The benefits of this approach are practical: instead of stressing test-taking abilities, which have no application in the working world, students are measured on their ability to perform in a given subject and employ it in other aspects of their life. Though such assessment is difficult to ascertain, the results are more telling than those of standardized tests, which are often criticized for being slanted toward nonminority students. "I've seen children produce better academically because they have found a subject that they can excel at in art," says Kenneth Wilkoff, principal at P.S. 100, adding that the Studio program also helps to keep attendance up.
Far from being a sterile and cold environment, the cluttered visual culture of Studio schools seems to succeed in transforming them into a more democratic, child-centered place. At P.S. 108 in Spanish Harlem, where Studio artist Jimmy James Greene has been working for nearly seven years, the hallways, offices, and classrooms explode with the vibrant and varied chaos of student artwork, inspired by their backgrounds, homes, and school subjects. It is not uncommon to find robots built by fifth graders on display with architectural models designed by second graders.
Students also get the opportunity for broader exposure. Both the Asia Society and MOMA mount shows of their work regularly, and a permanent exhibition space at 75 West End Avenue has been dedicated to the program. Gallery openings, heralded by invitations, are always packed with enthusiastic parents being dragged around to admire the work of the proud students.
"We're not trying to produce artists here," says Catherine Ramey, who teaches in a sunny studio/classroom at P.S. 112 on 119th Street, "But we see kids who can't succeed in any other subjects shine here."
For more information on "Studio in a School" or to apply for a teaching artist position, call 431-6300.