The Urban Arts High Schools Project
Toronto has the virtue of having the largest number of public arts high schools in any major urban region in the world. In the last twenty-five years, there has been a veritable explosion of specialized arts programs. Often, the rationale for these specialized programs is that they prepare talented students to become artists in the future. The literature is abundant regarding the importance of such programs for student learning, yet, there is little research done on the public role that these programs play or their significance for influencing educational reform. What public roles and responsibilities will these future artists fulfill? How might the experiences of students and teachers working in these schools inform the development of other arts programs in urban centres?
The Urban Arts High Schools Project seeks to document the structure of these specialized arts programs, their approaches to curriculum and pedagogy, their histories, and the experiences of the students. The first two phases of the project have been completed. Phase I involved exploratory qualitative research at six schools with specialized arts programs in the Greater Toronto Area. This work informed the development of thematic areas and a framework for the study of similar programs in the rest of Canada and the US. The second phase invoved the collection of basic information from more than eighty programs across the United States and Canada. Based on the profiles generated from this research, six schools will be selected for the third phase of the project. This third and final phase will involved in depth qualitative studies of the six selected schools, and is expected to begin in 2011.