Chris Russo Portland

For years, educators have upheld that arts education plays a vital role in helping facilitate young students’ educational development. The arts do not always get the attention that they deserve in all educational settings, however. This is especially the case in areas that lack access or resources to empower their students to nurture their artistic sides, where arts program budgets are often the first to be cut to make way for other improvements.

Naturally, a conversational point among educators and administration in districts that have noted declining quality of arts education is how access to and quality of high-quality arts education can be improved to the benefit of the children.

Chris Russo of Portland speaks to how arts education is a great outlet for students to learn about themselves and the world around them as they continue on their educational journey. Still, he recognizes that some may not be aware of the fact that improving access to arts programs that will help students requires deliberate action on all of our parts. Here, Chris explores a few ways school systems can work towards improving arts education.

Assess the Strengths and Gaps in Your Program

Every school is different when it comes to both their strengths of their programs and obstacles that they face in providing comprehensive education. For this reason, it is vital that schools address both as they look to improve access to and quality of arts education for their students.

A common way that schools assess the gaps in their programs is to list off factors that they believe are contributing to lowering the quality of their programs. This requires both self-awareness and honesty, and Chris notes that open forum discussions where educators are encouraged to be fully transparent are often the best way to get thoughtful input.

After addressing the gaps or obstacles to quality arts education, it helps to consider the strengths and resources that can assist with overcoming them. For example, if a school has resources such as afterschool programs, parent volunteers, qualified arts teachers, etc., schools can begin to assess how they can play a role in facilitating the changes necessary for a bustling arts program.

Articulate Clear Goals for Arts Program

 Forming clear goals for a school system’s arts program may sound like an obvious step, but the fact remains that many districts- especially those in rural or underfunded communities- may not have fully fleshed them out. In these situations, the programs can quickly deteriorate in quality because there are not enough hands on deck for upholding them.

While school systems will want to establish long term goals for maintaining a commitment to arts education for their students such as isolating budget constraints and securing approvals for expansion, they will also want to focus on simpler short term goals as well. Reason being goals that can be actionable quickly can help make use of what schools already have access to or can secure without complicated paths to success.

Christopher Russo of Portland notes that crafting clear, actionable goals necessitates that administrators utilize both students and educators as a resource. This can be streamlined through examining the assessment of strengths and gaps listed off early in the process.

Feedback from teachers through open communication channels is a great way to home in on what they will need to provide students with robust arts education.

Meanwhile, information from the student body either through needs assessments or quick surveys on what they would like to see in their arts programs can also be excellent resources for schools looking to improve access to artistic resources. When we see how this information is linked to the goals defined by the district, we can make efforts to make the changes necessary for students’ success.

Establish Partnerships

 When arts educators examine the relationship between school systems and local arts organizations, they often find that collaboration between the two is extremely limited. There are many potential reasons why many schools have not explored partnership with local arts organization chapters with factors such as budget constraints and a lack of networking opportunities standing out as common barriers.

Exploring partnerships can help both schools and organizations streamline their goals of contributing to a bustling artistic community. One of the best ways to facilitate partnerships between arts organizations and schools is to keep open communication channels throughout the program development process.

Remember that, while arts organizations are a great resource for partnerships, they are far from the only groups that can be helpful for pushing the agenda of a more accessible artistic education. Christopher Russo of Portland sees teachers, parents, school administration, board members, and business leaders as integral parts of community teams. A deep network of partnerships ensures that multiple groups are working towards the same goal of improving access to arts education.

Experts studying partnerships have found that communication between staff and arts organizations often only occurred after program selection. Without needs assessment or linking what is taught by arts professionals to the school curriculum, the quality of partnerships may suffer as a result. To combat this, try to take all of the factors that educators and administration will want to take all avenues for improving access into account.


Christopher Russo PortlandPartnerships can bring new life to arts education programs

Renew Focus on Arts Educators

Despite the fact that there has been research to support the importance of arts education for young minds, this has not necessarily been reflected in budgeting in many districts. Lack of funding not only limits the quality of education that can be provided to students, but it also can have a negative impact on educators who must find ways to keep up despite obstacles.

Chris Russo of Portland maintains that a crucial step in improving access to arts education for students is to focus on making investments in arts educators. This may be easier said than done for some districts- after all, educators do not have direct control over how budgets are allocated at their institutions.

Experts have found evidence that showing support to educators is about more than just the budgets and that investments in teachers has a sustained positive impact on students. One popular way to invest in arts education teachers is to apply for grants that can help them expand their curriculums and connect with students through a variety of artistic mediums.

Other methods such as taking advantage of events where educators can collaborate and share ideas for how to stretch their resources, expand them, and connect with the student body are also frequently cited ways that schools can easily renew their focus on arts teachers.

Looking to the Future

 Making a dedicated commitment to arts education can be daunting, especially as factors that may impede access are often not directly caused by educators or administrators. Chris Russo encourages school systems to focus on their strengths, weaknesses, and access to resources so that they may hope to provide quality arts education programs regardless.

By forging fruitful partnerships, addressing program goals, providing support for educators, and remaining open minded about the steps that schools can take to improve quality and access to arts education, we can be well on our way to improving outlook for the betterment of the next generation.