Los Angeles County Arts Commission (in partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Education), the Santa Clara County Office of Education (having adopted the former Creative Education Program of Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley) and the San Francisco Arts Commission are all involved in ambitious strategic initiatives to create systemic change and to restore dance, music, theatre and visual arts to all students attending public school in each respective community. The common element of these initiatives is technical assistance provided to local school districts to help them build their capacity to provide district-wide sequential arts education through the development and adoption of a long-range budgeted plan for arts education.

A critical factor to the success of all districts in implementing sequential arts education is the ability to provide high-quality professional development in dance, music, theatre and visual arts to teachers throughout the district. However, currently, there is no central compendium of information about models and best practices in professional development for arts education to guide these efforts. The three partner organizations secured public and private support and hired Dawn M. Ellis, a national consultant, to serve as lead researcher and author for a handbook designed to meet this need. Ellis facilitated background research, conversations with advisors, and field interactions.

Designing the Arts Learning Community: a Handbook for K-12 Professional Development Planners provides school districts with access to information and criteria to help them develop a high-quality professional development program in the arts for their K-12 teachers. This online resource synthesizes documents, interviews, responses from promising practices in the field and literature regarding professional development and arts education. The Handbook benefits from the collective wisdom of all participating in the research process. The Models provide profiles of fifty arts learning communities through a searchable database. The professional development programs profiled on this website fit one or more of the following criteria: 

  • Addresses the scale, scope, or perspectives of school districts.

  • Provides evidence of evaluation, research, and/or reflective practice.

  • Provides insights into approaches relevant to a variety of communities, students, and arts disciplines.

  • Involves education reform that includes a strong arts component.

While broad, we do not suggest that this resource is all-inclusive. It does not focus on higher education, written curricula available for teaching the arts in schools nor does it include many vibrant learning communities who could not respond within our timeline because they were simply too busy doing good work. Rather, this publication offers insights into a larger arts learning community, with promising practices and reflective lessons on arts education professional development. Continue the discussion of this learning community as you, your teachers, and their partners strengthen your collective capacities to help young people learn in or through the arts.

Advisory Committee
Rachelle Axel, San Francisco Arts Commission
Ayanna Hudson Higgins, Los Angeles County Arts Commission
Aimée Ipson Pflederer, Santa Clara County Office of Education
Dana Powell, Santa Clara County Office of Education
Diane Watanabe, Los Angeles County Office of Education

Research Team
Dawn M. Ellis, primary investigator,
with Sarah Jencks, Rachel Kallmyer, Marv Klassen-Landis, Johanna Misey Boyer, Elizabeth Purcell, Carl Ritger, and Daniel P. Theron

Website Development and Editing
Linda Chiavaroli, Megan Kirkpatrick and Elisha Wilson Beach, Los Angeles County Arts Commission

Professional Development providers who are featured in the Models section of this website have the ability to update their profile at any time.  Please send an email requesting access to your profile to