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Countywide partnerships boost access to high-quality arts education for San Diego students

Arts education has been shown to benefit children by increasing creativity and confidence, improving motor function and academic performance, and fostering decision-making skills, focus and perseverance.

Yet for children in K-12 schools throughout the country, arts education has dwindled in recent decades — and in some cases, been cut entirely. For more than 500,000 students attending nearly 780 schools in San Diego County, the San Diego County Office of Education and its community partners understand the lasting impact that arts education can have on kids.

“All San Diego County children deserve access to high-quality visual and performing arts education, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make,” said Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold. “The arts provide a crucial link to engaging students in other academic fields and help students develop the critical and creative-thinking skills that are necessary for success in college, career and beyond.”

San Diego COE has sought to ensure high-quality arts education for every student through its Arts Empower San Diego program, supported through the collective impact of a motivated community of arts advocates. To accomplish these lofty goals, Arts Empower seeks to build leadership in and through arts education; promote advocacy to strengthen arts education; encourage and assist districts in all phases of the arts education strategic planning process; foster meaningful partnerships between educational entities and community stakeholders; facilitate professional learning opportunities; and measure access to equitable arts education.

The county office, in partnership with the Southern Counties California Arts Project, also works through the San Diego Area Arts Leadership Community to meaningfully engage school and district arts leaders in professional learning. Leadership development focuses on instruction and student learning aligned with the new California Arts Standards. Through collaborative observation, discourse and reflection, the capacity of arts leaders is strengthened as they support educators in their district. The arts leadership community also investigates arts education topics and current research to maintain awareness of issues and policies impacting arts education throughout the state and provides a system of support for arts leaders as they implement a Strategic Arts Education Plan.

Meanwhile, the collective of arts organizations and artists known as the Arts Education Resource Organization is dedicated to building bridges between schools and the arts community. AERO began in 2006 with the vision that all San Diego County students have access to engaging, relevant, quality arts education. Members meet throughout the year to network, share best practices, collaborate and participate in professional learning.

These combined efforts ensure that all students throughout San Diego County, regardless of the school they attend, can experience the benefits of arts education.