A Delicate Balance: The Intersection of In-School and Out-of-School Time

Posted by Deb Vaughn, Feb 25, 2014 3 comments

Deb Vaughn Deb Vaughn

As a statewide funder of arts education, the trend in my organization’s support of arts education over the last decade has been to push the field towards deeper levels of arts integration. Although the beginning of the erosion of arts specialists in schools predates my career in arts administration, I strongly suspect that this emphasis on integrating the arts with other (perhaps more stable) subject areas was a reactive measure rather than a proactive one. In other words, instead of honoring arts integration as an effective teaching method for addressing multiple learning styles, it was seen as a “quick fix” for the loss of critically important arts specialists.

One of the consequences of this investment has been a decrease in attention to out-of-school work. This may be due to a perceived lack of quality (not aligned with state standards, not assessed, not taught by certified educators, etc.), but is also probably a result of decreased availability of grant dollars. As funders turned their attention to in-school work, organizations dependent on that funding were forced to divert their resources towards in-school programs. While there are still many high-quality out-of-school programs in operation, as evidenced by the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, they seem to lack broad recognition as a valuable component of arts education.

I’ve recently watched the evolution of several new grant programs in Oregon, each with their own attempt to link in- and out-of-school earning. The Oregon Community Foundation’s new “Studio to School” program endeavors to create a lasting arts education legacy within a community over a five year investment. While the final funding decisions have not yet been announced, I noticed while serving as a reviewer in the initial phase that the most problematic section of the application asked applicants to “link arts education during the school day to out of school arts learning.”

I observed the same challenge while administering my own new grant program at the Oregon Arts Commission, “Connecting Students to the World of Work.” When applicants were asked “What strategies will you use to connect classroom learning to workplace learning?” many struggled to define how their projects, focused mainly on intensive internship experiences for high school students, would have any relevance back in the classroom.

This is the key issue from both sides of the arts education coin (in- and out-of-school work): how does what students are learning in schools have application to the “real world” and how do out-of-school experiences explicitly impact school-day learning?

Shared Endeavor Venn Diagram Shared Endeavor Venn Diagram

In the recently released report Arts Education for America’s Students: A Shared Endeavor, there is a graphic of the overlapping spheres of influence that work together to create a comprehensive education for students. I would be very interested to see the next step in this conversation be a toolkit (I shudder at my use of that tired word) that identifies best practices at each of those intersecting points.

How are you addressing the interface of in-school and out-of-school education? At what intersection does your programming function? How are you engaging community partners in schools and vice versa? And I mean really “engaging:” How do they cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship, not just a transactional one? How would you define success at each of the intersecting points in the “A Shared Endeavor” graphic?

3 responses for A Delicate Balance: The Intersection of In-School and Out-of-School Time


Wendy Thompson says
February 26, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thank you, Deb. A responsive rather than reactive approach to arts education is called for. Just wanted to add that organizations like Oregon Ask are doing solid work toward raising the quality bar in OST instruction and school day connections. The parallels and intersections between OST and bell time or school to work are there, particularly in the arts. Given that students spend a larger percentage of time out of school, it is essential that educators (in and out of school), community members, parents, and industries work together to educate our youth in a shared endeavor.

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February 26, 2014 at 9:26 pm

The Venn Diagram represents a complex web of relationships. Caldera (mentoring underserved youth aged 11-18 through arts and environmental experiences) works from the center (student) out in this diagram, combining art and environmental programming for the youth that supports their growth towards academic achievement, emotional balance, personal goals, and engagement in community. The challenge as a smallish nonprofit, is to create the infrastructure/support for nurturing all of those relationships in the diagram, doing the actual mentoring/teaching according to defined standards, and then for documenting and analyzing "success" along the way. I would say that success at the overlapping points that you refer to, is based both on the individual progress of each student in our program, as well as in the engagement of the school community and nonprofit partners we are working with. That's a lot of data collection and assessment. At Caldera we are meeting this challenge with a standards-based, proficiency-based evaluation project, involving copious data collection and analyses, but I have to say that this work is very time-consuming for a smallish nonprofit. I dream of a day when we can all tap into one big database (both electronically and metaphorically!) of sharing! And this sounds a lot like it being centralized back in the schools, doesn't it??? I love all the new programs coming out, but finally, what we need are school systems that believe arts education is essential, and work from the center out. In other words, schools should be at the heart of the Venn Diagram, right beside the students.

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February 28, 2014 at 1:10 pm

What I didn't address in this article is the question of equity. I know that the rationale behind the Oregon Arts Commission's Arts Learning grant program focusing primarily on in-school K-12 programming is that it is a straightforward way to demonstrate our commitment to serving all children (even though our funding stream isn't nearly large enough to accomplish that goal). But I suspect this is becoming an outdated mindset as charter schools, private schools, alternative schools and homeschools play an increasing role in the education system. What does this diagram mean when the circles of "certified arts educators" and "certified non-arts educators" start to evolve?

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