Spring 2010 ELSI Evaluation
Below are a summary of findings from Holis Headrick, arts-in-eduation evaluator. Mr. Headrick has served as the Executive Director of the Arts-in-Education Program at the New York State Council on the Arts as well as the Executive Director of the Center for Arts Education.
Summary of Findings by Mr. Hollis Headrick, Arts-in-Education evaluator, June 2010:
During spring 2010 I conducted an evaluation of the BtB Elementary School Initiative. The evaluation focused on two schools, CS 21 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and PS 165 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The evaluation process sought to examine:
• Impact on student engagement and motivation to read;
• Improvement of literacy skills;
• The quality and teaching skills of BtB authors and illustrators; and
• The impact of BtB programs on teaching practice.
BtB is an excellent program, based on 2010 evidence gathered at two schools and the wider 2008 evaluation that covered all BtB programs. While this evaluation is not as comprehensive as the Horowitz report, it takes a more granular approach with input from students and teachers that reveal a nuanced view from BtB “customers.” The students were articulate about the value they received from BtB and felt strongly that the program should reach more students. Student voices are often overlooked because the adults make the rules and decide what gets taught. It was refreshing to hear directly from students about what works and what could be improved about BtB. Their enthusiasm for the program and respect for the BtB authors was evident in their remarks and in their focused work in the classroom.
Students were very engaged in the six sessions that I observed. They interacted easily with the authors and the visual artist. The lesson plans were well constructed and challenged students to ask questions and propose solutions, focusing on higher order thinking skills. Peer learning was fostered as students critiqued one another’s writing or illustrations.
Responses in the student focus group confirmed the high level of engagement observed in the classroom. Their comments reveal the positive and lasting impact of the program, such as, “After the author came I started to read constantly and constantly,” and “He got me interested and now I read different types of books,” and “I used to write just short sentences, but now my sentences are longer.”
Schools need BtB to enhance the literacy and arts curriculum, but the economic climate of budget cuts to public schools make it very challenging for schools to help pay for BtB programs. BtB and other cultural organizations in New York are finding it more difficult to raise money for school programs due to the recession and the changing interests of donors, many of which are now focusing on social service programs and charter schools.
In closing, two comments from a CS 21 teacher and a student crystallize the importance of BtB. One teacher stated, “It (BtB) resuscitates my teaching (28 years). It prompts me to think more about my teaching, how I view my students, has given me new teaching tools.” A student said, “I want them (authors) to keep coming back so I stay interested in books.”