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LAUSD’s Superintendent Incorporates Fine Arts To Improve Attendance

Updated: Jun 6

Early results show innovative fine arts partnership may already be improving student outcomes.


Fine Arts

By MARCUS K. GARNER

In August of 2023 Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of LAUSD championed an initiative #ArtsForEveryone tagging Kenneth L. Wilson, founder of K-Piano in a tweet celebrating the launch of an innovative fine arts pilot program with LAUSD.  This followed an in person meeting between the two at one of LAUSD’s most at-risk schools. 

In his third year as superintendent of the 2nd largest school district in the country, Alberto Carvalho must navigate many challenges, including, a state-wide budget shortfall estimated to be as much as $73 billion, and the sunsetting of $5.6 Billion in federal covid recovery funding which ends in September of this year.  LAUSD is facing attendance challenges at its schools with as many as 10% of the district’s students being considered chronically absent, according to the California Department of Education. With so many students missing out on learning, a detrimental impact on student achievement increases the likelihood of students dropping out of school altogether. 

In spite of these circumstances Mr. Carvalho’s decisions to negotiate historic pay raises for teachers and support staff, and piloting key enrichment programs, like the K-Piano STEAM Program suggests that he remains focused on creating an amazing learning environment where students and families feel connected. “Ultimately, we want to protect our workforce. We want to protect programs for students,” Carvalho told KTLA last month. “We will not undermine the workforce or those programs that benefit kids.” 

Finding an effective program that helps increase student attendance is an encouraging sign for the district. “K-Piano has given students another reason to come to school,” said Mariam King, principal at Rosa Parks, which is among the handful of at-risk schools included in the pilot program. “One of the parents had to pick a child up during the class time, and I watched the child beg the parent to allow them to stay.”

Countless research has shown that students who play instruments test higher in both math and reading. According to a Gallup Poll 95% of Americans believe music lessons are a part of a well-rounded education. There is a reason that countries with the top educational systems all require students to learn an instrument before the age of 7.  Roughly 80 percent of LAUSD students live at or below the poverty level, which means many parents cannot afford to give their students life-changing enrichment activities like piano lessons. K-Piano is the perfect partner for school districts nationwide because the technology-enabled piano lessons effectively teach class sizes of 25-30 students. Thus, the program can seamlessly be incorporated into the academic day or as an afterschool enrichment activity. In reference to the K-Piano Pilot Program, Mr. Carvalho says, “[It’s] music to my ears!”.  

That fourth grader at Rosa Parks who begged his parents to stay at school for piano class will be participating in his first piano recital later this week. While the K-Piano Lessons are only being piloted at a dozen or so LAUSD schools the early results of the program’s impact are very promising.  “K-Piano gives the students of this community something to look forward to at school. The moment I saw genuine interest in our students let me know we were on to something” King said. LAUSD sees K-Piano and programs like it, as part of the solution for addressing the issues with chronic absenteeism. 

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