Faculty News

New book from George Noblit examines arts-based school reform

Based on eight years of research conducted in North Carolina schools, George W. Noblit has written a book titled Creating and Sustaining Arts-Based School Reform:  The A+ Schools Program (Routledge, 2009). Noblit is the Joseph R. Neikirk Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education in the School of Education.

His coauthors include two School of Education alumni─H. Dickson Corbett (A.B. ’73, M.A.T. ’74, Ph.D. ’79), now an educational researcher who evaluates school reform initiatives, and Monica B. McKinney (A.B.Ed. ’94, Ph.D.’00),who is now on the faculty of Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. The other coauthor is Bruce L. Wilson, an independent educational researcher who studies improving teaching and learning in schools with high-poverty populations.

The book examines the relationship between arts-based school reform and improved cultural and academic outcomes of schools. Research was centered on the A+ Schools Program in North Carolina, a large arts-based school reform effort and the source of funding for the project. 

“This book is the culmination of eight years of research involving not only the authors, but a host of graduate students here at the School of Education,” said Noblit. “This study shows that what school reform needs most is more creative ways for students to engage knowledge, not more attention or pressure put on the traditional subjects.”

Published by Routledge, the book examines arts-based school reform in three ways.  The first describes how to create and maintain it within a school. Next is the focus on creative problem solving and the “both/and” rather than the “either/or” decision-making process. The final aspect examines the manner in which the arts make schools more meaningful places of study for teachers and students.

The book is unique in that it suggests school reform can come from an area of school study that is often overlooked: the arts.  The A+ Schools Program has proven it is a sustainable option for reform. 

Initially, The A+ Schools Program was introduced to 24 schools in North Carolina.  Over the course of 10 years, the proven success of the program has led to its growth to 42 schools including some in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The nine chapters of the book range from “Arts in Education: From Threatened Curriculum to a Way to Reform Schools,” to “Creating and Lasting School Reform: Lessons from the Arts.”

According to the publisher, the book is a landmark study, “a comprehensive, longitudinal analysis of arts in education initiatives that discusses the political, fiscal and curricular implications inherent in taking the arts seriously.” It offers a model that can be adapted in other schools and districts. It presents the arts as a way of revitalizing and energizing schools.

“Before A+, school was not a place that I, my children, or the teachers wanted to be.  Now we are all excited to be here,” said a parent who supports the program. “It creates a place where teachers want to be, and everyone is involved in the learning process.”