The Kennedy Center Education Department

Changing Education Through The Arts (CETA)

An education reform effort focusing on teachers’ professional learning


Interested in visiting a CETA school?

Send us an email request and the Kennedy Center will be glad to arrange a visit. (Individual CETA schools are unable to schedule these visits.)

The CETA program has grown out of decades of successful experience providing professional learning for teachers in arts integration.

Since 1976 and continuing today, the Kennedy Center offers professional learning opportunities to individual teachers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to help them make the arts an integral part of every child’s education.

Given the growing interest in arts integration, the Kennedy Center began to focus some of its efforts on reaching all teachers within a school with intensive professional learning. To accomplish this goal, the Kennedy Center established Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) in 1999.

The program set out to examine how a sustained professional learning program in arts integration based on national, state, and local standards and best practices in professional learning could yield changes across an entire school in the way teachers teach and the way students learn. The program also set out to examine how collaborative professional learning models in arts integration would affect the school culture—moving teachers away from isolation and toward an interactive and supportive community of learners.

Over the years, the CETA program has gradually expanded and, in 2011, serves over 400 teachers in 16 schools in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The goals of the CETA program are to:

  • Establish a network of schools committed to arts integration as an approach to teaching that yields both increased student learning and motivation to learn.
  • Build commitment to and skilled teaching practice for arts integration within entire schools.
  • Develop teachers’ abilities to plan, lead, and assess quality arts integration.
  • Create school cultures that support intensive, sustained teacher learning and collaboration.
  • Share knowledge with other organizations interested in developing similar programs.

Key Features

The CETA program has five key features:

  1. Shared Definition of Arts Integration
  2. Whole School Implementation
  3. Professional Learning with Emphasis on Classroom Implementation
  4. Partnership Between an Arts Organization and School/School District
  5. Ongoing Assessment and Evaluation for Continuous Program Development

1. Shared Definition of Arts Integration

The foundation for CETA’s program is a shared understanding of arts integration among all key players including teachers, principals, administrators, teaching artists, arts organization staff, and parents.

2. Whole School Implementation

The CETA program works toward reaching all the staff members within a school, building participation by teams of teachers incrementally over time.

  • Teams of Teachers

    CETA’s professional learning model organizes teachers into small, collaborative groups (professional learning communities) both in courses and back in their schools to provide support for each other’s efforts to learn more about and successfully implement arts integration in the classroom. Teams of teachers help to create a critical mass that helps to overcome inertia and resistance and propels change.

    “School-wide participation has motivated and energized our staff. It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate and work together on a shared vision of arts integration.” --Paddy Waldner, teacher, Abingdon Elementary School, Arlington Public Schools, Virginia

  • Classroom Teachers and Arts Specialists

    Participating teachers include generalists, subject area specialists, (such as reading, English language learners) and arts specialists. All play a pivotal role in making arts integration a regular instructional strategy. Arts specialists, with their expertise in their art forms (visual arts, music, dance, and/or drama), play a central, and often leadership role, in supporting their colleagues’ work. Each year, arts specialists participate in their own professional learning workshops and examine ways to support teachers’ efforts to learn about an art form and implement arts integration.

    “As a music teacher at an arts-integrated school, I have suddenly become a part of everyone’s classroom, as we collaborate together to create ‘informances.’ I now work musical concepts into a large unit of study that corresponds with what students are learning in the regular classroom, making both the music and the social context connect in a more meaningful way.” --Rebecca Stump, general music and band teacher, Lafayette Elementary School, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, DC

  • Led by Knowledgeable and Motivated School Administrators

    Leadership in the CETA program is shared with school principals and other school district administrators, thus ensuring that the program meets their needs. This shared leadership promotes a sense of ownership and commitment.

    CETA school administrators know the program goals and structure; understand arts integration as an instructional strategy; attend to the change process within the school; provide time within the school day for teachers’ learning and collaboration; promote long-term program growth within the school; and develop support for the program in the community and school district.

3. Professional Learning With Emphasis on Classroom Implementation

  • Changing Needs

    Many long-held assumptions about how students learn and how teachers should teach no longer hold. Where students were once expected to be passive learners, they are now expected to be active ones. Where teachers were once dispensers of knowledge, they now play many roles—motivating, facilitating, and serving as resource experts. Many teachers, increasingly alert to these changes and the need for alternative ways to help all students learn, seek new and exciting ways of engaging their students.

