Baltimore students in Young Audiences Summer & Learning Arts Academy Outperform Peers
Baltimore City Public Schools students who participated in a new arts-related summer academic program from Young Audiences avoided summer learning loss and, in many cases, gained ground on their national peers in standardized testing, according to evaluations released Tuesday. The new findings showed potentially groundbreaking progress in tackling summer learning loss, a chronic challenge facing public schools.
The results, confirmed in two separate studies involving nearly 800 students, are significant because summer learning loss – particularly among students at or below poverty level – is among the most difficult challenges facing the Baltimore school district and other high-poverty schools across the country. During summer, students typically fall below where they ended the previous grade, setting them back as they start a new school year. In fact, a 2013 National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) survey of 500 teachers found that 66 percent reported the need to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year. Another 24% reported the need to spend five to six weeks doing the same.
“City Schools has enjoyed a great partnership with Young Audiences, not only during the school year but also the past two summers,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools). “During the summer, Young Audiences reinforces key math and reading concepts through the arts and creative activities – and we’re pleased with the results we’ve seen. When students participate in summer learning programs that help them move ahead or reduce learning loss, they start the school year off stronger.”
The Young Audiences Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), run by the Baltimore-based arts-in-education nonprofit Young Audiences of Maryland in partnership with City Schools, was free for students and held at four sites across the city: Gardenville Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle, William Pinderhughes Elementary, and Fort Worthington Elementary/Middle. Eighty-eight percent of the participating students were from high-poverty Title I schools.
“These results were a pleasant surprise given that we generally expect that students will lose ground over the summer,” commented Dr. Marc L. Stein, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, who conducted a separate program evaluation for Young Audiences which looked at participating students’ academic skill and social-emotional development. “The Young Audiences summer program combines many of the best practices of summer learning programs and appears to be a promising model. These findings deserve to be investigated more rigorously to find out how and for whom the program appears to be working.”
“This is not your typical summer school program,” said Stacie Evans, Executive Director of Young Audiences. “We taught literacy and math through the arts every day and instruction was collaboratively taught by teaching artists and teachers specifically trained in arts-integration methods. If you walked into one of our classrooms, you might have seen students using hip hop music to help solve word problems in math, or creating dances to summarize and sequence main events in a story.”
The Baltimore City Public Schools evaluation found:
- For math, statistically significant results showed that students in grades 3-5 who regularly attended (defined as attending at least 75% of the program) the SALA improved 1.8% percentile points in national student rankings on i-Ready standardized testing from the spring of 2016 to the fall of that year. That compares to a decrease of 2.8% percentile points for city schools students who did not attend any summer programming.
- In reading, SALA students in grades 3-5 with regular attendance fell only .8% percentile points while students who did not attend any summer programming fell 2.1 percentile points upon returning to school in the fall.
- Results for all grade 3-5 students regardless of attendance rate showed SALA attendees falling just .3% percentile points in math and .7% in reading. These were significantly smaller losses than students with no summer programming (down 2.8% in math, down 2.1% lost in reading).
- In literacy, only 3% of the students in grades K-2 attending SALA did not meet their benchmark goal (the empirically derived target score that represents adequate reading progess1) on the standardized DIBELS assessment in the fall after returning to school compared to 8.1% of students not attending any summer programming not meeting the benchmark.
Young Audiences external program evaluation found:
- 79% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-tests had a positive change from the first to the last week of the program on a curriculum based measure of mathematics.
- Approximately 60% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-test writing prompts showed positive change in their structure and content of their writing.
- 71% of students who attended 75% of the program and were administered pre- and post-assessments showed growth in at least one out of three social emotional competency areas over the course of the program. The social emotional competencies studied were relationship skills, self-awareness, and goal directed.
“The arts offer an extraordinary opportunity, particularly during the summer, to reignite the joy of learning and to set young people on the right course to start the school year strong. These impressive results from Young Audiences mirror findings of the landmark Wallace Foundation study showing that elementary school students with high levels of attendance in high-quality, voluntary summer learning programs can experience benefits in math and reading,” commented Matthew Boulay PhD, National Summer Learning Association founder and interim CEO.
Eric Harrell, father of 9 year-old Academy participant, Aria Harrell, said “Before this academy, I could tell that my daughter was struggling in math. By using the arts she was able to learn math in a different way-a way that worked for her. She has so much more confidence in her math class.”
1 “Dibels Next Benchmark Goals and Composite Score, “ Dynamic Measurement Group, Inc. (December 1, 2010). https://dibels.uoregon.edu/docs/DIBELSNextFormerBenchmarkGoals.pdf
Links to complete City Schools and Young Audiences Evaluations:
Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.
This morning, we kicked off our expanded Summer Arts and Learning Academy – a free, five week program immersing 900 City students in a variety of art forms taught by 36 locally-based professional artists. The full-day program welcomes students grades K-5, encouraging imagination, creation and expression through the arts, such as painting, songwriting, spoken word poetry, dance, piano, singing, visual art, sound production, playwriting, fiber art, and filmmaking.
Our kickoff this morning was a blast – welcoming students and their parents to the Academy’s four sites with high-energy performances, live music, and vibrant interactive art demonstrations – giving them a preview of the truly unique and empowering experiences to come throughout the next five weeks.
