Boston is known as the “birthplace of public education” in America, so it’s only fitting that the Boston Public Schools (BPS) was celebrated at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) with an opening reception and ribbon cutting to highlight its student art exhibit, A Brighter Boston: Inspiring Creative Minds. The exhibit, now in ED’s headquarters, features 68 2-D and 3-D pieces from K – 12 students representing 17 Boston public schools. BPS received over 125 entries from teachers, which a panel of judges adjudicated.
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. delivered the opening remarks. King was a teacher and an education leader in the state, having cofounded Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, a Boston middle school that became Massachusetts’ highest-performing open-admission urban middle school. In his remarks, King stressed the importance of the arts for providing a well-rounded education, acknowledging that there is not enough emphasis on the fact that “a well-rounded education is an excellent education.” This echoed his messages earlier in the month, at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, to advocate for a well-rounded education for all students.
In Boston, the arts have become an integral part of the academic curriculum and school culture. Seven years ago, Myran Parker-Brass, BPS’ executive director for the arts, was hired to help enrich the presence and experience of the arts in the district. BPS has since increased the number of art teachers in the schools by more than 100 percent, the k–8 weekly arts instruction from 67 to 93 percent, and the budget support for the arts by nearly $9 million. Doug Herbert, ED’s Arts in Education acting team lead, described Parker-Brass as “a triple threat – the artist, the educator, and [the] natural leader.” In fact, this year, Education Week named her one of the 13 District “Leaders to Learn From.”
In her remarks, Parker-Brass described BPS as having a “strategic leadership model … [with] the district, … the schools, … the arts and philanthropic community, … our parents and the broader community … all advocating for the place of the arts in Boston Public Schools.” She added “I don’t have to continue to own the work because it now is beginning to be owned by the teachers, it’s owned by the principals and administrators in our buildings, it’s owned by the parents; and that is the wonderful place we find ourselves in.”
The most significant accomplishment said Parker-Brass is “the growth in the quality of arts teaching and learning that is happening in our classrooms.” This quality was evident at the opening – from the stunning art pieces, to the powerful, internationally award-winning videos that were shown, and to the stellar band performances from the Boston Arts Academy, a performing and visual arts high school. The academy’s Electric Quartet, a highlight of the program and comprising four seniors, performed three upbeat selections: Autumn Leaves by Johnny Mercer, Red Clay by Freddie Hubbard, and Actual Proof by Herbie Hancock.
The musicians all expressed their passion for the arts. Bassist Muneca Diaz said, “There is no other feeling like playing in a band in front of others, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Kemet Crayton, the drummer, was introduced to music when his mom “forced” him to play the piano. Crayton found his niche with the drums, he said: “…when I started playing the drums, I loved it!” He also said that playing the drums helped him to stay out of trouble.
All four students from the quartet will be attending college this fall to focus on music.
The event culminated with the traditional ribbon cutting to open the exhibit to the public. The exhibit is open through June.
Asheley McBride is a management and program analyst for Arts in Education programs in the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.
All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Leslie Williams.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jacquelyn Zimmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Student Art Exhibit Program at http://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit/.
From its first day, the Obama Administration has worked to ensure opportunity for all students – no matter their zip code. Educational equity underscores the work of the U.S. Department of Education, and this week offers a glimpse into the far-ranging work of the Department as we support schools, families, communities and states in ensuring every student has the opportunity to be successful.
We start the week with an event at the White House with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz the discrimination, harassment and bullying of Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian – known as MASSA – students in schools. The event will give us a chance to hear directly from educators, students, parents and community members about how to best create safe and supportive learning environments for all students.
On Tuesday, we will release a first look at the new 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection, a comprehensive database with information from every public school in the country. These data go to the heart of the Department’s mission—to promote educational excellence for all students, regardless of their race, religion, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or family income, as well as monitor how public schools are meeting their responsibility to serve all students.
And Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will travel to Virginia to join U.S. Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe for a discussion on the Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals to families in schools across the country throughout the summer months.
On Wednesday, Secretary King will take part in the morning in a Congressional briefing to talk about the Obama Administration’s proposed Stronger Together grant program to support innovative locally-driven plans to increase socioeconomic diversity in schools. In the afternoon, Secretary King will be joined by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro at a listening session jointly hosted by the U.S. Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation to explore strategies for improving diversity in schools and communities and expanding opportunity through collaboration across the education, housing, and transportation sectors.
At the end of the week, we will focus on efforts to end chronic absenteeism. Wednesday brings a gathering at the White House of the My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentor initiative aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism in schools by connecting more than 1 million students with caring mentors. The initiative began with 10 cities and has grown to 30 communities across the country. On Thursday and Friday, we will host the Every Day, Student, Every Day National Conference also aimed at combatting chronic absenteeism, featuring a discussion on the issue by Secretary King, along with civil rights legend Marian Wright Edelman and Secretary Castro. The Department will also release new CRDC data on chronic absenteeism, the first-ever comprehensive, national look at the issue.
Dorie Nolt is the Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.
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