Self Portrait

Project OverviewSelf Portrait

About the Program – The Teacher Action Research Institute Serves Students and Teachers

San Leandro Teachers Aim to Reach ‘Below Basic’ Kids

The Teacher Action Research Institute (TARI) project is a collaboration between Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership and San Leandro Unified School District. The 3-year project brings together classroom teachers and art specialists from 8 San Leandro elementary schools in an effort to raise language arts skills and close the achievement gap.

San Leandro students targeted for TARI are testing below basic in Language Arts. Throughout the school year, TARI teachers look closely at three ‘focal’ students. These students are chosen based on their low test scores, their interest in arts, and their need for support in academics or in classroom engagement. Teachers observe their focals using the Studio Habits of Mind, and assess whether or not art is helping them gain more skills in language arts.

Teachers participating in the Teacher Action Research Institute (TARI) are also “students” for the assessment project. TARI teachers are interested in moving their teaching practice forward by integrating the arts and looking closely at student outcomes across the curriculum. The group consists of 16 classroom teachers (in primarily 4th and 5th grades) and 6 art specialists across 8 San Leandro elementary schools. TARI teachers come together to share once per month, at quarterly, daylong Professional Developments (PDs), and for three days in August. They reflect on their work online and use teaching frameworks to assess student learning, such as Studio Habits of Mind and Teaching for Understanding. Coaches meet with TARI teachers regularly to hone teaching and assessment strategies.


August Institute 2009 Making Books


Ms. Ward of Garfield works with a focal student

Project Description

The TARI project focuses on the visual arts, with a special emphasis on arts integration and English Language Development. All of the TARI projects are 1) embedded in the core curriculum of Language Arts, History/Social Studies or Science, 2) use culturally responsive teaching strategies, 3) meet California Standards for visual arts, and 4) employ the Studio Habits of Mind for ongoing assessment.

Project Goals

Teacher Action Research Institute Project Goals

Teacher Action Research Institute – San Leandro Initiative (also known as TARI)

Teacher Action Research Institute integrates standards-based arts units in order to deepen connections to standards-based language arts, history/social studies, science, and math curricula. The arts lessons are culturally responsive and explore a diverse cadre of contemporary artists who reflect the values of contemporary culture.

Teacher Goals:

  1. What and how are students learning in the arts?
  2. How can arts support learning in other subjects?
  3. How can we see and track student learning over time?

Student Goals:

  1. Students will understand themselves as learners through the lens of artistic practice (with Studio Habits of Mind).
  2. Students will apply their artistic thinking (with Studio Habits of Mind) to access content in language arts and history/social studies.
  3. Students will demonstrate their knowledge in the arts and in other content areas through arts integrated units.
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Johnson, Tana

Hi, I’m Tana Johnson, and I facilitate arts integration professional development courses and programs for K-12 and college teachers in Alameda County. I currently consult for the Alameda County Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership. I began my life as a dancer, from age 8 to 25, and then moved to San Francisco to pursue a master’s degree in arts education at San Francisco State University. During my M.A. program, I became a video and interdisciplinary performance artist. After graduating from SF State, I worked as a video artist in both elementary schools and high schools. During this intense learning time when I was teaching and making my own films, I also ran a community-based arts education program at Southern Exposure in San Francisco’s Mission District.

From Southern Exposure, I moved to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where I ran High School M.E.D.I.A. (Multimedia Educational Directions in the Arts), a museum literacy program with a focus on media arts production at Balboa and Thurgood Marshall High Schools. When this project ended, I became the Coordinator of School and Teacher Programs and launched a teen arts program, SFMOMA Teen Visionaries, in which San Francisco teens worked on studio arts projects with visual and media artists at the Museum. I then produced interactive media for five years, including interactive features, artist videos, podcasts and a teacher curriculum site, SFMOMA Artthink.

After ten years at SFMOMA, I decided it was time to return to teaching and learning. At California College of the Arts, I taught ArtsEd Teaching Methods and ran the CCA Teaching Institute for kindergarten through college educators. This program, called the Arts Integration Specialist Certificate Program, is housed at the Alameda County’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership. I teach arts integration and coach teachers in the Teacher Action Research Institute in San Leandro.

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