El Sistema Colorado is committed to continuous quality improvement and program evaluation. In our four-year history, we have made significant progress in developing internal evaluation systems and continue to learn from El Sistema programs worldwide.
During the 2014-2015 school year, we provided 1,750 hours of music programming to 700 unique students, age 4 to 18, including 900 hours of in-school programming and 850 hours of afterschool/summer programming focused on positive youth development and educational support.
El Sistema Colorado’s program sites are located in Northeast Denver neighborhoods encompassing the highest at-risk, low-income youth population in the city. Of the 54,000 children who live in these neighborhoods, two-thirds live in poverty. Our students reflect the characteristics of the neighborhood: 86% are Latino/Hispanic and 9% are Black/African American; 61% are actively learning English as a second language; and 98% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Bilingual parent/guardian and school staff surveys demonstrated the following program successes during the 2014-2015 school year:
• 70% of teachers identified positive academic improvements among El Sistema students
• 76% of teachers identified positive changes in the behavior among El Sistema students
• 93% parents/guardians agree their children are more excited to attend school
• 91% of parents/guardian identified their child’s improvements in one or more of the following as by-product of El Sistema participation: focus/attentiveness, self-confidence, leadership, initiative and discipline
Also during the 2014-2015 school year, 16 students were selected to perform in the Citywide Honor Chorus and 6 were selected to perform in the Citywide Honor Band. Two 5th grade students from Swansea, one 6th grade student from Garden Place and one 8th grade student from Bruce Randolph earned scholarships to participate in intensive summer music camps at the prestigious Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park.
Teachers have identified growth in leadership and discipline from participants, particularly those who initially displayed behavioral problems such as low attention/focus, disruptive actions, defiance and lack of respect. Teachers express that ESC students are “more positive and confident in doing their work” and previously timid students are increasingly able to “communicate more openly.” Student perspectives demonstrate not only interest and gains in musical skills but the intended development of self-worth and community belonging instilled in the ensemble setting.