Why teach arts and music? Why are the arts important?
The arts are fundamental to a well-rounded education for all students.
When a child envisions and creates, imagination is engaged, the act fosters creativity, the child enters a world of conceptualization and complex problem-solving, and begins to develop the cognitive skills necessary to learning. This is true in all arts disciplines. The arts reflect and shape cultures, encourage people to exchange diverse views, promote cultural understanding, and build healthy communities. Literary and visual arts, music, drama and dance prepare students to confidently interact in their world with empathy, joy and a sense of fulfillment.
Arts education benefits students in ways that other curricula cannot. It deepens expression and interpretation, and accommodates individuals’ strengths and learning styles. It challenges learners to develop skills needed to perceive, inquire, create, reflect and critique. When students are offered quality arts education continuously throughout their school year and are given the opportunity to build upon and refine acquired skills, they will carry those skills from the school, to the workplace, to society at large.
To read the SFUSD Arts Education Master Plan and view the video, click here.
What is my child learning in arts and music?
The Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California public schools details content standards for arts disciplines. The Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards also specify age-appropriate expectations, specific learning outcomes, and ways to assess student learning. The Content Standards are organized under the categories of Dance, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. Within each of those categories, there are learning objectives grouped by Artistic Perception, Creative Expression, Historical and Cultural Context, and Aesthetic Valuing. To see the specific learning outcomes for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, click here.
What do the schools offer?
All SFUSD Elementary Schools have a VAPA Instructor two full days per week as part of the VAPA Generalist Program, thanks to the voter approved Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF). Elementary schools with over 550 students have a VAPA Instructor three full days per week. The program is designed so 100% of the students in each school participate in these weekly classes. The arts focus (Dance, Visual Art, or Music) is determined by the school staff and community in partnership with the Visual and Performing Arts Department. Additionally, all schools receive Elementary Arts Program funding (EAP) for Artists in Residence Programs through VAPA. Schools strive to provide a balanced program for their students in partnership with these residencies.
All SFUSD Elementary Schools also have an Instrumental Music instructor for 4th and 5th grade students. These VAPA teachers instruct classes in instrumental and vocal music so that students develop skills in musical technique and music reading. For K-8 schools, this includes grades four through eight. Music lessons in violin, flute, clarinet, and trumpet, are taught in homogeneous groups for beginning students. Other instruments may be studied such as trombone or saxophone only with the approval of the music specialist. Music lessons are given on a schedule of one day per week.
For a complete reference to all Elementary School arts offerings, below is a link to the Public Education Enrichment Fund/Visual and Performing Arts Department Elementary School Profile. Click here
Visual and Performing Arts course offerings in Middle and High Schools vary from school to school, but typically include Orchestra, Band, Visual Art, Dance, and Theater. For a complete list of courses and course descriptions in the secondary schools, click here for Middle School and click here for High School.
What can I do to get my child into quality arts programs?
The parent role in arts program selection is extremely important. When parents visit schools as possibilities for their children, there are many things to ask. The arts are clearly among the most open to parent input, as there are many different offerings depending on a range of factors that can vary from school to school and from year to year. For example, your child is moving from Grade 5 to Grade 6 after an excellent K-5 Dance experience at School A. As you research middle schools, you find out that not every school has a dance program. The choice to attend a school primarily because of its arts programs is new to SFUSD, and we are working to make these connections and serve the needs of families.
The key is to attend the meetings where these decisions are being made and choices discussed. The process of growing our arts programs will include parents throughout, and we need to keep the parent voice front and center to shape any policies moving forward.
What weekend and summer programs are available for my child?
The SFUSD Visual and Performing Arts Department currently offers Saturday Arts Classes at two middle schools, and enrollment is open to all Middle School students in SFUSD. Classes are offered in Dance, Drama, Digital Arts, Vocal Music, Band, Orchestra, Drawing and Painting, Guitar, and Literary Arts.
The SFUSD Visual and Performing Arts Department also offers a full term of Summer School in all of the arts disciplines for Middle School Students.
There are countless weekend and summer programs for students of all ages with the many Arts Providers in San Francisco. Click here to see a list of Arts Providers and links to each of their organizations and program descriptions.
What can parents and parent organizations do to support the arts?
Every school has a School Site Council (SSC) and every SSC is charged with overseeing the development and monitoring of their school’s Balanced Scorecard (BSC), the annual plan for school goals and activities. Parents at each school are elected to serve terms on their SSC, however attendance at SSC meetings is typically open to all parents. The school budgets should be aligned with the goals of the BSC. Visual and Performing Arts are included in the SFUSD BSC Examples and Exemplars for the BSC and the Central Services Supports Guide. These documents provide specific information and guidance for school planning.
Many schools also provide resources in addition to what is centrally allocated from VAPA, through school fundraising efforts such as PTAs and PTOs, private donors, or applying for individual grants. Those schools entrust their funds to SFUSD to increase their VAPA teacher’s days per week at their school, or direct the funds toward Artist in Residence programs.
How do the arts integrate into other areas?
The academic content areas, Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science, lend themselves to visual art and music integration all the time, in all grades, Kindergarten through 12th Grade. The amount of arts integration in each classroom each day is determined by individual teachers, grade level teams and departments, and their lesson planning. The district wide emphasis on increasing project based learning in the schools is a step in the right direction to integrate art, music, technology, and student collaboration in all content areas. The interactive content areas in the Visual and Performing Arts, that use the kind of methodologies that now with Common Core every other content area wants to emulate, will increase students’ academic achievement, critical thinking skills, and self worth. Visual and Performing Arts are also extremely valuable for English Language Learners, both in English Language Development classes, as well as in distinct Visual and Performing Arts classes.
The SFUSD Visual and Performing Arts department believes that arts integration is important, but arts integration does not replace the extremely valuable teaching and learning in the arts as a discrete discipline. California Education Code 5120(g) and 51220(e) state, “the adopted course of study for grades 1 to 6, inclusive, and grades 7 to 12 inclusive, shall include instruction in the following areas of study: Visual and Performing Arts, including instruction in the subjects of dance, music, theater, and visual arts, aimed at the development of aesthetic appreciation and the skills of creative expression.”