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Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts

Winners of the College Board Awards for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts

National Winners

2016: Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, CA

The Beauty in Age project began three years ago, while AP Studio Art teacher Kelsey Wengel was designing units of study in portraiture. Her students created portraits every year, and the quality of the images they produced was exceptional, but she noticed that the portraits often didn't convey enough of a story about the subject. She proposed a field trip to the local senior center, where students could meet and interview a group of willing senior citizens from their community, and then create portraits of them. Students prepared interview questions, considering historical and world events that they could ask their partnering seniors about. After meeting their partners and spending the day with them, students began work on their portraits, focusing not only on composition and aesthetics, but also on the intent behind their work, and the ways that the portraits might tell viewers something about the subject. The student art examples are masterful and varied, reflecting a true consideration of the unique qualities of their senior partners.

Of the Beauty in Age project, Ms. Wengel says, "It has become a highlight of our AP Art program. It's something the students look forward to, and also something that our community has grown to acknowledge and support. Many of our senior citizens sign up to be involved in the program a year in advance, and we still have students staying in touch with their senior participants. Some have been contracted to do commissioned pieces, and many have built lasting friendships with the families involved. It really has built a bridge between families and generations."

2015: Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI

Educators at Interlochen Arts Academy developed a new educational model called the Collaborative Continuum, growing out of the work of their Comparative Arts major, which allows students to study across art forms. In the 2014-15 school year, this program piloted a cross-disciplinary unit of study called Heart and Art, a truly creative interdisciplinary merging of literature, science, music, visual art, and poetry, with the study of the human heart at its core. After learning about the heart's anatomy, students visited echocardiogram technicians at the local hospital and saw and heard their own heartbeats. The school's physics department helped students put this heartbeat audio through a sonogram application, creating waveform images; these images then formed the basis for a series of screen prints. For music students, a culminating experience of this cross-disciplinary investigation was a real-time experiment during a performance in which Interlochen's jazz combo improvised on the heartbeat of an audience member, integrating a diagnostic tool (the echo machine) into their artmaking. Following the success of this experiment, Interlochen's next interdisciplinary project will be titled Detroit to Rio, and will use the comparative study of these two cities as a vehicle for investigating themes of sustainability, mobility, and literacy.
IPR Heart & Art video

2014: Renaissance Arts Academy, Los Angeles, CA

The Renaissance Arts Academy (RenArts) is a Title I charter public school serving 360 students in grades 6–12, 95 percent of whom have no arts experience prior to enrolling. Students are admitted by random lottery, and through the Conservatory program, they receive 10 hours of in-school and 10 hours of after-school, tuition-free performing arts instruction each week. The school's co-founder, PK Candaux, notes, however, that "RenArts' goal is not to groom professional artists but rather to ensure that every student reaps the intellectual and personal benefits of serious arts training, time management, teamwork, and effective communication." The arts are integrated into instruction in all subject areas. Students are taught in mixed-age classrooms, and are grouped according to performance level, as opposed to grade level. At RenArts, teaching and learning centers around finding parallels between the processes of rigorous arts study and learning in other areas. Art and math, says Candaux, "are both about communication." The school's arts-intensive approach produces astounding results. The school has a 100 percent graduation rate, and 97 percent of students, many of whom did not previously consider themselves to be college-bound, go on to four-year colleges.

Arts Integration

2016: Hoover High School, San Diego, CA

In a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, high school English teacher Katalin Behumi and partnering teaching artist Lorain Rihan collaboratively designed a six-week unit of study titled Freedom of the American Individual. The unit focused on a variety of historical/expository texts, including speeches and essays, reflecting ideas of Individualism, Transcendentalism (including the work of Emerson and Thoreau) and Civil Disobedience, and their later influence on works by such key figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement.

In conjunction with this work, students learned visual literacy techniques to analyze works of art and to identify effective methods of presenting information visually. They also learned about the history of printmaking and its relation to social justice movements, and experimented with the processes and techniques of relief printmaking.

As a culminating project, students produced prints highlighting a contemporary issue of personal interest, and wrote artist statements linking the content of their prints to the ideas examined in their ELA readings. The work was both thoughtful and deeply engaging: Ms. Behumi and Ms. Rihan noted that one of the highlights of this experience was when about half of the class wanted to stay after school to continue work on their prints.

2015: Paulo Freire Charter School, Newark, NJ

Inspired by research aligning arts participation with heightened academic engagement, educators at the Paulo Freire Charter School have embraced arts integration and social justice as a motivating instructional strategy in classrooms across the curriculum. Arts-based methods for instruction and assessment have been embedded in the curriculum for all 320 of the school's students; a key initiative has been the development of a hip-hop and youth culture based curriculum, enabling students to respond to and analyze content in all other subjects. The impressive student work has been presented at conferences around the country, and administrators at the Paulo Freire Charter School credit this approach with significant academic growth in subjects across the curriculum.

