The Whole Schools Initiative

Our History

Phase I: Whole Schools Project (1991-1998):

  • Began in 1991 as a response to “back to basics” school reform
  • Characterized by the involvement of every student and teacher in a school
  • Called for the integration of the arts into daily classroom instruction and sequential, comprehensive instruction in dance, drama, visual arts, and music by certified arts specialists
  • Piloted in six elementary schools throughout the state, including Pierce Street Elementary School in Tupelo
  • Grants and technical assistance offered to schools
  • Evaluation results
    • increased standardized test scores
    • increased community involvement and support
    • parental involvement tripled at one school
    • teacher morale improved overall
    • decreased absenteeism among both students and teachers
    • decreased discipline referrals
    • school environments transformed visually and culturally
    • “authentic” assessment increased
    • schedules were created that allowed for substantive planning between classroom teachers and arts specialists that resulted in exemplary arts-integrated thematic units
  • Evaluation team identified the following components as essential to the success of the model:
    • on-going, apposite professional development
    • leadership support and training for principals, superintendents, and project directors
    • continued internal and external evaluation
    • establishment of mentors within key groups

In 1996, Mississippi State University was commissioned by MAC and MAAE to conduct a survey on the status of arts instruction in Mississippi public schools that revealed the poverty of arts instruction in Mississippi schools. Among the findings: one full-time music teacher for every 840 students, including high school band programs; one full-time visual art teacher for every 3,150 students; one full-time drama teacher for every 17,848 students; and one full-time dance teacher for every 31,235 students. Research conducted more recently revealed that, in 1999, the ratios of arts teachers to students remain little changed.

Phase II: Whole Schools Initiative (1998-the present):

  • Elementary, middle and high schools now participate
  • Elementary/middle models geographically located – Delta, North, Central, South
  • Individual programs are driven by a five-year strategic plan
  • Two essential components: the use of arts teachers and visiting artists in the areas of dance, drama, music, visual art, creative writing and folk arts to strengthen the place of the arts as a core academic subject in its own right; and the integration of the arts in all academic subjects in order to increase student success in these subjects
  • Support available to schools: program director, grant funds, technical assistance (strategic planning, grant writing, etc.), mentoring (field advisors, senior schools), resources, and sequential professional development (summer institutes and retreats)
  • Comprehensive project evaluation through a national assessment team
  • Specialized training for administrators, Mississippi artists, field advisors, etc.