The Portfolio Design Project (PDP) worked directly with nine Fine and Performing Arts elementary schools. Each school worked with one CAPE teaching artists, who partnered with the on staff arts specialist (MCLT) and 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom teachers to focus on integrating the arts into language arts.

To improve student performance in the visual arts, music and literacy, the Portfolio Design Project is piloting a collaborative process for creating portfolios of individual students’ work in standards-based, arts-integrated curricula. Professional development, artist residencies, and collaboration are features of the project, with the development of individual student portfolios through collaboratively designed, inquiry-based, arts-integrated instruction at the center.

This project is particularly important at this time – the demand for data-driven decision making in Chicago Public Schools is increasing. This project is piloting a solution: portfolios of student work in the visual arts, music and literacy that are systemically analyzed and the results of which included in composite measures of student learning. The portfolios, which include still images, sound, video, and text, are organized around a common structure, so they can be analyzed and summarized across classrooms and schools. Furthermore, these results will be used by principals and district administrators in school planning and decision making processes.

The project is funded by the US Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination grant program.

To achieve these goals, PDP employed the core CAPE methods that drive all CAPE programming:

Arts Integration 

For CAPE, it is essential that arts instruction integrate with academic instruction. We believe art made from an integrated curriculum is more compelling because of the constant exchange of questions and ideas from the academic to the artistic work.


In our practice, teachers and teaching artists collaborate to address academic and artistic questions and challenges. Building on these ideas, they plan arts-integrated curricula that draw connections between arts and non-arts subject matter as the work progresses. The artist and teacher work together with the students, co-teaching and co-experimenting throughout their partnership.


Documentation helps educators get a fuller picture of how an individual student is or is not learning and growing. Examining the documentation aids teachers and artists not only in student assessment, but also in curricular planning, as they reflect on what is and isn’t working in their instruction.

Professional Development

As part of all CAPE programs, teachers and teaching artists from schools around the city come together regularly for professional development meetings.  There, they can examine others’ work and ideas, share their own successes and questions, and explore new possibilities for teaching and learning with CAPE staff.


All CAPE programs engage professional, highly qualified researchers. Researchers analyze CAPE documentation, interview teachers and artists, and gather student data. Researchers also develop new and innovative tools to measure arts integrated teaching and learning. Their research is regularly shared with the teachers and artists, providing them with a broader trajectory of how their school is improving via arts integration partnerships.

Public Sharing and Dissemination

CAPE shares arts integration work by students, teachers, artists, staff and researchers in many formats, including but not limited to: exhibitions, websites, published articles, workshops, whole school events, and/or conference presentations.

Meet the Researchers:

Dr. Louanne Smolin
is an urban educator with diverse experiences in arts research and teacher education. Her areas of expertise include curriculum reform through multimedia and arts integration. She currently serves as a researcher on large scale program evaluations for arts organizations serving urban public schools, including working as a principal investigator on studies for US Department of Education funded initiatives for the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) as well as other arts organizations in Chicago. As a researcher, she uses her educational background in curriculum, professional development and the arts to investigate areas such as effective collaborative partnership practices, arts integration professional development, and emergent interdisciplinary curriculum implementation.

Dr. Smolin has experiences with multiple program evaluation approaches, including process and outcome based evaluations, as well as utilization and collaborative program evaluation methods. She has published journal articles and book chapters related to collaborative program evaluation, multimedia, and teacher professional development. She has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences, including the American Educational Research Association and the International Society for Technology in Education.


Educated as a musical performer, composer, and psychologist of music and education, Dr. Larry Scripp is the Founding Director of the Music-in-Education Concentration at New England Conservatory and the founding director and senior researcher for the Center for Music and Arts in Education (CMAIE) in New York, an organization that provides ‘guided practice’ consultant services for organizations that embrace arts and arts integration practices, program evaluation, and research design, data collection, and analysis.

Dr. Scripp has served as a Principal Investigator for more than a dozen arts learning research projects in public schools and is currently working with arts learning portfolio assessments in two CAPE/Chicago Public School District projects, Oakland Unified School District Music Integration Learning Environment (MILE) program, the Miami Choral Academy, the Center for Arts Education in New York, and the San Francisco Opera. Dr. Scripp’s most influential writings include his essay on music and learning research in theCritical Links Compendium ( and his innovative research-based Music PLUS Music Integration education practices as reported in the International Handbook on Innovation(Pergamon).

As the former founding co-director of the Conservatory Lab Charter School, the Executive Editor for the Journal for Music-in-Education (, and the Music-in-Education National Consortium Project, Dr. Scripp has articulated the case for new understandings of music and the arts as agents of change in school policy, pedagogy, assessment, and research. Lawrence Scripp continues to lecture internationally on the essential role of music and the arts in 21st century education.

MEET THE Program and Research staff:

JM 1
Jessica Mueller is a Program Associate at CAPE, supporting the Portfolio Design Project. Prior to CAPE, Jessica was a teaching artist at After School Matters, as well as for CAPE. For the first several years of her career Jessica did two of the things she loves most, make art and teach art. During those years, within her classrooms and studio she learned that her teaching practice and studio practice are one in the same. That one directly informs the other and students challenged, pushed, and inspired her just as much as she did them. As a teaching artist for CAPE the idea of bringing inquiry based artist practice and not just art curriculum to the classroom was nurtured and developed. That experience shaped how Jessica now approaches work as a program manager of the Portfolio Design Project.

Jessica is also artist who exhibits locally and nationally, her work is a part of a permanent collection at the Library of Congress. She holds a B.F.A. from the American Academy of Art and is a former member of the Blue Island Arts and Culture Committee. Jessica also partners with Jahn Elementary School as a member of the Local School Council and Parent Advisory Council to foster community involvement and support arts in education.

Joseph Spilberg serves as CAPE’s Research Associate. Joseph previously worked as a Research Assistant for CAPE’s PAIR Program and was the Program Assistant for the City of Evanston’s Cultural Arts Commission. He also co-founded Intercultural Music Production, which provides music workshops and presentations in Chicago Public Schools. Joseph is a multi-instrumentalist and taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music and in CAPE’s SCALE Program. Joseph holds a B.A. in French from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from the Spertus Institute.