A+ Schools as a Sustainable Practice

Of the initial cohort of twenty-five schools that became A+ in the summer of 1995, twelve are still A+ Schools.  Years of evaluation and research point to three key factors for this longevity.

  1. Emphasis on high quality professional development.  A+ develops teachers as professionals who play multiple roles and learners and leaders, take ownership of the curriculum, collaborate with each other on professional practice, and take collective responsibility for student outcomes.
     
  2. The value of the network.  Learning alongside a peer-group of other schools reinforces the application of the A+ practice.  Schools in the network offer each other models, hold each other accountable, and share any sense of risk.
     
  3. The central role of the arts.  Arts integration and instruction gives schools a focus, a common purpose, and an identity.  Students and teachers report that the arts make school is more enjoyable and engaging.

While principal turnover often leads to demise of a whole-school reform, that has not been the case with A+.  Evaluators observe that new principals see students enjoying learning, teachers enjoying teaching, and parents pleased by both.  They also see changes in school climate as well as in student achievements.  The arts have also made their schools distinctive and ‘marketable’ as open enrollment has become more common across North Carolina.

Noblit, George W. (2009).  Creating and Sustaining Arts-Based School Reform:  The A+ Schools Program.  Routledge, page 161.

Creating and Sustaining Arts-Based School Reform

Based on eight years of research conducted in North Carolina schools, George W. Noblit wrote a book titled Creating and Sustaining Arts-Based School Reform: The A+ Schools Program (Routledge, 2009). The book examines the relationship between arts-based school reform and improved cultural and academic outcomes of schools, identifying A+ Schools to be a sustainable option for school reform. 

According to the publisher, the landmark study is “a comprehensive, longitudinal analysis of arts in education initiatives that discusses the political, fiscal and curricular implications inherent in taking the arts seriously.” It offers a model that can be adapted in other schools and districts. It presents the arts as a way of revitalizing and energizing schools.