Everyday Arts for Special Education Featured in Education Week


This month, we had the pleasure of hosting Education Week’s Liana Heitin to explore our Everyday Arts for Special Education (EASE) program. EASE is a professional development program designed to improve student achievement in the areas of communication, socialization, academic learning and arts proficiency through integrated, arts-based approaches.
It is a very exciting time for us at Urban Arts Partnership as the fourth year of EASE programming comes to a close, and we receive more data on student and teacher achievement. Speaking with Education Week, our EASE Evaluator Dr.Rob Horowitz says, “the evidence is strong so far that, in fact, these [EASE] activities are helping kids communicate and develop socialization skills in new ways.” Last year, 82% of participating students improved their academic goals and more than 75% mastered their communication and socialization goals as indicated by their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Ms. Aspinall, a 4th grade teacher in New York City’s Special Education District 75 proclaims, “with Common Core [standards] and assessments, as a teacher, you feel like your creativity has been taken away. What I like about EASE is that it’s brought the fun back.”
This year, the EASE program directly served 1,600 students and 210 teachers in New York City and Los Angeles. This summer, EASE Summer Institutes will take place in NYC and LA, providing special education teachers with three days of training on using the arts to engage pre-k and elementary school children with disabilities. For more information, or to sign up, please visit us here.
We invite you to read Education Week’s article on the EASE program below or on Education Week.
Published Online: May 20, 2014
Published in Print: May 21, 2014, as Arts Program Shows Promise in Special Ed. Classes

Arts Program Shows Promise in Special Ed. Classes

Special education teacher Elizabeth Rosenberry, right, uses singing in a lesson to encourage Jesus Torres-Tiamani, left, to make eye contact as classmate Ian Tokay looks on. The strategy comes from a federally backed arts initiative for students with severe cognitive and behavioral needs. -Emile Wamsteker for Education Week


By Liana Heitin

New York


Each of the visual arts, music, and dance activities Elizabeth Rosenberry engages in daily with her 2nd graders has a critical underlying goal: eye contact.

The veteran teacher opens class by crouching in front of a student and gently clutching his arms. “Zachary, look at me,” she sings, matching his wide-open eyes with her own. The two paraprofessionals assisting in the classroom at the public school, P4Q @ Skillman, encourage the other five students, also seated in the semicircle, to watch the interaction and sing along.

Ms. Rosenberry is one of 240 teachers in New York City’s District 75-a geographically dispersed collection of schools and programs serving students with the most severe cognitive and behavioral needs-to have received training in an initiative called Everyday Arts for Special Education, or EASE.

In 2010, the district received a $4.6 million federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant-an impressive amount by arts education standards-to offer professional development in EASE at 10 schools and to study the program’s effects along the way. The project was ranked fourth-highest among the 49 winners of i3 grants, and was chosen from 1,700 applicants.

With just a year left of that five-year funding from the U.S. Department of Education, a researcher who has been following the program says there’s convincing evidence EASE has succeeded in improving elementary students’ academic, socialization, and communication skills.

Even pending the final research results, the program is spreading: Teachers, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and paraprofessionals around New York City’s 1.1 million-student school system have been requesting, and receiving, EASE training.

In addition, the 640,000-student Los Angeles district is now piloting the program, though in a modified format, to help with an overhaul of how that district includes students with special needs in general education settings.

Kathy London, the arts instructional-support specialist for District 75, called the arts program “simple yet elegant”-and said it has garnered positive feedback from teachers in often very challenging settings.

“These are things anybody can learn,” she said. “And once they get comfortable, we’ve seen how it really changes teachers’ practice.”

Click here to read the full article!
Learn more about the EASE program at urbanarts.org/ease