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Parental perceptions of an arts-integrated focus school : a case study of a public fine arts elementary school in British Columbia Windsor-Liscombe, Suzanne Gloria


In the current educational marketplace, the range of school options has made parents key players in their children's school education. Unlike previous decades, where students typically attended their neighbourhood schools, today's parents are more likely to transport their children greater distances to their school of choice. This case study tells the story of one British Columbia public elementary school that transitioned into an arts-integrated school--usually referred as a fine arts school. The arts-integrated curriculum attracted a growing number of families who resided outside of the school's catchment area. As a teacher at the school before and after its transition, I began to notice trends in students enrolling from outside of the school catchment area. Those trends included issues pertaining to behaviour, social interactions and academic challenges. Thus, my research investigates parental perceptions of arts-integrated (fine arts) focus schools. Data collected through interviews with both parents and educators detail: (a) parents' expectations and understandings of such schools, and the complex reasons why they enrol their children; and (b) the difficulties in implementing an arts-integrated curriculum. Interview data also became the impetus for the self-study which runs in tandem throughout the research chapters. The self-study speaks to my own childhood and teaching experiences: to an extent corresponding with the way in which students in dance classes are taught to negotiate self within defined and discrete spatial areas. Because the study is situated temporally in what is commonly termed a neo-liberal era, I include discussion of the wider political environment, particularly with respect to parental choice. My case study demonstrates that arts-integrated (focus) schools are accessed chiefly by middle-class families seeking advantage for their children. The study reveals that the main value of fine arts schools may be as enablers of student success in behaviour, socialization and academic terms. Finally, I argue that arts-integrated schools can also be spaces of fulfillment for parents who, through choice of school and active participation there, feel that they have played a more profound role in their child's education.

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