New York City Department of Education

Paul L. King , Executive Director, Interim Acting
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers St., Room 210
New York, NY 10007




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Largest school district uses Blueprints for the Arts, master teacher/teaching artist teams, Annual Arts in Schools Reports, cultural arts partnerships and grant incentives to guide school leaders and educators through a sequential, standard-based approach to arts teaching and learning

Ten New York City school district regions
Hundreds of arts and cultural organizations across New York City

Large scale collaborations among New York City Department of Education and the vibrant New York City arts and culture community provide a roadmap for arts education improvement and levels of support to help teachers get there. The Department trains teams of master teachers and teaching artists to facilitate professional development for teachers across the regions, with priorities evolving with their needs. Regional arts providers coordinate these facilitator teams with school-based teams across the 1408 schools. As of 2006, a couple years into the initial Blueprint development, priorities include helping teachers learn how to develop units of instruction using backwards mapping (McTighe and Wiggins). Sharon Dunn explains, "The thing that’s really different now is that we have The Blueprint (for the Arts). Before, we had interest in arts and standards at the state level, but they were pretty basic and not specific enough. The blueprint gives us a course to follow….now we can say, we expect you to teach the arts, here’s a better look at what it would look like." Professional development may be more centralized or decentralized, depending on the priority of the year.

For instance, in the 2006-07 year, they are working with facilitator teams to help them learn to set goals using the arts blueprints, and structuring a unit from there. Using backward planning, they arrive at an appropriate assessment, given their goals. Facilitator teams will then meet three times with their teachers, walking them through the same process. Teachers will sketch out lessons that might move them towards their goals. Six to eight weeks later, teachers and facilitator teams will come back together and share what teachers are learning trying things in the classroom.

Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Art, Music, Dance, and Theatre: This roadmap defines and offers educators resources on how to develop a standards-based, high quality, road map for excellence in arts education across the schools and boroughs of New York City. The blueprint charts visual arts, music, theatre, and dance across grades and through the following strands:
  • Arts making: offers snapshots of what student learning could look like with mastery.
  • Literacy in the arts: the vocabulary and skills required for the discipline.
  • Making connections: social, cultural, and historical contexts.
  • Community and cultural resources: guidance for deep educational connection with the vast arts worlds and organizations of New York City.
  • Careers and life-long learning : linkage to skills relevant to students when they leave school, while grounded in the national and state arts learning standards, it expands upon them guiding with suggestions for educators and a universal call for collaboration.
Master mentor teams: Master teachers of art, music, dance, and theater team with master teaching artists from across New York City. The New York City Department of Education trains them, helping them learn to team facilitate a particular arts content area and relevant education priorities. Together, teams go into the ten regions of the district on a quarterly basis to work directly with teachers across the largest U.S. school district. Using the blueprints as a basis, teams help teachers improve their practice in each of the five strands.

Project ARTS: An initiative from the office of New York City Department of Education’s Chancellor, Project ARTS provides incentives, guidance, and resources to every school in the district to strengthen their art, music, dance, and theatre programs. In addition, it provides guidance on ways arts integration can ensure a rigorous arts component. A formula funding based on pupil enrollment works to supplement existing arts education budgets. In 2006, the budget held enough for every school to have an arts liaison. To provide an incentive for strengthening the arts specialist teaching workforce, 2005-06 Project ARTS allows funding to supplement arts specialist positions: 50% of elementary or middle school and 100% in high schools. Schools closing arts programs or firing arts specialists lose their eligibility for funding, to lessen the temptation to subsidize existing programs. The project: Encourages:
  • Planning to design local use of funds, particularly to support arts learning across grades and among disciplines.
  • Supporting planning, school staff professional development, curriculum resources, arts and cultural services, direct student services, materials and equipment.
  • Participation in district level professional development, including:
    • Introduction to the Blueprint
    • 2-Day training for dance and theatre teachers K-12
  • Project ARTS Liaison at the school, preferably an Assistant Principal who can participate in planning meetings and disseminate information across the site. Liaisons coordinate activities paid for with Project ARTS money and attend regular meetings with the Regional Arts Supervisors to learn about professional development opportunities for arts specialists and cultural community partnerships and resources. Generally, funding for Project ARTS liaisons comes out of school budgets.
  • Project ARTS Advisory Committee team, preferable as a subcommittee of the school’s Leadership Team, to help plan and monitor the use of funds and develop ways for arts specialists and community arts personnel to collaborate with other educators to improve education.

