Arts in Basic Curriculum Project (ABC)

Christine Fisher , Director
Arts in Basic Curriculum Project
105 McLaurin Hall, Winthrop University
Pock Hill, SC 29733




Web Address:
Visit web site

Arts disciplines, arts integration and partnership

ABC is an arts education collaboration among:
ABC Coordinating Committee – managing the project/partner communication
South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC)
South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE)
Winthrop University (houses the project)
ABC Steering Committee – 50+ arts and education stakeholders responsible for guiding ABC and centralizing arts education reform efforts in the state.

South Carolina is home to a vibrant, powerful arts education network. They subscribe to a belief statement about the importance of the arts in learning. Their vision for a high quality, comprehensive arts education for every child sits front and center in their work. The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project embodies collaboration as a joint partnership project of a statewide coalition of arts, arts education, and education partners. ABC serves as an advocacy arm, a professional development hub, a leadership development network, and means for the various arts education stakeholders in the state to communicate with one voice. Managed by the ABC Coordinating Committee with staff from the state arts council, department of education, and a university partner, ABC’s governance differs from stand-alone not-for-profit organizations, universities, or school districts.

Purpose: Since 1987, the ABC Project has used professional development as one of its most important strategies for working towards giving every child in South Carolina (SC) access to a comprehensive arts education.

Goals include improving:
  1. Understanding and support for arts education
  2. Public policy and accountability systems promoting quality, comprehensive arts education
  3. Leadership (state and national) to promote arts education reform
  4. Individual school/district capacity to implement arts education
  5. Knowledge of cultural diversity in the arts (in both educators and students).

The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project supports a variety of services that help teachers, schools, and communities improve arts education and general education by using arts integration strategies.

Education Reform: ABC assists a group of schools and districts across South Carolina with the development of programs that teach in and through the arts in elementary and secondary schools. According to a recent evaluation, schools committing to serve as ABC model sites strive to put in the systematic efforts needed across administrators and teachers in order to: 
  • develop and implement standard-based curricula 
  • teach arts integrated curriculum, using collaborative planning and professional development 
  • increase the availability of arts discipline education 
  • move all arts educators to arts certification (Yap, et al.)
The development of a five-year plan helps schools manage their progress towards systematic reform. Complementing this, the state arts council also offers grant support for arts education planning and district arts coordinators to help coordinate efforts, in order to facilitate progression towards a more comprehensive, integrated arts education. Two year grants help advance ABC selected more experienced ABC communities.

Networks: Using the concept of network, ABC facilitates or supports various networks of educators and other stakeholders, working to support arts education. Through the development of a multi-arts teachers network, ABC offers a resource and support system for teachers to participate in as they move through a systematic progression in the various professional development institutes. This provides teachers with the ability to connect and follow-up with guidance from their peers. Similarly, a network of Master Arts Educators facilitates and models best practices for teacher participants. Also, ABC connects with the advocacy network of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, which mobilizes thousands of individuals on behalf of arts education. Higher education institutions work with this coalition and provide related professional development opportunities connected to the needs of the networks.