Due to last year’s success; with academic gains by students drawing from 93 different city schools—the district asked us to expand the Academy to four sites: Thomas Jefferson Elementary, William Pinderhughes Elementary, Gardenville Elementary and Fort Worthington Elementary.
Working with kids as they discover passions, refine creative processes and integrate arts in their everyday learning is an inspirational experience we and our Teaching Artists look forward to every year. We spoke with a few participating Teaching Artists about their plans and why the Summer Arts Academy is such a great opportunity for students and artists:
Scott Paynter, reggae singer:
I wanted to teach at this year’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy to gain more experience working with Baltimore’s greatest resource…it’s children. My art form helps students express themselves through lyrics, it introduces them to cultures and people they’ve never encountered before, and it brings life to a classroom environment. Music is like a force of nature. It’s everywhere you are if you pay attention.”
Bridget Cavaiola, Baltimore Improv Group:
This is such a unique experience to provide our students with collaborative and engaging arts experiences that they may not get to during the school year. The mood and energy are contagious as you get to watch the students engage themselves in something in which they have passion.”
Alden Phelps, musician:
My focus has always been on playing with words and the joy of language. Language is the foundation of how we communicate and function as human beings. Students who practice manipulating language, expanding their vocabulary, using rhymes, and counting syllables will better succeed in their regular academic work. Creative thinking opens up new pathways in our brains. There’s also a wonderful freedom when a student can express an idea creatively. They synthesize their academic knowledge with skill in the arts, such as using color or figurative language, and the result is far more engaging to them.”
Students will imagine, create and express themselves through the arts, with a chance to concentrate on two art forms. The students even show-off their talents at Artscape, at pop-up performances in mobile art galleries around the city and at the August 5 final culminating event. We can’t wait to see the students perform!
After this morning’s successful kick-off event, led by teaching artists Valerie Branch and Sean Roberts, at William Pinderhughes Elementary, one parent said:
“I am just so excited to get to see my child perform soon. Seeing what the [teachers and artists] did just now, I know they are in trusted hands. It made me look at my daughter and think yes! This is going to be different, we are so excited! She LOVES art! I can’t wait for the workshops too!”
— Young Audiences MD (@arts4learning) July 5, 2016
Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.
Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters. We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools.
How did you first hear about Young Audiences? What made you decide to become a roster artist?
A colleague told me about the Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Alliance, and I found information about Young Audiences on the AEMS website. My reasons for deciding to become a roster artist are twofold. First, I have fond memories of the school assemblies I attended as a child. Whether the assembly was about public safety or a performance, the message always stuck with me. Assemblies were presented as something special, a time to get out of the classroom and see information presented in a fun and interesting way. It is my hope that Outer Space Improvisations leaves the same kind of positive impression on students as the assemblies I attended as a child. Second, I place a high value on professional development, and when I learned about the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), I realized that Young Audiences does too.
How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?
When composing music I utilize basic math concepts. Additionally, I rely on my skills as a writer to create song lyrics and devise hypotheses. As I experiment with new sounds, I recall historical events and scan my current environment for inspiration.
Through music, I encourage students to see the convergence of academic disciplines, rather than single out one in particular. In using improvisation activities, I invite students to pull from what they know about math, literature, science, and history to create something entirely new and unique.
We love your concept of connecting live, improvisational music with the theme of space exploration. Can you tell us more about your program “Outer Space Improvisations”?
“Outer Space Improvisations” is a program designed to stoke students’ imaginations. The students and I take a musical space journey, leaving our day-to-day existence on Earth to travel to far and distant places, both charted and uncharted. It is the uncharted place that most excites me because students have to use their imagination to create what these places look, feel, sound, taste, and smell like; this is where the improvisational aspect of the program comes into play.
Through sound design, I welcome students into the performance with the sounds of space. When I play, students are immersed in original space-themed compositions inspired by composers and musicians like Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Thundercat. Facts about space are woven into the program to deepen their intergalactic experience, and improvisation activities connect students to the infiniteness of their imagination.
How do the lessons/skills you teach students about or through your art form apply to and affect their everyday life outside of the classroom?
An important aspect of my work as a composer is improvisation; however, it is through my imagination that I can improvise. The ability to create something that has never existed before is an essential skill that all people must have. Without it, the ability to solve the simple and complex problems that pop up in everyday life would be impossible.
It is important to me that students feel confident in their capacity to think through and learn how to present a new idea. The problems children are solving today and those they will address in the future require a strong imagination, critical thinking, and courage.
Why do you believe it is important for every student to have access to the arts?
I am committed to arts education. It was through the arts that I learned how to improvise, communicate, and imagine. The arts education I received as a child helped shape the person I am today. Seeing that I had a passion for music, my parents enrolled me in arts programs. In high school, I attended a performing arts magnet program where I had the opportunity to interact daily with teaching artists. They challenged me to think creatively and critically about how to contribute to the world around me through my art.
What is the most rewarding aspect of becoming a Young Audiences roster artist?
Performing in front of students who at first don’t know what to expect when they see me, and then seeing the impact my music has on them as their imaginations light up is exciting. I believe the ability to use imagination, to see beyond one’s circumstance or everyday reality is not a privilege, but a necessity. To see students grasp this concept, and then watch them use it to do something that has never been done before is my greatest joy.