College and Career Ready—Are We Building Vertical Pathways for Arts Students?
Preparing students who are “college and career” ready is a common goal for success for high school students across the nation’s school districts; “post-secondary readiness” is included as an indicator for school quality or student success in the Every Student Succeeds Act legislation. Our state education departments and local school districts all have working definitions and metrics for this readiness. So, how prepared are we, the arts education community, to engage in this discussion? Are we building solid college and career pathways in the arts with our higher education partners, institutions and employers? Are we engaging and supporting our families and students in understanding that the arts provide viable college and career opportunities?
For the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and our long time partner, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), these questions led us to the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2015 that outlines our shared accountability to our students, both high school and college, as well as our teachers and our community.
MassArt & BPS have had an ongoing relationship with common interests since MassArt’s founding in 1873. The city of Boston is our shared community and we recognize that we all benefit from advancing the abilities of young people who aspire to become teachers, designers, artists, and inventive citizens.
In our first year:
MassArt has expanded admissions requirements to better meet the needs of BPS students, which significantly increased applications and acceptance of students from BPS in the 2016 cycle.
We understand that support of our students doesn’t end at the acceptance letter, and MassArt is providing additional resources for staff and faculty working with their Academic Compass Program, which supports students from underserved populations through their college experience.
Additional scholarship and financial aid funding is available for BPS students, which is essential for our families to make the decision about attending college. MassArt’s Admissions Department has dedicated staff to work with BPS counselors and has set aside funding to support attendance for a BPS counselor at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NCAC) conference.
BPS and MassArt have expanded collaboration for curriculum design for MassArt Youth Programs, which include Artward Bound, Saturday Studios, and Youth Design. We are reimagining the dual enrollment program, and exploring opportunities for co-teaching between BPS and MassArt faculty, flexible class locations, and capacity for students to accelerate degree completion.
MassArt has partnered with BPS to train artists as teachers since 1873 as the Massachusetts Normal Art School. MassArt was the first “normal” school (aka teacher college) for visual art in the United States. Every year, MassArt undergraduate and graduate students are placed in 10+ BPS schools to be mentored by BPS educators and to learn the unique needs of urban learners. We are combining our efforts for professional development, for both in-service and pre-service teachers and a growing number of BPS visual arts teachers are MassArt alumni who are unwavering advocates and ambassadors. Leadership from both institutions engage in ongoing discussion about our work, and MassArt President David Nelson recently completed a “listening” tour of our schools to see first hand the work of our teachers and students.
Now in the second year of our MOU, following our first cohort of college freshmen and our class of 9th graders enrolled in the youth programs, our learning continues—and like all good creative processes, we will refine our goals and strategies to support our students and families on their successful pathway to college and career.