Leadership Development: Through more formal professional development opportunities, ABC offers specific institutes and coursework (sponsored by the SC Department of Education) to develop the leadership capacities of the arts education teaching workforce in the state. Teacher leaders provide the guidance and help the development of a network for ongoing support of these emerging educators. Based on research from the first ten years of ABC, all participants in the Academy and the Leadership institute also learn and plan to use arts education advocacy techniques, which can help sustain and build their programs. Likewise, ABC helps graduates of all institutes and academies develop and join the growing multi-arts education professional network. Graduates are expected to share what they learn with their colleagues in their districts and through upcoming professional meetings. Annual institutes include: 
South Carolina Arts Leadership for Success Academy (SCALSA)
This academy addresses the needs of novice arts teachers (years 0-3) in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. Districts recommend teachers ready for professional growth. The Academy focuses on development of standards-based arts curricula, instruction and preparation for assessment and their upcoming teacher evaluations. This Academy pays attention to the sometimes challenging transition between higher education and the classroom, working not only with teachers, but post-secondary educators. Strategies include: 
  • Hands-on development of standards-based arts lessons presented on video 
  • Long-range lesson planning 
  • Journaling and reflection 
  • Arts classroom management strategies 
  • Identification of teaching and learning styles, with a grounding in cognitive research 
  • Temporary resource library provides access to related arts education materials
Curriculum Leadership Institute in the Arts (CLIA)
For experienced arts teacher/leaders, emphasizes: 
  • The development of complex lesson plans with embedded assessment 
  • Models of best instructional practice 
  • Tips for preparing and applying for National Board Certification 
  • The development of leadership and presentation skills
To continue the learning, the Academy and Institute connect participants to existing teacher networks, including the professional arts and education associations. Other institutes include the Curriculum Leadership Institute in the Arts II, III and the Arts Education Leadership Institute (AELI).

Assessment Development: ABC helps build the capacity of arts educators and others to engage in authentic arts assessment. Its close collaboration with the South Carolina Arts Assessment Program (SCAAP) has allowed ABC evaluation to include pilot tasks from the statewide arts assessment. Relevant ABC institutes for arts educators sequentially follow the Curriculum Leadership Institute in the Arts (CLIA) and include: 
  • Arts Assessment Institute – Classroom Assessment (AAI I): Arts teachers with no formal training in assessment tool development learn to relate curriculum, instruction, and assessment; create a variety of assessment tools, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Arts Assessment Institute – Assessment and Application in the Arts (AAI II): This additional training in developing and applying assessment tools to the arts helps students analyze tools, develop a standards-based assessment plan, construct student report cards, and study large-scale assessments.
Arts Content Development: Arts teachers seek to continue to develop their arts content skills, as the field changes, and as they seek to teach across the standards. These institutes also build on the introductory and leadership institutes. ABC offerings include: 
  • Technology: institutes working with technology and music, visual artsas well as dance and theatre. 
  • Arts teachers as artist institutes: offered in all four arts disciplines with dance, music, theatre and visual arts. These expand the artistic knowledge and skills of arts teachers to improve their ability to deliver quality, comprehensive standards based curricula, instruction, and assessment. They develop arts pedagogy needed to better teach the state arts standards (Example: music: composition and improvisation)
  • Arts teachers and the special learner institute: offers ways to adapt lesson plans and modify and align assessment strategies for special needs students

Other Educator Development: Working on the various aspects of the education system, ABC also works with other educators. Arts integration institutes for classroom teachers and administrators help orient them to the possibilities of teaching across the curriculum using the arts, a practice encouraged in ABC Schools. Through four summer institutes, ABC offers an introduction to visual and performing arts, multiple intelligences, and cultural community.

In addition, throughout its existence, ABC practices inquiry-based learning. Throughout its development, it has reflected, planned, and used research to improve practice. Both periodic evaluation and longer term detailed longitudinal studies provide it and others a road map for continued improvement of services offered to education communities teaching in and through the arts.

ABC Started through the National Endowment for the Arts – Arts in Schools Basic Education Grant of $20,000, matched by South Carolina Arts Commission to develop the ABC Project Blueprint. Early funding included a National Endowment for the Arts grant for $150,000 over 3 years to develop the steering partnership.

Recent funding for institutes comes from grants from South Carolina Department of Education, Arts Curricular grants, and the South Carolina Arts Commission ABC Advancement grants. Teachers use these grants to pay for attending these institutes.

School resources to participate in the ABC network and institutes include: 
  • US Department of Education Title 1 funds (including funding for a masters gallery and Eisenhower Funds 
  • Parent/ Teacher Organizations (PTO’s) 
  • Grant funds (state department of education curricular grant, PTO’s, private foundation, business partners, local and state arts councils) 
  • Business partners from the medical, religious, and food industry fields, among others – both school partners and individual teacher partners.

