"Tiger Team" Report Describes the VAPA Universe at SDUSD

Last spring, the SDAAE took on the herculean task of investigating the universe of arts education instruction at the San Diego Unified School District. The effort was part of a District wide initiative by Board of Education members Scott Barnett and Kevin Beiser to have community volunteers review various programs and departments within the District and to identify efficiencies, potential revenue opportunities and possible cost savings. They called these volunteer initiatives Tigers Teams after a military term for ad hoc committees. The resulting report is titled: Visual and Performing Arts Tiger Team Report: Understanding the District's arts education ecosystem to enable better decision-making on matter of policy and budget.

Our Tiger Team brought in both experts and community members to examine what became referred to as "the VAPA Universe". What it found was a robust and high quality array of visual and performing (VAPA) arts education curriculum and instruction District wide and a high functioning VAPA Department at the Central Office. Based on 2011 data, arts education is available in about 180 of 228 schools and reaches a broad geographic area - which suggests relatively equitable access to arts education among diverse communities. However, it also found that only 41% of the 132,000 students participate in District implemented arts education instruction and that dance and theatre are available to very few students (4% and 10% respectively). Music instruction however is available to 169 out of 228 schools (59% of students) with a strong emphasis on elementary instruction through a dedicated team of itinerant music teachers. The Team also provided readers with a "primer" on the arts education budget - noting that community arts resources account for between $3 and $5 million donated services and instruction each year. And suggested that budget cuts are often considered only in the context of the Department's $3.2 million budget and do not take into account the impact of layoffs to art teachers at the secondary level which are accounted for separately.

Finally, the Team provided a series of recommendations which include:

1) Preserving and enhancing existing arts education capacities;

2) Developing new resources for arts education; and

3) Re-thinking the future of arts education to reflect changed circumstances.

What's Next?

District administration worked closely with Tiger Team member and SDAAE co-founder Victoria Plettner-Saunders to craft its response, which is highly supportive of the recommendations. Now we await the Board of Education's response. They are currently scheduled to discuss it at the regular meeting on March 6.

Read the Tiger Team Report