NAMM Foundation Works With White House Committee On New Arts Initiative to Help Turn Around Low-Performing Schools

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The NAMM Foundations will support a new initiative lead by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council.

The Turnaround Arts initiative being launched in Washington, D.C. today will work to turn around low-performing schools with strategies that expand access to comprehensive music and arts education as part of the core curriculum.

The Turnaround Arts initiative, announced by the committee’s co-chairs, George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion, is a new public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. Working in some of the nation’s lowest-performing elementary and middle schools, this program will test the hypothesis that high-quality and integrated arts education boosts academic achievement, motivates student learning and improves school culture in the context of overall school reform.

The NAMM Foundation, which seeks to strengthen music education in schools and communities nationwide through its SupportMusic Coalition, has supported numerous projects exploring the impact of active music making during various stages of life. NAMM’s research has repeatedly shown a positive relationship between arts education and overall student achievement, supporting the initial White House findings.

Over the last year and a half, the White House has turned to the NAMM Foundation for current music research, advocacy support for the initiative and ideas on how to best structure the program. NAMM members in the test communities will be shown ways to engage in and support the initiative on the local level. On a national scale, NAMM will help in procuring additional musical instruments for the test community schools.

“This initiative is a crucial step in supporting the NAMM Foundation’s ongoing efforts to increase active participation in music making among school-aged children,” said Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of the NAMM Foundation. “Now working with the White House, we can tap into NAMM’s extensive arts education research and our vast member knowledge base to ensure that these schools see a marked improvement helping to prove that the initiative is a success.”

Turnaround Arts will work 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 course of two years, Turnaround Arts will bring intensive arts education resources and expertise into these schools and support the school leadership in using the arts as a pillar of their reform strategy. An educational evaluation and research study of the program will measure the impact and effectiveness of this approach.

“Arts and music education are absolutely critical to providing all students with a world-class, well-rounded education, and nowhere are they more essential than in the low-performing schools participating in the School Improvement program,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I am grateful that the President’s Committee and its partners are showing leadership to engage students in these schools with arts and music. I’m confident this initiative will prove that the arts are an effective strategy for improving student engagement and achievement while turning around schools.”

Three studies released this month by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts emphasized the importance of access to arts education, citing better grades, increased creativity, higher rates of college enrollment and graduation as well as higher aspirations and civic engagement. Research shows that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPAs and SAT scores, and show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12. They are also more likely to be 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.

Over the next two years, the President’s Committee and its partners will provide training and resources to address each selected school’s needs. Resources will include an Aspen Institute summer leadership program, in-school professional development, partnerships with community arts education and cultural organizations, additional art supplies and musical instruments, and community engagement events. Presidentially-appointed artists on the Committee, including Chuck Close, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, Yo-Yo Ma, Damian Woetzel and Alfre Woodard, will “adopt” one of the selected schools for the length of the program, working with the schools and communities and highlighting their successes.

“We think Turnaround Arts will show that arts education is a solution that has been hiding in plain sight,” said Sarah Jessica Parker, actress and PCAH member. “I and the other PCAH artists working in these schools are so excited to be part of this project. It will be a model for demonstrating how high-quality arts education can help turn failing schools into high-performing ones — and provide every student with access to the great education they need and deserve.”

The partners in Turnaround Arts include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, The Herb Alpert Foundation, Crayola LLP, the NAMM Foundation, the Aspen Institute and Booz Allen Hamilton. Inktel and SKDKnickerbocker are providing additional support and resources. Turnaround Arts is being run and managed by the Arts Education Partnership, a non-profit organization governed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education.

Participating schools were competitively selected from nominations by state and municipal authorities. In addition to being recipients of a School Improvement Grant, criteria for selection 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. They include:

(1) Batiste Cultural Arts Academy at Live Oak School in New Orleans, LA (K-8)
(2) Findley Elementary School in Des Moines, IA (K-5)
(3) Lame Deer Middle School in Lame Deer, MT (6-8)
(4) Noel Community Arts School in Denver, CO (6,7)
(5) Orchard Gardens School in Boston, MA (K-8)
(6) Savoy Elementary School in Washington, DC (K-5)
(7) Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Portland, OR (K-8)
(8) Roosevelt School in Bridgeport, CT (K-8)


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