Federal Turnaround Arts Program Expands to New Cities


The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is focusing on its Turnaround Arts initiative to expand the program into an additional five school districts.

Co-chairs George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion said that the program was created in an effort to help lessen the achievement gap, boost lower-performing schools, and increase student performance in the arts.  The program is currently ongoing in 49 schools within 14 states as well as the District of Columbia, helping over 22,000 of the highest needs students in the country.

The program receives its funding through a public-private partnership.  With the help of the US Department of Education, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other private foundations and companies, the program gained over $5 million over a three year time span.  An additional $10 million was leveraged in local funds in the same time period.

The program plans to use the funding new arts and music teachers, purchase art supplies and musical instruments for schools, bring music artists into schools, and support the integration of music and art into other core subjects including reading, math and science.

New “Turnaround Artists” were also introduced, including Paula Abdul, Cameron Diaz, David Blaine and Jack Johnson.  These artists will join the likes of Marc Anthony, Frank Gehry, Jason Mraz and Josh Groban in the adoption of turnaround schools.

“All children deserve to have access to the arts, not only to discover their passion, but as a tool to engage them in the joy of learning,” said Cameron Diaz, actress and Turnaround Artist. “Turnaround Arts is an amazing organization, and I look forward to working to inspire the students at Bethune Elementary in Broward County, FL, to discover and reach for their dreams.”

Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, the President’s Committee created the Turnaround Program in 2012 as a pilot program in eight schools across the country which were deemed as having the lowest achieving 5% in their states, and had been receiving the School Improvement Grants available through the US Department of Education.

Within the last three years, arts education resources have entered 35 such schools and the arts have been worked into reform efforts with school leaders.  According to research evaluation results, schools who participate in the program showed an increase in academic performance, increased engagement among students and parents, and an overall improvement among school culture and climate.

Turnaround schools showed an average of 23% improvement in math and 13% in reading, as well as a dramatic increase in attendance and a decrease of up to 86% on student disciplinary issues.

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