2014: Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, Milwaukee, WI

For four years, staff members of the Bruce-Guadalupe Community School have been building the ALMA (Advancing Literacy and Math through Art) program. ALMA's curriculum is project based and engages students in arts-based methods of exploring big ideas. In a unit titled Crafting Community One Cup at a Time, for example, students blended the study of ceramic techniques with ELA and math investigations to explore how coffee plays a role in shaping our communities. The project was inspired by the contrast between the local community and its obsession with coffee and the impoverished communities in Latin America that harvest much of the coffee consumed in the United States. Curricula and teacher professional development for ALMA are organized using the language of the Studio Habits of Mind. This series of habits originated in arts research but gives teachers across subject areas a common language, including the habits of envisioning, exploring, and persisting, for example, to describe their work.

Civic Engagement/Professional Partnerships

2016: Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, CA

Dougherty Valley was also the National Winner for 2016 – see description above.

2015: John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, San Antonio, TX

The mission of John Jay's Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program is to engage, excite, and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in these fields. Working with their partnering mentors, students address real-world design problems by developing proposals for adaptive reuse of existing structures in the San Antonio area. In developing and presenting these ideas, students not only learn principles of design, but come to understand how their design decisions relate to the sustainability of a structure and connect the building to its surrounding community. The ACE Mentor program is a partnership on many levels: in addition to the mentors working directly with students, the City of San Antonio has partnered with the program as a whole and made available real project ideas for students to adapt and work on with their mentors.

2014: ArtVenture Academy, McLane High School, Fresno, CA

ArtVenture Academy, an arts academy housed inside McLane High School in Fresno, Calif., serves 250 students in grades 10-12. Projects focus on real-world topics that allow students to interact directly with their broader community. Stories of Home: The Southeast Asian Story Project, a collaboration between the academy's English and art departments, began with a request by ArtVenture students to share their family stories through art. After reading and viewing films about the experiences of Southeast Asian immigrants and interviewing their own family members about their immigration experiences, students created an impressive exhibition of work. The exhibit consisted of sculpture, film, and 40 large paintings, as well as an anthology of student writing and art. This work was included in Fresno's Hmong New Year celebration in 2013, and it traveled to other sites afterward. ArtVenture administrators believe in the importance of providing students with "authentic audiences" beyond the school's walls. Students have displayed their work at local performance and exhibition venues, public festivals, and national education conferences.

Equity Through Arts

2016: Howard Middle School, Orlando, FL

Howard Middle School faced the challenge of being an arts magnet school where some students were unable to participate in arts classes. In Florida, low reading scores prevent many students from taking arts courses as electives, as they are required to take a reading course instead. In response to this barrier, the school established Club Zero, a before-school program offering a graded and structured program of arts courses taught by certified arts teachers. Course topics were selected based on high interest subject matter and have included Show Choir, Acting, Jazz Band, Studio Art, Animation, and Dance Troupe. School administrators report that Club Zero has created a high demand from parents and a sense of pride for those students participating. It has also afforded opportunities for students to exhibit their talent and hard work in public settings in the community, through partnerships with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, and at venues like the Lake Eola Bandshell and the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival.

2015: Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington, DC

Now in its 41st year, Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a public high school with a dual curriculum program of college preparatory academics and pre-professional arts training. More than 40 percent of Ellington's students come from the most underrepresented wards in the District of Columbia. Ellington provides these young artists and performers with a community where they can deeply explore their art among like-minded peers and learn from locally and nationally renowned arts professionals. Students, many of whom have little prior formal arts training, choose to study one of eight arts disciplines intensively during their time at Ellington. Students can also participate in initiatives designed to help them graduate from school on time and prepare for the transition to college, including the Shepherding program and the College Summit program. The school's successes are a testament to the power of arts-rich education in fostering student engagement: In a city where the overall high school graduation rate was 67 percent in 2014, Ellington's rate was 93 percent, with 96 percent of these students accepted into four-year colleges and universities.
Duke Ellington student performance

2014: The Burke School, Burke, VA

At The Burke School, students participate annually in a partnership with Voices of Now (VON), a yearlong after-school theatre program that functions as a partnership between Fairfax County Public Schools and Arena Stage. The Burke School serves students receiving services for emotional or behavioral needs, and in partnership with VON, the school is able to offer theatre instruction to students who desire to participate in theatre but who are lacking in in-school opportunities or family resources to do so. VON is designed to broaden, deepen, and individualize each person's exposure to theatre. By working with students to create rich and powerful autobiographical theatre pieces, the program improves their skills of literacy, critical thinking, self-expression, and collaboration.
Spring 2014 performance by Burke school VON students