The faculty, staff and students of Scotts Elementary School are very excited and proud these days. Why? Because of the recent declaration that Scotts Elementary has been officially named an A+ Arts-Integrated School! This announcement was made on March 15th, 2016, by Michelle Burrows, Director of the A+ Schools Program.
The A+ Schools Program is a division of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. This program works integrally with the North Carolina Arts Council to oversee the implementation and adoption of A+ principles and practices in North Carolina schools. The A+ Schools Program is the largest, longest running, most successful arts-based whole-school reform effort in the nation. Since 1995, A+ schools have been using the arts as a catalyst for creating connections and making schools engaging, meaningful and enjoyable places to teach and learn. Scotts Elementary School is extremely excited to be included in this wonderful network of schools that focus on student success through arts integration!
How did Scotts Elementary set out to become an A+ School?
In March of 2015 Scotts Principal LeAnne Hall and School Counselor Amanda Brookshire were attending the North Carolina Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement in Greensboro where they saw several presentations to audiences of around 350 people by the students of R.N. Harris Elementary, a long time A+ Magnet School located in Durham, NC. Mrs. Hall and Ms. Brookshire were captivated by the students’ passion and enthusiasm as well as the confidence in the demonstration of their learning through artistic expression. They were also very excited to see the pride and light in the parent’s faces as their children performed. They immediately began to dream of how this program would be highly effective and engaging for the students of Scotts Elementary.
And so the work began! Scott's leadership got together and started brainstorming about how A+ could be implemented, and they set out to learn more about A+ schools.
During Spring Break of 2015, a team of 7 teachers from Scotts Elementary visited R. N. Harris Elementary in Durham, NC to view A+ in action. Team members were very excited to see integrated arts in all of the classrooms. The building was alive with creativity. The students were highly engaged. This visit gave the team inspiration to continue further exploration of an A+ integration at Scotts Elementary.
Over the course of the next 10-12 months, the following additional A+ visits and studies were made:
In February of 2016, all Scotts teachers voted on their choice as to whether the application for acceptance into the A+ program should be made. The vote passed with an overwhelming 93% majority. School leadership completed and submitted the 32 page application, and everyone waited anxiously for the answer to come. The great news came to Scotts on March 15th, 2016.
What does it mean to be an A+ School?
According to the North Carolina A+ website http://www.aplus-schools.ncdcr.gov/About-A-43, “The A+ Schools Program is a whole-school reform model that views the arts as fundamental to teaching and learning in all subjects. A+ Schools combine interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know. In A+ Schools, teaching the state’s mandated curriculum involves a collaborative, many-disciplined approach, with the arts continuously woven into every aspect of a child’s learning. The central vision of A+ is to build enhanced, creative, arts-integrated learning opportunities for all students. For schools, A+ gradually becomes a comprehensive education reform because other changes in school practice, in areas from assessment to scheduling and collaboration to parent involvement, radiate out as necessary to achieve this central vision. Each A+ school develops a unique school identity around the arts that deepens and enhances each student’s educational experience and prepares them for the challenges of today’s creative and global economy.”
Beginning this spring and summer, Scotts Elementary teachers and staff will attend and participate in A+ customized leadership training and professional development where all will learn how to collaborate across curriculums and integrate lesson planning for implementation of A+ models of learning in all classrooms. A school leadership team will attend A+ leadership training in Charlotte, NC this April. Then, an A+ Program team of experts will complete an introductory site visit at Scotts Elementary in May. During the week of July 11th – 15th, all teachers, along with 4 Teacher Assistants and 1 office staff member, will attend a week long, off-site A+ professional development and initial training in Raleigh, NC. Additional and ongoing training, coaching and support from A+ and the North Carolina Arts Council will continue for at least 3 years, and perhaps even longer if needed.
During the 2016-17 school year, parents and families should expect to see innovative methods of delivery of curriculum and instruction in their child’s classroom. These innovations will include active integration of the arts in the learning process (examples = art projects that support standard learning objectives; music projects that support standard learning objectives; dramatic presentations; research; presentation; etc.). Beyond the 2016-17 school year, Scotts Elementary plans to add, with input from our parents; students; teachers and staff, additional arts-based classes such as piano or choral lessons in a keyboard lab-classroom; dance classes in a dance studio classroom; drum lessons in a drum lab-classroom, and theater arts classes. Scotts Elementary students will demonstrate their comprehension of the standard course of study by way of cultural and artistic expression. The 20+ years of data and research on A+ schools provides solid evidence that the students of Scotts Elementary School will learn in highly engaging classroom environments; they will show improvement and growth in their academic performance; and they will be well on their way to becoming outstanding 21st Century citizens who will rise to heights of achievement, accomplishment, and success.
Mrs. LeAnne Hall, Principal of Scotts Elementary, wishes to thank all district leaders, teachers, staff, parents, and community members for taking such a leap of faith and providing the needed support and encouragement as the journey of the transformation to become “Scotts A+ Elementary School” begins and lasts well into the future. When asked to share her thoughts on this endeavor, Mrs. Hall stated “I can’t wait to see what our students will soon be doing as they learn, grow and perform in our future A+ school setting!”