Christine Holajter photoChristine Holajter led a group of teachers to adopt an alternative evaluation of learning for the arts and humanities that included improving curriculum and instruction.

School:  Straub Elementary
District: Mason County Schools
State:  Kentucky
Source: Hope Street Group 

As the related arts teacher leader in my K-2 primary school, it is my responsibility to coordinate the collaboration of all related arts teachers in evaluating the arts and humanities curriculum, assessments, and professional development.

Several years ago I heard about the development of the Kentucky Arts and Humanities Program Review, an alternative form of student evaluation for the arts and humanities. In order to assure that the teachers on my related arts team were well informed, I learned as much about the Program Review as possible in conferences, professional development and webinars, and I brought back what I had learned to the related arts teachers in my building. We performed an initial review of the requirements for the program review, which indicated that we would score very low if instruction and the curriculum guiding the instruction remained the same.

The related arts teachers and I had a goal to be completely prepared for the first year of program review implementation. Over two years, I led the related arts teachers through a series of professional development and work sessions that provided training in the upcoming program review, aligned our content areas with national and state standards, rewrote the curriculum to include benchmark skills and SMART goals for each arts and humanities area, and increased focus and clarity on dance and drama which previously lacked a curriculum in our school or district.

As a result, our school was able to achieve a proficient rating. The related arts teachers at Straub Elementary are now confident that their teaching is aligned with state and national standards. Our teachers collaborate with outside arts organizations and encourage guest artists to visit our building to share. Students are achieving at even greater levels in the arts and humanities than ever before because of the proactive and hard work of the related arts team of teachers.

Our greatest success can be observed in the learning outcomes of the students we serve. Students are not only better performers, musicians, and artists but they are able to talk about the arts using appropriate vocabulary. They make connections across content areas in our building. Students are able to reflect on their own and others’ performance/products in order to improve future performances and products. Other schools look to our arts and humanities program as a guideline for increased student achievement. The community has become more involved in our programs and attendance has increased for extra-curricular events.

As with anything one does in life, there is always room for improvement. The related arts teachers at Straub still strive to improve the Arts and Humanities program through continued evaluation and modification necessary to achieving distinguished status in all areas of the Arts and Humanities Program Review. Yet while we continue to move forward, I am enjoying the success of my efforts that began years ago to “see a need, fill a need” in my school. As part of my individual growth as a teacher leader, I took an additional step forward in my leadership to become a Hope Street Group Fellow to engage teachers from across the state in educational policy and reform which includes a new teacher evaluation system for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I hope I can use what I have learned from my success to impact education across the state.

[Editor’s note: Christine Holajter is currently teaching at Georgetown Middle School in Scott County.]

A is for Art