Anchoring Arts Education: Principals’ Arts Leadership

An evaluation of ArtsEd Washington's elementary school program

Report by Claudia Bach and Annette de Soto AdvisArts Consulting, Seattle

The Principals’ Arts Leadership (PAL) program was created by ArtsEd Washington in 2004 to inform and support elementary school teams, led by principals, in the development and implementation of school arts plans to increase arts education. Each school’s plan was intended to build on and reflect the unique pathway appropriate to that school’s characteristics and community, using existing and new resources.

Since its inception PAL has worked with more than 40 schools, 36 of which have either completed or are still active in the program. PAL schools participate for three core years: During Year 1, schools concentrate on Planning; Year 2 focuses on Implementation; and Year 3 is devoted to devising strategies that will lead to Sustainability. Thereafter school team members become Alumni, with opportunities to remain active in aspects of the PAL program.

How well is PAL achieving what ArtsEd WA set out to do? Was there a transformation experienced by the individuals and schools participating in PAL? What lessons could be learned for improving PAL and for replicating the program in schools and school districts statewide, or beyond? The approaching five year anniversary of the program prompted the desire to assess and evaluate the PAL program to answer these questions and to gain a clearer picture of the underlying aspects of transformation that might be at work for those involved.

The evaluation was focused on sixteen schools that had completed or were about to complete the full three year PAL cycle. One‐on‐one interviews were conducted on‐site with the school principal as well as an on‐site interview with members of each school’s arts team. The interviews were confidential with all responses non‐attributed. Five of these school’s principals also participated in additional follow‐up phone interviews with the researchers to explore best practices. In total, more than 70 individuals participated in interviews. A four person Evaluation Work Group was formed of Board and community members to advise the ArtsEd WA staff and the consultants throughout the evaluation process.

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