Turnaround Schools Receive Funding for Arts Education

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama believe that arts in education play as important a role in a child’s learning as academic programs and courses.  While introducing the performers in the first White House Talent Show, Mrs. Obama shared with the audience her belief that the arts should not be added to the curriculum after higher test scores are achieved by the schools’ students, but before.

The arts, she explained, are a “critical element” in attaining higher test scores.  Darlene Superville, writing for the Associated Press, reported that the show was a part of the “Turnaround Arts Initiative”, created in 2012 by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), along with the White House, the Department of Education and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).  This program was launched to decide whether or not arts education is a factor in students’ educational outcomes and whether the addition of arts education played a part in building learning environments that were positive.

Following the show, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Caucus met with several musicians to highlight the state of music education and to discuss ways that every child can have access to music education.

At eight schools, each “adopted” by a major entertainer, so far the results have been encouraging.  There have been improvements in math and reading, along with fewer disciplinary problems, and an increase in parent involvement.  

The program will be expanded to 35 schools in 10 states:  Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, California, Illinois, Minnesota — and the District of Columbia.  The initiative will have $5 million in funding over the next five years.  Funding will come from the US Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, along with other private companies and foundations.  There will also be local programs to provide additional monies within the appointed states.

Mary Plummer, Education Reporter for California Public Radio, reports:

“There are so many jobs in the creative industries,” said Feruzzi Shriver, a longtime arts education advocate. She’s signed on as the executive director of Turnaround Arts California  “We need to find better strategies to engage our students and to keep them in school and to educate them for college and careers.”

The students who benefit the most from arts education, according to Shriver, often get the least access. This program seeks to change that.

“Turnaround” schools are those in the lowest-achieving 5% of their state.  These schools receive School Improvement Grants from the Department of Education.

Studies show that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPA/SAT scores, and demonstrate a 56 percent improvement in spatial-temporal IQ scores. They show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12, are more engaged and cooperative with teachers and peers, and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas. These benefits are particularly pronounced in high-poverty, low-performing schools.