Turnaround Arts Expands to Five DMPS Schools

turnaroundartsdmPresident’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) co-chairs George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion today announced the expansion of PCAH’s successful Turnaround Arts initiative – a program designed to help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts. The program is expanding to 6 additional states this year, including five Des Moines schools. The Committee also announced that two Turnaround Artists – actor, producer and civil servant Kal Penn and Tony Award-winning singer and actor John Lloyd Young – will “adopt” the Turnaround Arts schools in Des Moines and work directly with students to support their arts education.

Turnaround Arts is funded through a public-private partnership, receiving more than $5 million over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other private foundations and companies to bring arts education into low-performing schools. Local program partners will provide an additional $12 million to hire new arts and music teachers; bring teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools; and support arts integration into other core subject areas such as reading, math and science.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair of the President’s Committee, said, “The Turnaround Arts program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams. With the help of this program and some School Improvement Grants, math and reading scores have gone up in these schools… attendance is up, enrollment is up…parent engagement is up… suspensions have plummeted…and two of the schools in our pilot improved so dramatically that they are no longer in turnaround status. And today, the students in these schools are engaged in their education like never before.”

In Iowa, Des Moines Public Schools will be the local program partner for Turnaround Arts. Des Moines Public Schools is the largest provider of public education in Iowa, with more than 32,000 students and nearly 5,000 teachers and staff at work in more than 60 schools throughout the community.

Schools selected for the Turnaround Arts: Des Moines program include Cattell Elementary, Oak Park Elementary, Madison Elementary, and Harding Middle School.

In addition, Findley Elementary, a school selected for the original cohort two years ago, will continue their efforts along with the four new partner schools. Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker has been the Turnaround Arts artist working with students and teachers at Findley.

Selected schools will receive arts education training and resources to address their individual needs. Resources include arts supplies, music instruments, teacher training, and funding for partnerships with community arts education and cultural organizations. High-profile artists will also “adopt” Turnaround Arts schools for the length of the program, working with students, schools and communities to highlight their success.

“It’s very rewarding that our district will have five schools participating in this prestigious program,” said Tom Ahart, Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “All five of our Turnaround Arts schools in Des Moines are part of the North High School attendance area, which provides us with a very unique opportunity to incorporate the program on a more systemic basis to focus on improving learning through highly engaging arts experiences that connect back to core content.”

The five schools that make up the Des Moines Turnaround Arts schools cohort are all buildings in which improvement efforts have already seen some success. Through this programming, the north side attendance area has the opportunity to further strengthen not only student achievement, but also community connections and meaningful arts experiences.

“Turnaround Arts is really about using the arts not just as a decoration in our schools but as a wrench to turn around school performance,” added Sarah Dougherty, the program’s coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools. “This will also help us build better connections with the community as well as improve the climate and culture in our schools.”

In May 2012, the President’s Committee, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, launched Turnaround Arts as a pilot program in eight “turnaround schools” across the country—public schools in the lowest-achieving five percent of their state that are receiving School Improvement Grants through the U.S. Department of Education. Over the last two years, Turnaround Arts  has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into the pilot schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts a part of their reform strategy. Interim evaluation results show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement and improved culture and climate.

“We are proud of the progress Turnaround Arts schools have made so far and thrilled to be able to expand the program into more schools across the country,” said PCAH Vice-Chair Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Thanks to the hard work of our artists, program partners and school educators, we have been able to demonstrate that high quality arts education can positively change young lives and turn around failing schools.”

The expanded program will be working in 35 schools in districts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C., with plans to expand to up to 60 schools across the country. 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, 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.

Des Moines Turnaround Artists join other artists across the country who have committed to work in Turnaround Arts schools. Other artists include Chad Smith, Clarence Greenwood (aka Citizen Cope), Doc Shaw, Elizabeth Banks, Elton John, Frank Gehry, Jason Mraz, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Groban, Marc Anthony, Rashida Jones, Russell Simmons, the Silk Road Ensemble, Tim Robbins and Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty). These artists join PCAH members who are currently working with the program, including Alfre Woodard, Chuck Close, Damian Woetzel, Kerry James Marshall, Kerry Washington, Sarah Jessica Parker and Yo-Yo Ma.

National partners in Turnaround Arts include the  U.S. Department of Education, National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford  Foundation,  the  Herb  Alpert  Foundation,  the Rosenthal Family Foundation, the Keith Haring Foundation, Crayola  LLC,  the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation and Music Theater International. The program is administered in partnership with Americans for the Arts. Local program partners include: Academy of Urban School Leadership, Chicago, IL; Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA; CREATE CA, Los Angeles, CA; Des Moines Public Schools, Des Moines, IA; George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, Baton Rouge, LA; and Perpich Center for Arts Education, Minneapolis, MN.

Participating schools were competitively selected by program partners according to national guidelines. Selection criteria included demonstrated need and opportunity, strong school leadership with district support and a commitment to arts education. Turnaround Arts schools represent elementary and middle schools from across the country and encompass a diversity of student demographics and urban and rural settings.

For a complete list of Turnaround Arts schools in the U.S., and additional information about the program, please visit http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov/.

Video Interview with Sarah Dougherty