Atlanta’s nationally acclaimed Alliance Theatre has been awarded a $1.1 million 2008 Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education through its Office of Innovation and Improvement. The grant money will be distributed over a four-year period and will be used in planning, researching and implementing programs to introduce young English Language Learners (ELL) to the theatre art form and build verbal communication abilities. There were 74 applicants for the grant nation wide. The Alliance ranked first out of 15 awardees.
“The Department of Education’s award of this grant validates the Alliance’s commitment and hard work in strengthening the role of the Arts in schools while reaching out in a big way to our youth in the Atlanta community,” said Sharon Brewer, Director of Education at the Alliance. “We are determined to develop an efficient and impactful model that can become a standard for assisting young academically at-risk students nation wide.”
The grant funds a unique collaboration between the Alliance Theatre’s Wolf Trap program, Georgia State University and Fulton County Schools. It is designed to create an adaptation of the previously developed arts integration model to address the language learning needs of young English Language Learners at risk for academic failure and to support the professional development of their teachers. The Department of Education awarded the Alliance Theatre Education Department $275,000 for 2008 as a planning and research year. They also awarded $275,000 per year for three implementing years—2009, 2010 and 2011.
This federal grant will finance 100 percent of the total costs of the program with no funds by non-government sources.
The 2008 grant will address the wide achievement gap separating language minority children from their English-only speaking classmates and will result in an enriched model designed to assist other theatres, arts agencies, school systems and Wolf Trap Early Learning sites across the nation that serve young children. Locally, the project will serve 1,440 kindergarten students in 24 classrooms in Fulton County, providing more than 28,000 student contact hours of arts programming.
Key components of the 2008 grant program include expanded professional development for kindergarten teachers; field trips to Alliance Theatre productions; and bringing arts to schools through extended classroom residencies.
In 2008, the Alliance Education Department completed the third year of an $800,000 grant awarded in 2005. That grant funded the creation, expansion and empirical testing of a model program of arts integration for young children in Fulton County Schools. It involved professional learning opportunities for teachers through almost 70 in-school residencies and impacted more than 1,200 low-income students by providing approximately 16,000 contact hours of instruction. Preliminary evidence from the 2005 project demonstrated that the new model enhanced the development of language and emotional understanding of kindergarten children.
Data collected over the three-year period showed that participating students enjoyed significant improvement in semantics (word meaning), syntax (grammar) and story writing ability. These results suggest the Georgia Wolf Trap program enhanced kindergarten students’ language development and that this enhancement will result in improved academic performance in the long term.
Under this grant, the Alliance Theatre Institute for Educators/Georgia Wolf Trap Program serves 15 kindergarten teachers and classrooms in three Fulton County schools where approximately 74 percent of the students receive free/reduced school lunches. It is expected that the expanded program will serve more than 45 classrooms by the end of the grant period.
The Alliance is affiliated with the National Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and is one of 16 sites nationwide. All of the results and materials developed as part of the grant program will be made available to Wolf Trap sites through the country.
The Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants Program supports the further development, implementation and expansion of standards-based education programs and the integration of arts instruction into the core curriculum. Grants are awarded to both local education agencies (LEAs) and non-profit arts organizations that work in partnership with LEAs.
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