Schools and one Hilliard City School throughout the school year.
Momentum participants will perform Moving Lives: A Year In the Life of a Momentum Dancer in May at the Capitol Theatre in the Riffe Center for the Performing Arts in Columbus, Ohio. The performances, which will bring the dancers’ year-long Momentum journey to life on the stage, will be held in Columbus on May 14 and May 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM and 1:00 PM. Admission is free and reservations are not required. Seating is general admission.
More information is available.
NPR Series Highlights the Benefits of Arts Education: Last week National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast four programs describing the “intersection of education and the arts”.
•The Case For the Arts in Overhauling Education by Rachel Martin (Weekend Edition Sunday on April 14, 2013. In this broadcast Rachel Martin, host of Weekend Edition Sunday, interviews Elizabeth Blair about “…her reporting on the role the arts play in helping low performing schools improve and in nurturing creativity that can help young people in all subjects.”
In her research about cuts to school district budgets Ms. Blair found that middle-class/upper-class school systems still have instruction in the arts, but instruction in the arts is less available in poorer neighborhood schools.
The report notes that in a “very small but strategic way” the Obama administration is introducing a rigorous and aggressive arts curriculum in eight low performing schools called the Turnaround Arts Initiative to see if the arts can affect student attendance and overall school environment. The success of the program will be judged on student attendance, behavior, school climate, and, of course, student test score results, including creativity. Ms. Blair explains in the interview that she has observed a disconnect between what schools want to do, help children become creative and innovative thinkers, and what is actually happening in schools, where children are learning that there is only one right answer on a multiple choice test. Instruction in the arts might be a way for students to explore their creativity.
The broadcast is available.
Creative Classes: An Artful Approach to Improving Performance by Elizabeth Blair (All Things Considered on April 16, 2013). This show describes how low-performing schools serving students from poor families in Denver, Portland, New Orleans, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and Montana are implementing the Turnaround Arts Initiative, an intensive arts curriculum supported by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
The initiative provides resources for the schools to support instruction in music, dance, drama, and visual arts in the schools, and bolster learning in math and reading as a result. According to the initiative, integrating the arts in the schools improves the conditions for learning in the school, motivating students to come to school and learn. As part of the initiative, members of the Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities have adopted one of the participating schools. The members, including Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Yo-Yo Ma, teach master classes and mentor students.
The program notes, however, that researchers have not found a causal link between teaching the arts and performance on test scores, according to child psychologist Ellen Winner, who was interviewed for the broadcast. Professor Winner, who is chair of psychology at Boston College and co-author of the book Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, still believes that the Turnaround Arts Initiative can help students, because the arts lead to engagement and attendance and “interesting teachers and engaged teachers”.
The broadcast is available.
More than 50 Years of Putting Kids’ Creativity to the Test by Elizabeth Blair (All Things Considered on April 17, 2013. In part two of the series on arts education, Elizabeth Blair discusses how creativity is being measured and why it is important to find a measure for creativity.
Some of the early research about measuring creativity was conducted by E. Paul Torrance, who, as a psychologist, observed that some troublesome children were actually the most creative people. Teachers often ignored these children, because they were harder to control. He developed the Torrance Test to measure creativity and to prove that creativity was important to success in every field, not just in the arts. The test is still used today.
James Catterall, a psychologist and director of the Centers for Research on Creativity in Los Angeles, is still “field testing” his Next Generation Creativity Survey, but has already found that elementary school children score better on the survey than high school students. According to the interview he believes that schools have a tendency to “suck the creativity out of kids over time”.
The broadcast is available.
In D.C., Art Program Turns Boys’ Lives Into ‘Masterpieces’ by Elizabeth Blair (All Things Considered April 18, 2013). This third part of the series about the intersection of education and the arts describes the Life Pieces to Masterpieces arts program, an after-school program that serves the Ward 7 neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and teaches African American boys and young men how to express themselves through painting.
The broadcast explains that Ward 7 is one of the poorest neighborhoods in D.C. with a poverty rate over 40 percent for children and a juvenile detention rate of 23 percent. The Masterpieces program, co-founded by Mary Brown, helps boys, ages 3-25, learn the four Cs: connect, create, contribute, and celebrate.
Participants learn to express their sometimes horrific life experiences through art, including painting, songs, and poems, and have formed a “brotherhood” where they feel comfortable and safe. They also learn how to meditate and reflect about what has happened in their lives in order to rejuvenate themselves. Although the program has had some setbacks, an estimated 1000 young men have completed the program since its founding in 1996, and 100 percent of participants have graduated from high school and have either gone on to college or vocational school.
The broadcast is available.