The Creative Learning Initiative (CLI) is a community-wide effort to bring creative learning and the arts to every student in Austin. Lead by MINDPOP, the City of Austin, and the Austin Independent School District (AISD), CLI supports a systemic and sustainable approach that integrates creativity, the arts, and Creative Teaching strategies with classroom teaching, campus programming, and campus improvement. CLI aims to address disparities in access to the arts for young people within schools, across the district, and in neighborhoods throughout our city. This is achieved through dedication to equitable access to creative learning and the arts for every student in Austin.
Critical to the work of CLI is fostering arts richness in AISD schools. The visionary objective of CLI is to ensure all AISD schools are creative campuses by 2023. In 2016–2017, the 5th year of CLI implementation in AISD, two-thirds of AISD campuses met the standard of a creative campus. The term Creative Campus is a multifaceted way to summarize a framework of nine components that can come together in multiple ways to measure the concept of the arts richness of a school. These components include sequential fine arts, Creative Teaching across the curriculum, professional development opportunities, arts partnerships, after-school activities, community building through the arts, communication, leadership, and facilities (Figure 1).
At the campus level, the three pillars of the CLI implementation are to (a) increase students’ access to sequential fine arts instruction, (b) foster classroom learning with Creative Teaching across the curriculum, and (c) increase networks of arts programming during and out of the school day. The robust program model operates on a staged implementation schedule that adds one vertical team each year through a competitive process that prioritizes readiness and need.
Campuses in a vertical team initially work for 3 foundational years. During this initial stage of program implementation, foundational campuses receive a robust set of support interventions (e.g., workshops in Creative Teaching, follow-up instructional coaching, instruction in dance and drama in elementary schools, and financial support for arts partnerships). Each foundational year, teachers focus on integrating Creative Teaching strategies into their teaching practices, while principals and teacher-leaders build capacity toward sustainability. After the first 3 years of program implementation, campuses graduate to a sustaining-campus status that assumes more campus independence and less reliance on support services.
Since 2012, CLI has provided 56 campuses (currently, 32 foundational campuses and 24 sustaining campuses) with the ongoing support to design and implement comprehensive campus plans to become more arts rich. To date, this work has reached more than 31,000 students and more than 2,400 teachers. In 2016–2017, the program continued to achieve milestones toward program implementation and produced measurable positive impacts on access to sequential fine arts instruction, on Creative Teaching competency, and with the community arts network. Over the next 5 years of program implementation, CLI aims to reach 63 additional campuses, more than 50,000 students, and approximately 3,700 additional teachers.
The CLI implementation model in AISD provides systemic supports at the classroom level, the district level, and the community level.
Examples of the supports provided through the CLI model include:
At foundational CLI schools, teachers’ implementation competency in Creative Teaching strategies was significantly related to students’ attendance rates (p < .05), controlling for teachers’ overall teaching proficiency and students’ SES. In other words, students were more likely to attend school if their teachers were more competent in Creative Teaching than if their teachers were less competent, when accounting for the students’ SES and their teachers’ overall teaching proficiency. At the elementary level, students whose teachers were highly competent in Creative Teaching had an average of 1.1 more days in school than did students whose teachers’ competency was low in Creative Teaching. In addition to the relationship of attendance with ADA, attendance, improved attendance is also often a precursor to many other positive student outcomes. If we could change attendance with competency in Creative Teaching, this could help students in other ways, too.
AUSTIN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
Melissa Andrews, M.A., M.Ed., Shaun D. Hutchins, Ph.D., Cinda Christian, Ph.D., Holly Williams, Ph.D., Crystal Wang, Ph.D., John Green-Otero, M.Ed., Brent Hasty, Ph.D.