    The idea of “the arts for learning” is new for many teachers. Professional development offered in the CETA program helps teachers learn more about the content and processes of art forms, become familiar with a definition for arts integration, and provides examples of arts integration practice. Courses help teachers create student-centered, supportive learning environments where creativity, higher order thinking, and reflection are nourished.

  • Intensive, Sustained, Multi-year

    Recognizing that change is a long-term process, the CETA program provides teachers with intensive, sustained professional learning over multiple years. This ongoing learning allows time for teachers to gain knowledge and skills in implementing arts integration and provides the support teachers need to make arts integration a regular and seamless part of their approach to teaching.

  • Formal Instruction Followed by Implementation Supports

    To support teacher learning and its transfer to the classroom, the CETA program offers both formal instruction, such as workshops, courses, and institutes, followed by in-school supports, such as demonstration teaching, arts coaching, and study groups. The in-school supports provide teachers with opportunities for guided practice and feedback as they use the new teaching strategies in the classroom.

  • Voluntary Participation

    In the early stages of the CETA program, teachers volunteer for participation. Working with a core group of interested teachers enables the program to begin on a strong footing. The experiences of the core group are critical in building participation from additional teachers in the following years. As the program develops, this core group is likely to take on leadership roles. In the later stages of the program, principals are clear about their expectation that more and more teachers will participate. Additionally, as teacher turnover allows for hiring new staff members, CETA principals tend to select teachers whose philosophy is aligned with arts integration.

  • Guided by Teacher Choice

    Offering choice in professional learning is a significant motivating factor for adult learners. They tend to be clear and focused about what they want to learn, and appreciate the opportunity to choose which arts integration strategies they will study. The CETA program offers teachers choice of workshops/courses as well as choice of the teaching artists/arts educators who will assist them in the classroom.

  • Led by Specially-Trained Instructors

    CETA’s formal instruction (i.e., workshops, courses) and implementation supports (i. e., demonstration teaching, coaching) are led by specially-trained teaching artists and arts educators.

    Over the course of a few years, the Kennedy Center staff members guide course leaders through a process in which they develop, test, and refine their instruction. Additionally, these Kennedy Center course instructors learn protocols for effective demonstration teaching and may participate in training to become arts coaches. They also attend annual Retreats to learn about emerging issues and current research about arts learning. Instructors whose work goes through this rigorous development process are invited to become part of the Kennedy Center’s roster of national teaching artists.

  • Supported by Collaboration and Networking

    The CETA program strives for participation by teams of teachers, knowing that learning is strongest when it is collegial, collaborative, and sustained. Team members include the principal or assistant principal. When administrators study with teachers, the barriers that traditionally separate them from teachers are broken, their understanding of the program’s content and strategies is broadened, and their awareness of the organizational supports needed to promote collaborative work and instructional change is sharpened.

    With multiple schools involved in the program, there are many opportunities for networking among teachers from different schools to share ideas.

4. Partnership Between an Arts Organization and School/School District

The CETA program is a partnership between the Kennedy Center and each of the participating 16 schools. The partners sign formal agreements that outline each organization’s commitments and delineate roles and responsibilities.

5. Ongoing Assessment and Evaluation for Continuous Program Development

  • Reflection and Revision as Standard Practice

    The CETA program is committed to excellence and, toward that end, engages in ongoing reflection and revision as standard practice. A culture of reflection allows program administrators and participants to examine how well the current strategies are achieving the program’s goals and to determine needed revisions. As the school’s and the Kennedy Center’s needs and interests evolve, the program responds and adjusts to meet them.

  • Informal and Formal Methods of Assessment and Evaluation

    The CETA program uses both informal and formal methods of assessment and evaluation to gauge teachers’ learning about arts integration, student learning, and the impact of the CETA professional learning model on the school culture. Informal discussions, meetings, and more formal interviews and surveys are used formatively to guide the program’s development and, summatively, to determine the program’s impact and quality. Additionally, three independent evaluation studies have documented the impact of the program.



Lynne B. Silverstein
Senior Program Consultant
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Editors & Producers

Amy Duma
Director, Teacher and School Programs
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources

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