Only two percent of the students at Jackie Robinson Middle School met the state goal on the eighth grade Connecticut Mastery Test. In a school district with the lowest academic achievement rate in Connecticut, Nilda Morales, arts supervisor for the New Haven public schools, said she hopes that funneling nearly $97,888 in government funds into a burgeoning arts program might make the difference.
Last week, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro announced that a Department of Education grant will fund an “Arts at the Core of Learning” project at Jackie Robinson Middle School, where 86 percent of the students live at or below the poverty line. According to DeLauro’s press release, the project is designed to create and revamp arts and cultural programs, both in the classroom and after school.
“The arts make the learning exciting,” Morales said.
The New Haven Public Schools’ description of the project states that the grant money will be applied over the next three years to integrate arts into other classes and to establish art as a strong stand-alone subject. In addition, for students at the school, dropouts and borderline students — those at risk for dropping out — there will be an after-school arts and cultural program.
The money will also establish a three-year development program for teachers at the school, focusing on core subjects such as language arts, English, bilingual education, social studies, and art.
“This is great news for the students at Jackie Robinson Middle School,” DeLauro said in a press release. “The addition of the ‘Arts at the Core of Learning’ program expands on the success of the New Haven Empowerment Zone by introducing an arts-in-learning educational curriculum.”
Jackie Robinson Middle School, located on Fournier Street, lies in the center of New Haven’s Empowerment Zone. In January, 1999, the Department of Housing and Urban Development designated New Haven as an Empowerment Zone based on the city’s poverty level and economic troubles. Urban areas designated as Empowerment Zones have access to $100 million in federal grants over the course of 10 years.
Though the Department of Education grant was not part of the grants given to Empowerment Zones, the New Haven Public Schools indicated in its project abstract that the grant would benefit students living in an Empowerment Zone.
To further help the “Arts at the Core of Learning” program, notable New Haven organizations such as Yale University, the New Haven Ballet Company, and the New Haven Symphony have been enlisted as partners for the project. Professionals from these organizations will work with the teachers to help them incorporate arts into their classes.
Every year, DeLauro’s office holds a grant forum to review New Haven organizations seeking federal money. Upon review and approval, she can then support an organization by putting her name behind it, as she did with the grant for Jackie Robinson Middle School.