Intersections Preview: An Interview with Presenter Erin Hoppe

A woman stands in front of a group of children.

A VSA Ohio teaching artist works with students in an AIA residency.

As we prepare for the 2016 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference, we are highlighting presenters and sharing information about their sessions. This month, we feature Erin Hoppe, who is co-presenting a session entitled, “Making the Intangible Tangible: Quantifying the Impact of an Arts Residency Program” with Sheri Chaney Jones on Monday, August 1, 2016.


Erin Hoppe, executive director of VSA Ohio, has long believed her organization’s Adaptation, Integration, and the Arts program (AIA) makes a positive impact on student success. The teaching artist residency program, now in its 14th year, has collected qualitative data from participating teachers and artists that suggests as much.


Erin Hoppe's headshot

VSA Ohio Executive Director Erin Hoppe

After continuing to receive the same feedback year after year from program participants, Hoppe, a self-described “research nerd,” decided they needed a quantitative way to assess student impact. She contracted Measurement Resources Company’s Sheri Chaney Jones to conduct an independent evaluation of how the AIA program is impacting students and teachers, and how it can improve. The Ohio Department of Education and the Kennedy Center invested dollars into the research, adding legitimacy and priority to the efforts.


The evaluation project is currently concluding its second of three years. Hoppe says she and Jones agreed that they would need multiple years of student data to properly assess program impact. In an attempt to make the data collection process as easy as possible, the researchers are looking at anonymous student test scores that already exist rather than creating a new test for teachers and students to deal with.


According to Hoppe, the data collection process has proven challenging. “Schools are so busy already,” she says, continuing, “…and some sites are more conducive to our research parameters.” Still, Hoppe says the data collected during the evaluation’s first year showed some very positive results, and their experiences in year one helped them figure out ways to expand their data pool for year two.


One way they have increased their data collection success is by adding control schools to the study. These schools have been identified by AIA schools as peers, but do not currently participate in the residency program. The peer school data will help researchers see if there is a discernable difference between student achievement at the sites with arts residencies versus those without residencies.


Ultimately, Hoppe hopes the evaluation results, whatever they may be, help improve the AIA program. She is interested in using VSA Ohio’s resources where student impact is greatest, which may mean limiting AIA classrooms to certain grade levels or subject areas based on the quantitative findings, or adjusting the residencies in some other way. “I’m interested in knowing if we are actually doing what we say we are doing, like teaching 21st century career skills or improving teacher preparedness for working with students with disabilities,” says Hoppe, continuing, “…and quantitative analysis is an essential part of answering that question.”


Erin Hoppe and Sheri Chaney Jones will present “Making the Intangible Tangible: Quantifying the Impact of an Arts Residency Program” at the 2016 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education conference on Monday, August 1, 2016.


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