Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Baldus, Clara

First Committee Member

Schmidt, Renita

Second Committee Member

Schrier, Leslie


The Kansas City School District was unable to attain accreditation from 1955 until 2016, enduring high dropout rates, exceptionally low college entrance rates, and poor performances on standardized tests. At the district’s fine arts school, students also experienced these low educational outcomes. But despite these educational setbacks, the fine arts training they received appears to have contributed to their successful long-term outcomes in adulthood. The purpose of this case study is to explore the factors that contributed to talent development and overall thriving among adult artists who attended the fine arts school in this low performing school district. The research questions include 1) How do the artists describe the experience of developing their talent while attending an unaccredited high school? 2) What factors do the artists identify that aided in the emergence and continual development of their artistic practice?

I interviewed 8 adult artists (aged 34-37) who discussed experiences that catalyzed and contributed to the development of their artistic talent. I identify themes and interpret data using grounded theory.

Based on existing research about talent development, this study might show that these students thrived because the fine arts school they attended prioritized talent development over core content standards. The focus on talent development appears to have cultivated certain intrapersonal traits—such as awareness, motivation, and perseverance—which may account for their success as adults. Such identifiable traits are relevant to the “21st century skills” that are emerging in the education community. By understanding these artists’ experiences through a case study, educators and policymakers may have a clearer picture of how talent development helps to cultivate 21st century skills in students.


21st century skills, achievement gap, desegregation, fine arts education, school inequality, talent development


ix, 113 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 108-113).


Copyright © 2018 Andrea Kathleen Merello