Math, Music, and Equity in Education

Math, Music, and Equity in Education
Posted on 04/07/2017
students practicing violin in a classroom

Math, Music, and Equity in Education

By now, you may have heard Washington lawmakers passed a bill in March to delay the school levy cliff, which has provided partial relief to the 2017-18 Seattle Public Schools projected budget deficit.

The next phase of our budget work is moving forward. With a remaining $50 million shortfall, there is tough work ahead but we are doing what we can to buffer schools and equity work from this budget squeeze. Read more about the 2017-18 budget shortfall.

During my frequent school visits, I witness how our schools demonstrate what a district can accomplish when it is committed to providing opportunity that helps every student thrive. I am grateful for our talented, passionate educators, school leaders, central office staff, community partners, and families who collaborate to ensure every student has an excellent and equitable education.

Despite the challenges we face, our core principle has not changed—Seattle Public Schools must do all that we can to ensure every student has equitable access to a high-quality K-12 education. Without a doubt, we have a long way to go, but we are making progress. Within the classroom and beyond school grounds, from math instruction to music education, our educators and staff are innovating and collaborating to help ignite a lifelong-passion for learning in Seattle students.

Gaining Ground on Math Achievement

Three of our middle schools—Aki Kurose, Denny, and Mercer—are leading the state in the efforts to eliminate opportunity gaps. These three schools of opportunity are inspiring efforts of our educators and school communities throughout the district with their work to improve educational outcomes for our students of color.

These schools, which draw from some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state, are all improving math achievement for African Americans and other students of color. In an effort to learn from this success, Kyle Kinoshita, SPS Chief of Curriculum Assessment and Instruction, initiated a case study.

Middle school math mastery has become an important predictor for student success. The percent of African American students at these schools that are meeting or exceeding standards on state tests is well above their peers around the city.

Key findings in the Middle School Math Inquiry Study point to several shared strategies these schools are employing that are helping students foster a positive math mindset, which can enhance student achievement.

In addition to educator professional development and strong leadership, the study highlights that positive beliefs held by educators and students, and positive learning that promotes specific goals have helped students make math proficiency gains. Stay tuned for a follow up article that highlights the findings of the Middle School Math Inquiry Study. To learn more about Denny Middle School’s success and our key strategies to ensure student success watch our State of the District video below.

SPS State of the District from Seattle Public Schools on Vimeo.

Investing in Arts Education

Education can be the great equalizer. To ensure that an excellent education is available to all students, we must provide equitable opportunities to learn about math, science, history, and the arts. Eliminating opportunity gaps requires that we take a holistic approach to education.

Research demonstrates that increased arts education can help students achieve better academic outcomes. Benefits of art instruction include gains in positive school climate, increased student engagement and confidence, and more opportunities for students to develop transferable skills.

The Seattle Public Schools music and arts department is committed to improving arts-based education across all schools in our district. From critical thinking and communication skills, to collaboration and cross-cultural skills, arts education has a critical role to play in developing vital skills needed to succeed in life after high school.

Through our visual and performing arts department and in partnership with the City and community partners, the district is investing in arts education. You can read more about the district's partnership on the Creative Advantage website.

There are many examples in Seattle that highlight the good work our art educators are doing.

Students join the conductor on stage before the concertAll City Honors Elementary Orchestra and Band Concert

In March, a select group of fifth grade students took to the stage at Mercer Middle School to perform in the 10th Annual All City Honors Elementary Orchestra and Band Concert. The event, which drew more than 150 students and their families from every region of the district, is an opportunity for some of our youngest musicians to perform together in an ensemble setting.

It highlights the great work by our music educators who collaborate to provide the tailored instruction students need to succeed. Read more about the All City Honors Elementary Orchestra and Band Concert.

The Musical Pathways Project

The Musical Pathways Project, active in eight Southeast and Southwest Seattle schools, augments the schools’ instrumental music departments with additional music teaching artists from two Seattle orchestras. The project expands the pathway to musical study for many beginning music students in Arbor Heights, Concord, Highland Park, Roxhill, Sanislo and West Seattle elementary schools as well as Denny International and Aki Kurose middle schools. Read more about the Musical Pathways Project.

art poster for Naramore showThe 2017 Naramore Art Show

This month, I hope you will visit the Seattle Art Museum for the 2017 Naramore Art Show. The exhibition, now in its 32nd year, celebrates the success of high achieving art students in middle and high schools. The exhibition dates span from April 5 through May 29 and include an awards ceremony and teen night out on May 5. Read more about the Naramore show on the Seattle Art Museum website.

Inclusive school communities that encourage students' confidence in their ability to succeed, and educators who work together to identify and build on student strengths, are imperative to address the racial achievement gap.

From math instruction to music education, Seattle Public Schools is working to collaborate, align, and expand proven strategies that ensure every student has access to a great public education.

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