The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts named Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA) as one of four nationwide public schools recipients of its prestigious National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award for the 2010-2011 school year. The award recognizes successful arts programs, and the integration of the arts as an essential aspect of the school curriculum.
ArtsEd Washington submitted SOTA, Carnation Elementary School and Elk Plain School of Choice to the Kennedy Center’s national awards competition earlier this year after they received top state honors from ArtsEd Washington and the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), as part of the inaugural State School of Excellence in Arts Education award.
In determining top performing schools across the country that are best implementing these arts education components, the Kennedy Center examined individual school components such as the imaginative learning environments for teaching and learning through the arts, the level of parental involvement in education, and how the school provides cultural learning opportunities through the arts. SOTA was selected for making all components of the arts – dance, music, theater and visual arts – an essential part of all students’ education.
Open to all public elementary, middle, and high schools with exemplary arts education programs, the school principal, a teacher or a district administrator submits nominations for the Schools of Excellence in Arts Education Awards program.
The selection criteria requires schools’ arts education programs meet two or more of the following characteristics: teaching all components of the arts – dance, music, theater, and visual arts – with components integrated into other subject areas, using creative approaches to learning, providing opportunities for parental involvement, giving students opportunities for learning about other cultures, and offering connections with the community.
The Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN), a coalition of thirty-three statewide, not-for profit organizations that work with The Kennedy Center, offers the awards program. At the state level, the state art alliances or organizations administer the Schools of Excellence in Arts Education Awards program. In Washington state, ArtsEd Washington joined in partnership with the AWSP to lead and administer this inaugural Washington state arts education awards program.
For students to have the best chance of fulfilling their potential, learning in and through the arts must be part of their education, according to an ArtsEd Washington press release. The arts support understanding across multiple academic disciplines and significantly contribute to overall student-school engagement.
According to the Washington State Arts Commission, in the Central Puget Sound region alone, the arts generate close to $2 billion annual, and as of 2009, there were more than 100,000 creative jobs in Washington state. Despite this creative demand, only 33 percent of elementary students receive an average of less than one hour of arts instruction per week and nearly half of all the state’s K-12 schools offer instruction in only one of the four primary arts disciplines.
SOTA is one of the 4 percent of secondary schools in Washington state that is providing formal arts instruction in all four arts disciplines, actively meeting Washington state’s basic education mandates requiring the arts to be taught in public schools.