Seattle Public Schools

Visual and Performing Arts

The Creative Advantage

The creative advantage logo with text "Arts Education Now. Innovative minds tomorrow" with photo of student working with clay

What is The Creative Advantage?

The Creative Advantage is the Seattle Public Schools arts plan. It is a city-wide initiative to establish equitable access to arts learning for every Seattle Public Schools student. It is a coordinated network that includes the district, the Seattle Office of Arts & CultureSeattle Foundation, and more than 100 community arts partners.

We envision a city where, through the arts, all youth have voice to influence positive change in their schools and community and to develop skills for work and life. It’s an equity issue. A basic education inclusive of the arts is mandatory in Washington State, but many schools are not able to provide the necessary class time for arts instruction. While there are award-winning arts programs in some schools, many students do not have consistent access to the arts as they move through their school careers. This is especially true for students of color who are furthest from educational justice.

History and Progress

The Creative Advantage History

Equitable access to arts instruction is our mission in The Creative Advantage. Arts instruction is an essential component of educating the whole child and preparing them for college, career, and life in the 21st century. The foundation of The Creative Advantage was set in 2011 with a generous grant from the Wallace Foundation to develop a plan for SPS to provide high quality arts education equitably across the the district. The grant allowed the district to accelerate its efforts to address systemic barriers to students’ access to arts, and increased its capacity to expand its goals.

The Creative Advantage utilizes the resources of the district, the city, and arts organizations to provide a K-12 continuum of arts learning in schools. Comprehensive research conducted throughout the district showed that arts access gaps were greatest for students of color, low-income, and English Language Learners (ELL) students.  The Creative Advantage is dedicated to eliminating access gaps.

The Creative Advantage began in 2013-14 with 13 schools in the Central Arts Pathway, and each year expands to more regional K-12 pathways.

The Creative Advantage Progress

Each year, a third-party evaluator gathers quantitative and qualitative data on both the implementation and the impact of The Creative Advantage. They have found overall that arts learning has become a priority, not only for the district, but for the city and community at large.

Additional encouraging findings from the first three years of implementation:

  • More than 5,000 elementary students are attending music classes that would not have been available without the Creative Advantage.
  • The number of elementary schools with K-5 music and visual arts classes has more than doubled.
  • Students meeting standard in the arts significantly improved in the pathway elementary schools.
  • Clear evidence of growth in 21st Century Skills in Creative Advantage classrooms in student perseverance, critical thinking and culturally-responsive teaching.
  • Evidence of robust relationships with community arts partners.

By 2023, The Creative Advantage expanded to a total of 89 schools (out of 106 total SPS schools). The Creative Advantage team is developing more opportunities to connect arts to career for secondary students through Media Arts Skills Center courses offered in the summer and during the school year.