Findings :
The findings below arise from various independent evaluations over the first fifteen years of ABC’s work in education reform, network building, and professional development.

Education reform: More arts immersion, higher arts scores. Schools that spent more time in arts-immersion had higher student achievement in arts, as evaluated on the field test of music and visual arts assessment in development by the South Carolina Arts Assessment Program, which uses both multiple choice and performance tasks (Meyer, et al.; Seaman, Kim, and Meyer). These were also associated with parents and students rating their schools more highly (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer).

The deeper the arts immersion, the more two-way arts integration. As ABC schools and their teachers began to learn how to make arts integration work and adapt to a stronger focus on the arts in their schools, the quality of the arts integration changed in certain schools (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer). Arts integration is more prevalent at ABC schools than comparison schools and is most natural in arts-immersed schools (Seaman).
Arts immersion schools are not hurt in other subject areas. When compared with demographically similar schools using traditional instruction, evidence shows that arts-immersion schools perform nearly as well or better in English language arts, based on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests (PACT). Evidence mathematics performance is not adversely affected by participation in arts-immersed curriculum is also oebserved (Meyer, et al. p.45). When examining relationships between arts achievement, math, and English Language Arts, five schools exceeded poverty predictions in a combination of areas, including one in music, English Language Arts, and math, and another in music, visual arts, and English Language Arts (Yap, et al.). ABC students exhibit marked arts achievement. When evaluators look across the state at both ABC schools and non-ABC schools, assessing the health of arts education achievement in the state (Yap, et al.).
  • Most ABC schools scored better than predicted by poverty indicators in the SCAAP music multiple-choice assessments 
  • More ABC schools scored above average in visual arts performance 
  • Fewer ABC schools scored below average in music performance tasks.

Evaluator Seaman and others find arts teachers become more entrepreneurial over time in the ABC model site community. They learn how to write and receive grants and communicate in effective ways about their programs.

Educator networks: Involve educators and others in structuring arts education coalitions and you can change the system. State changes that occur seemingly as a result of the ABC and related arts education work include development of a strong arts education network and major increases in arts education funding including ongoing grants programs. Site changes include development of ABC advancement sites, arts magnet schools arising from the ABC model sites, and the creation of the Southeast Center for Dance Education as a needed educator resource (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer).

Involve teachers in state arts education networks to help link education to the standards. Seaman’s 10 year evaluation finds that the arts education teachers offer is more likely to be framework-based when the arts teacher is active in the state arts education network (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer).

Institutes: Planning time at institutes is valuable. The institutes provide focal times for educators to look ahead towards developing plans and making progress with school teams (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer).

Opportunities for Improvement (Seaman, Kim, and Meyer): 

  • Collaborative planning time continues to be an area needing improvement. 
  • Influence of the state’s high stakes standardized test Palmetto Achievement Challege Tests (PACT) negatively affects the ability to implement arts-based reform, with more class time spent in specific preparation for the test and less district support for the arts education reform. 
  • In some schools, the grant funding basis is fragile and lacks integration into the general educational budget. 
  • There still exists division between arts specialists and the teachers’ community about the value of state arts assessment.

For footnotes: Meyer, Patrick, et al. 2001-2001 Arts Education Project Year-End Report. Midway through the five year implementation process of ABC schools and districts. Meyer uses a matched comparison evaluation of ABC and non-ABC schools.

10 year evaluation by Michael A. Seaman, 1999: Methods include causal-comparative and descriptive methods of all ABC schools and 3 ABC Advancement Site school districts matched with demographically similar control sites. Documents collected included surveys, strategic plans, activity schedules at each school, brief observations of teaching, and interviews of the arts coordinators, teacher focus groups, and ABC personnel.

2002-2003 Year End Report by Michael Seaman. During this 4th year of a five year evaluation into school change from ABC project, eight ABC schools are examined in depth.

