What’s going on?
Funds were secured and teachers were retained, but the elementary programs were “realigned,” with the arts losing dedicated instructional time to social studies and science. Library Science specialists were almost entirely eliminated, leaving just three to serve a school district with 14 schools and more than 12,000 students and their instructional needs.
In August 2012, Upper Darby School District informed parents that the instructional model known as Arts Integration would replace the dedicated instructional time previously given to the progressive, skills-based art and music curriculum that was in place in the elementary schools. The District stated that this change was necessary to address the ongoing reading and math achievement crisis, as measured by the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (known as the PSSA).
Beginning in September 2012, dedicated instruction in the subjects of art, music, library science, and physical education in Upper Darby elementary schools was reduced from 40 minutes each week to:
- 30 minutes every other week for art and music,
- 30 minutes every seven school days for library science, and
- 30 minutes each week for physical education.
Under this new plan, during the first half of the school year, the weeks alternated between an A and B schedule. On A weeks, art and music classes are each taught in a 30-minute block of dedicated instructional time. On B weeks, art and music are integrated into a 60-minute block as part of the existing social studies or science curriculum, using a model known as Arts Integration (AI). Learn more about AI in the Education section of this site.
What is Upper Darby REALLY doing?
Despite press releases by the district announcing its implementation of an AI program, Upper Darby is not instituting a true AI program in its schools. It is actually following a co-teaching, arts-enhanced method of curriculum and instruction, which is inferior to the 40 minutes weekly of progressive, skills-based art, music, library science, and physical education instruction that students were receiving on a weekly basis prior to this school year.
Although social studies and science are enhanced by projects and the presence of a second teacher, this comes at the expense of more than half of the time previously given for skills-based, progressive curriculum and instruction in art, music, library science, and physical education.
Lastly, plans to improve math and reading achievement levels have not been addressed through the current AI program, as the curriculum for those subjects has not changed.
According to UDSD, modifications were made for the 2013-2014 school year. Although the instructional time was reduced to 30 minutes, students are now getting dedicated related arts instruction in art, music and physical education. Library Science instruction is not yet restored. UDPC continues to advocate for standards-based library science curriculum and weekly instruction by a specialist toward those State standards.