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Armory, PUSD, PEF, and UCLA Win $1 Million Grant for Art and Math Integration

Posted by Pasadena Unified School District on 6 October 2011

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Pasadena, CA - Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Jon R. Gundry today announced that the district, in partnership with Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, the Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF), and UCLA, has been awarded a three-year $1 million U.S. Department of Education grant to fund a program that connects arts education with math. PUSD’s grant is one of only 13 federal Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE) grants awarded across the country this year. School districts must partner with local non-profit agencies to qualify.

“Connecting arts instruction with mathematical concepts develops the critical thinking skills that are so important for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Superintendent Gundry. “Coming on the final year of the PUSD/Armory Center for the Arts Artist/Teacher Collaborative, this grant continues to provide access to high quality arts instruction and to closely connect our students with the nationally recognized arts resources of Pasadena.”

The federal grant will fund Artful Connections with Math, a project that was co-designed by PUSD’s math coach and Arts Education Department, with the Armory Center for the Arts. The UCLA National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) is the project’s evaluation partner. The Pasadena Educational Foundation supported the application process.

The grant expands a program piloted at San Rafael Elementary School in the last two years by the district’s math coach and teaching artists from the Armory that uses innovative standards-based visual arts lessons to target key math learning standards. The program has yielded notable improvements among underperforming students based on pre- and post-test findings at the second and third grade levels. The pilot was funded with a seed grant from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, which also provided the seed funding for the Armory/PUSD pilot that won the Artist/Teacher Collaborative federal grant three years ago.

Artful Connections with Math transforms the program into a professional development model that builds competence among elementary school multi-subject teachers to use the visual arts as a vehicle for providing memorable and engaging experiential learning opportunities that deepen students’ understanding of the way that math works.

“Art can play a transformational role in student achievement by opening the door to learning. Within math, art helps to make abstract concepts more concrete, understandable, and approachable,” said Scott Ward, Executive Director of the Armory Center. “The Armory’s vibrant and long term partnership with PUSD allows this effort and others to flourish and this partnership will again be proven to be a true key to student success.”

Armory teaching-artist specialists are all practicing artists with advanced degrees chosen for their teaching ability. They will collaborate with participating PUSD classroom teachers to develop skills and strategies that support effective and sustained delivery of California and national standards-based arts education instruction, in alignment with the visual and performing arts curriculum adopted by PUSD in 2007.

“Award of the grant for Artful Connections with Math reflects upon the high quality work completed through over the past two years in the previous federal arts professional development,” said Patrick Conyers, Executive Director of PEF, the foundation that provides grant-writing services for the district. “The PUSD, Armory, and UCLA CRESST teams have maintained both a careful stewardship of the federal funding and a productive and collaborative working relationship between the three organizations. The success of their earlier work augurs well for the future of arts education in our public schools.”

The federal grant will benefit an estimated 1,800 elementary school students at 16 Title 1 schools in PUSD. Schools are designated for the federal Title 1 program when more than 81 percent of students participate in the free and reduced school lunch program.