A set of eight academically troubled public schools spanning the nation will get a big dose of arts education support to help them turn around—not to mention access to a little star power from the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Sarah Jessica Parker—under a new public-private partnership announced today by a White House advisory panel.
The effort aims not only to assist the struggling schools but also to serve as a test bed for the idea that high-quality, integrated arts education can play a valuable role in motivating students, improving school climate, and improving academic achievement across disciplines.
"It's not only a flower, it's a wrench," Rachel Goslins, the executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, said of arts education. "We will have a stable of standout case studies for schools ... that used the arts as one of their tools," she told me in an interview.
The public elementary and middle schools selected, from Boston and New Orleans to Lame Deer, Mont., and Portland Ore., are among the lowest-achieving 5 percent in their respective states. They are already recipients of grant support under the federal School Improvement Grants program.
The so-called Turnaround Arts initiative is the brainchild of the presidential committee, and was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council. Last year, the committee issued a report calling for policymakers to "reinvest" in arts education, arguing that the arts hold great potential to boost student engagement and academic achievement across disciplines. The initiative offers a chance explore that potential, and will be the subject of an external evaluation.
Over the next two years, the schools will receive an infusion of arts education resources and expertise to support teachers and the school leadership in using the arts as a pillar of their turnaround strategies, a press release explains. This will include access to summer leadership programs, as well as in-school professional development, and support in forming partnerships with community arts and cultural organizations. The schools also will get access to art supplies and musical instruments.