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Whole Schools Initiative


The Whole Schools Initiative (WSI), a program of the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC), is Mississippi’s first comprehensive statewide arts education program. The Whole Schools Initiative is an arts integrated conceptual approach to re-designing school environments that create a culture of collaboration and transparency. Leading from the inside out, the WSI is activated around inspiring the entire community toward increased student engagement by promoting deep learning. The arts provide the arena for discovery, and the WSI has operated in Mississippi schools since 1991. 

  • The four goals of WSI are:
  • Goal 1  -  Provide learning opportunities to improve student academic achievement through the integration of the arts into the core curriculum


    Goal 2  -  Increase students’ and teachers’ skills, knowledge, awareness, and experiences in all arts disciplines


    Goal 3  -  Build a school culture with sustainable systems that support arts integration as an approach to teaching


    Goal 4  -  Increase family and community engagement and understanding of the arts

The WSI began as a response to “back to basics” school reform and calls for the integration of the arts into daily classroom instruction and sequential, comprehensive instruction in dance, theatre, visual arts, and music. Each year has seen eighteen to twenty-seven schools participate as direct grantees, while other veteran schools continue to implement the WSI philosophy.

Since 1999, MAC has hosted the Whole Schools Summer Institute, a 4-day conference which offers cutting edge models in lesson design, curriculum improvement, teaching practice, and arts integration methodology. The Whole Schools Summer Institute is now recognized nationally as a premier training ground for schools involved in education reform through the arts. Presenters come from across the nation as well as statewide.

In 2004, MAC launched the WSI web site, with funding from the US Department of Education, A new website was launched in May 2014.

To date, MAC has awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to schools participating in the Whole Schools Initiative; more than 90 schools, over 900,000 students in 19% of the school districts statewide.

  • WSI evaluation results have shown:

    • increased standardized test scores

    • increased community involvement and support

    • increased parental involvement

    • teacher morale improved overall

Partners include: Mississippi Department of Education and other cultural institutions.

There are three levels to the program: Arts in the Classroom (one year “try-out” experience); Whole Schools Initiative (six year commitment); Model School (two year award, renewable)

Learn more about the Whole Schools Initiative