Kisida sees opportunities in new law for arts-based school-community partnerships

Brian Kisida

In a recent article, Dr. Brian Kisida, an assistant research professor of economics and public affairs, along with co-author Dr. Daniel H. Bowen from Texas A&M University, describes how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has the potential to usher in a new era of cooperation among public schools and community-based arts organizations. The authors focus on two aspects of ESSA: changes that allow for greater local autonomy in educational decision making and an arts education grant program.

Signed into law in December 2015, ESSA rolled back much of the federal government’s influence over local decisions about academic standards and accountability, which have been widely viewed as detrimental to arts education. Accordingly, states and districts have more say over how best to gauge student progress in all areas of learning, including the arts. However, while ESSA’s Assistance for Arts Education program will offer grants specifically to benefit disadvantaged students, many schools will continue to lack sufficient funding to reincorporate arts instruction.

To address this challenge, the authors encourage schools to draw support from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors through school-community partnerships. They describe key considerations for successful partnerships, including securing broad buy-in and support, being proactive in identifying and addressing potential conflicts, designating an independent body to oversee partnerships, and utilizing data for program evaluation. Effective arts-based school-community partnerships, they say, can make a difference for students in schools and districts most affected by resource constraints and inequities.

Kisida and Bowen are currently conducting a district-wide randomized controlled trial of one such partnership, the Arts Access Initiative in Houston. The evaluation, funded by grants from the Spencer Foundation and the Houston Endowment, will be the first experimental evaluation to gauge the effectiveness of a large-scale school-community partnership program.

Read more in the full article, “The art of partnerships: Community resources for arts education” by Daniel H. Bowen and Brian Kisida, published in Phi Delta Kappan 98(7), 8-14 (April 2017).