Story by Carrie Beth Wallace
Images courtesy of PAIR.
This week, the Crime Prevention Board through the City of Columbus and Muscogee County School District approved funding for the PAIR Program's fourth year of implementation in local schools. The local program trains teachers in arts integration strategies through professional development for administrators and educators across the Chattahoochee Valley.
PAIR, or the Professional Arts Integration Resource, is a program started by Sally Baker at the Springer Opera House. The program seeks to transform the lives of students and educators by providing creative, collaborative, arts integrated professional development instruction that emphasizes character, empathy, self-discipline and resilience.
In its first three years, PAIR has provided training in numerous local schools. Data is collected throughout the academic school year as PAIR partners with educators through the program. The conclusion? Each year, PAIR increases its effect in revolutionizing the way that teachers and students exchange information.
A recent survey concluded that PAIR's gradual release, arts-based method has resulted in 100% of participating teachers electing to continue their training each year. In addition to re-enrolling in the program, 100% of them reported that using the strategies PAIR has taught them led to increased student engagement in lessons, increased student acceptance of others, and a rise in collaborative problem-solving skills in and outside of the classroom.
This year, thanks to the Crime Prevention Grant, PAIR will expand to reach more schools in our area. Among them are Richards Middle School. "It's our goal to be in every local school as soon as possible," said Baker. "We are seeing the results of these teaching strategies in every classroom, and the impact is worth offering to every single teacher and student we can."
At the end of each year, PAIR sends out a survey for teachers and students to gauge numerous categories of impact. Just last year, teachers reported increased success using PAIR strategies across content areas, expanded confidence in utilizing new techniques in their classrooms, and an increased self-efficacy (self-perception of impact on students) across the board.
In addition to decreasing office referrals and equipping teachers to meet their goals, PAIR is revolutionizing the way local students learn. Test scores are improving across PAIR schools city-wide. "Last year, we set a goal for a 3% decrease of low scores in English Language Arts on the standardized Georgia Milestones Assessment in schools implementing PAIR strategies," said Baker. "Instead, we saw as much as a 17% decrease in students scoring low in PAIR schools. These numbers represent real students achieving at a higher level because of the application of PAIR instruction."
It's critical to understand that PAIR developed their strategies with specific standardized goals in mind. The Program developed by Baker and her team is aimed at equipping teachers to successfully implement and improve in their use of Georgia TKES standards that cover elements such as professionalism, instructional strategies, instructional planning, and providing an academically challenging environment.
PAIR is seeing teachers improve on their TKES standards, but growth has also been documented within student performances of the Georgia Skills for Excellence. These state-wide learning standards are skills students must learn each year. PAIR does not seek to change these standards. "We take the standards and offer educators and administrators new techniques to achieve the same standardized goals in every classroom," explained Baker. "By increasing the toolbox educators can pull from when they teach standards, they are more likely to be able to adapt to their students' needs in the moment. We want teachers to feel comfortable pulling arts strategies into a lesson about math, and a math strategy into a lesson plan for the music classroom."
Teachers also filled out a survey about the program's impact on their students, and their words speak more clearly about PAIR's impact than any statistic shared. "A social change I have noticed in my students as a result of the PAIR Program is that they have more confidence," wrote one teacher in her final survey. Another survey response said, "My students have a deeper understanding of concepts now. They seem to be able to really hold onto the knowledge."
"The PAIR Program isn't just another program; it's a way of life for many of our students," said a 5th grade PAIR teacher, "This program has changed the way our students learn as well as how our students think about their learning."
Baker and her team are committed to continuing their work. PAIR has plans to lead workshops and instructional seminars across the state of Georgia this year. Baker is ready to impact any and every educator she and her team can reach.
So why is the Crime Prevention Grant through the City of Columbus involved? Not only is the program impacting academic success, it's impacting the social structure of entire schools.
Additional data shows an incredible reduction in office referrals for disciplinary action in the classrooms of teachers enrolled in the PAIR Program. "By implementing arts education strategies into the classroom, we are equipping our students not only academically but socially as well," explained Baker in a recent interview. "There is an entire body of research that has proven that the arts impact us as human beings in ways that nothing else can. People with soft skills developed through involvement in the arts are better listeners, more eager to collaborate, and have better self-confidence than their peers. It's no surprise to our staff that we're seeing reduced office referrals in schools whose teachers are implementing these strategies."
The positive impact has been so clearly supported by data collected at each school that the Crime Prevention Grant has dedicated funding to continue this year. "We know that these strategies are reducing office referrals, which suggests the possibility of a reduction in crime for the future of our community," said Baker. "Numerous studies show that the best predictor of crime prevention is involvement in a community. Through implementing PAIR strategies, we are equipping students to make positive contributions to their learning environment both academically and socially. It creates community in classrooms and schools, and we're seeing the impact of this directly in our data each year. We believe this impact will only continue, and the results of changing the way local teachers and students think has the potential to impact society longterm." ◼︎
For more information on the PAIR Program and its continued impact on local schools, visit pairprogram.org.