Regional arts supervisors. These arts coordinators visit their schools, and link with the local arts liaisons supported by Project ARTS dollars. Visits every few months help supervisors get to know the arts teachers and identify new master teachers for the facilitator teams, as existing teachers move and retire.

Linkage to cultural community. Representatives from the New York City arts and cultural community, as well as teaching artists participated with teachers in the development of the Blueprint. The department offers a compendium guide to approved cultural providers. The Department links schools with intensive private material and equipment donation programs, including VH1 Save the Music Program and Materials for the Arts.

Grant funds leveraged by local education communities include a Schubert Foundation theatre education grant, matching a school’s commitment to hiring a theatre teacher with a $1000 towards theatre education and production for the next three years, as long as they retain the teacher.

As of 2006, each school receives a Project ARTS allocation of $63.44 per capita based on pupil enrollment. Guidelines for spending of the budget are as follows:
  1. Funds may be spent on the following:
    • Direct arts education services to students
    • Planning and/or professional development related to arts education for school staff
    • Materials and supplies
    • Curriculum resources
    • Arts and cultural services, e.g., in-school residencies or admissions to exhibitions/performances
    • Arts-related equipment.
  2. Funds may be used toward the creation of an additional certified arts position, up to 50% in elementary and middle schools and 100% in high schools.
  3. Funds may be used for extended day programs only when they are based in the school's instructional program and, where appropriate, credit-bearing.

Findings :
Post-professional development seminar evaluations indicate teachers are “generally very happy with the work,” particularly when it involves hands on learning. The planning and thinking work may be less popular, but is still seen as important area of growth for teachers as they reach beyond their comfort zones.

Lessons Learned:
Critical elements include:

Arts Blueprint
  • The arts blueprint provides a specific, standard course of action for teachers to follow, bringing state standards to life.
  • Blueprint thinking leads to teachers more holistically approaching arts instruction, beyond the concert or exhibition, in a rounder more comprehensive way. New York City arts supervisor Sharon Dunn suggests children are engaging in deeper learning as a result of it.
  • Principals and supervisors now know what to look for in arts education, it helps raise the bar.
Local arts committees
  • Local arts committees create templates for what teaching and learning should look like in each of the arts. With these exemplars, New York City Department of Education can help others see what children could achieve.
Continued vigilance
  • “It’s an uphill battle no matter what,” according to Dunn. Even during the latest arts renaissance, continued pressures from standardized assessment and current educational priorities remind Dunn that continued vigilance and support seems to be needed to continue the overall progress in the capacity of teachers and schools to help young people learn the arts.

Useful Tools:
Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts
VH1 Save the Music Foundation
Grants of musical instruments to elementary schools that have or will hire a certified music teacher and need resources to initiate an instrumental music program.\application  

Arts and Cultural Education Service Guide: A Compendium of Arts and Cultural Services for Schools

Dunn, Sharon, Senior Instructional Manager for Arts Education. Project ARTS 2005 2006: Guidelines for Participation and Summary and Evaluation Forms . 2005. 28 July 2006.

Dunn, Sharon. Letter to New York City Principals. 12 Apr. 2006.

McTighe, Jay, and Grant Wiggins. Understanding by Design. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

Target Population:
Arts Administrators

Arts Specialists

Classroom Teachers

Education Administrators

Arts Discipline:


Interdisciplinary arts and other subjects



Visual Arts

Entry Points:







Education Thread: