Two Maryland schools are among five in the nation to be honored for excellence in arts education.
Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City and Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Baltimore County were named "national schools of distinction" Friday by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, according to a news release from the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance.
The award is presented annually to five public schools selected from around the country that have "made the arts an essential part of their students' education," the alliance said. The schools must provide teaching programs in the four basic art forms of music, visual arts, dance and theater.
"I am beyond excited," said Sharon Robbins, principal of Sudbrook. "Our kids work very hard here at Sudbrook, and we're glad that the Kennedy Center thought we were good enough to recognize."
Last year, the Carver Center for Arts and Technology and Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, both in Baltimore County, received the distinction; and it was the first time multiple schools from one district had been honored in the same year.
Both Roland Park, in North Baltimore, and Sudbrook, near Pikesville, are among the highest-performing schools in their respective districts and offer the arts as a core feature of their curriculum.
Roland Park provides instruction in fine and visual arts, and vocal and instrumental music to elementary school students, and boasts that Shakespeare's plays and Homer's "Odyssey" are "standard fare" for students enrolled in its advanced academics magnet program with a focus on the liberal arts.
Roland Park Principal Carolyn Cole said the award reflects how the arts pervade the school's academics and culture.
"This demonstrates the job of making the arts essential to the education of students," Cole said. "And it provides a creative learning environment to produce extraordinary student achievement."
Robert Heck, a Baltimore school board commissioner and parent of two Roland Park students, said the school's award was extraordinary because the majority of past winners have been mostly suburban, have small enrollments or are solely dedicated to the arts. Roland Park is a K-8 school that houses a diverse student population of almost 1,300.
"The arts liberation model that they use is very thorough and very rigorous," Heck said.
Robbins said Sudbrook's application emphasized all of its magnet classes, which include performance and visual arts, world languages, and environmental and earth sciences. She said, however, that the school's drawing card is its arts curriculum, which is not usually offered at the middle-school level.
"We hook the kids into something they're interested in," Robbins said. "You don't have to be a dancer on Broadway, just have to have a passion for your magnet."
The 2009-2010 winning schools receive a monetary award of $2,000 to support their arts education programs and could be invited to grace the stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The two Maryland schools will be honored during the state alliance's Cultural Arts for Education Conference next year.
Robbins said Sudbrook's monetary award will go toward purchasing an entrance mat, designed by students, that welcomes guests.