Lessons Learned:
District level: District coordination is critical to strong arts educator networks and school-cultural community collaboration, so district arts coordinators need to be well networked.

Advice on developing targeted institutes for professional development: 

Assess Needs. Conduct thorough needs assessment to discover the needs of teachers. Have a strong needs assessment based on research and assessment tools for evaluating the effectiveness of the professional development 

Be certain of your target audience. 

Make Connections. Cultivate relationships with arts education professors at university and college professional development sites and utilize their expertise in the institutes in order to develop stronger partnerships, if you are able. 

Publicize. Have a well developed plan with a myriad of delivery systems to publicize the institute. 

Plan. Plan a minimum of two years out from institute date for large institutes. 

Budget. Plan for an arts education budget/ professional development budget for start of year. Pull immediately needed arts and professional development resources from existing general budgets line items.

Evaluate. Have an outside evaluator evaluate each institute each year and make changes accordingly. Also plan for physical changes, such as a music or art room with storage, appropriate facilities.

Review and Critique. Utilize a cadre of master teachers and stakeholders (including higher education and others) to strategically review and critique the curriculum overview, institute rationale and syllabus while developing an institute.

Useful Tools:
South Carolina Arts Assessment Program – 10 year project to develop a standards-based visual and performing arts assessment to help arts educators and school districts assess students' arts achievement in relation to the South Carolina Visual and Performing Arts Curriculum Standards 2003. A project of South Carolina State Department of Education and the Office of Program Evaluation (OPE) in the College of Education, University of South Carolina:

Where We Stand on Arts Education - position paper brochure for advocacy by a coalition of South Carolina arts education stakeholders:

South Carolina's Arts in Basic Curriculum  Project: A History 1987 - 2007 written by Ray Doughty:

ABC Project, Funding Organization. Where We Stand on Arts Education. South Carolina: Arts as Basic Curriculum .

Curriculum Leadership Institute in the Arts. Curriculum Overview.: Curriculum Leadership Institute in the Arts, 2005.

Ellis, Dawn M., Editor. State Arts Education Partnership Profiles: South Carolina.: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

Gowan, Pamela J. Curriculum Leadership in the Arts: Summer Institute: Evaluation Report 2005.: Curriculum Leadership in the Arts, 2005.

Meyer, Patrick, et al. 2001-2001 Arts Education Project Year-End Report. South Carolina: Arts as Basic Curriculum , 2003.

Seaman, Michael, Do-Hong Kim, and J. Patrick Meyer. 2002-2003 Arts Education Project Year-End Report . South Carolina: University of South Carolina, 2004.

Seaman, Michael A. The Arts in Basic Curriculum Project: A Ten Year Evaluation: Looking at the Past and Preparing for the Future. SC: The Arts in Basic Curriculum.

---, Evaluator. The Arts in Basic Curriculum Project: Looking at the Past and Preparing for the Future. South Carolina: Arts in Basic Curriculum Project, 1999.

Seaman, Micheal, et al. A Study of the Effects of Arts Education Research Project: Year 2. South Carolina_: Arts as Basic Curriculum , 2001.

Seaman, Micheal A, and Karen Barton. A Study of the Effects of Arts Education Research Project: Year 1. South Carolina: Arts as Basic Curriculum , 2000.

South Carolina Arts Leadership for Success Academy. Course Syllabus 2005.: South Carolina Arts Leadership for Success Academy, 2005.

---. Curriculum Overview.: South Carolina Arts Leadership for Success Academy, 2005.

Yap, Ching Ching, et al. Arts Education Program in South Carolina Public Schools: 2004 Status Report. South Carolina: Office of Program Evaluation, College of Education, University of South Carolina, 2005.

Target Population:
Arts Administrators

Arts Specialists

Classroom Teachers

Education Administrators

Other Population

Professional Developers


Arts Discipline:




Visual Arts

Entry Points:







Education Thread:
Education Reform