Turnaround Arts initiative: Using creativity to fuel achievement

Today the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) announced an expansion of its 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 newly expanded program is funded through a public-private partnership, providing over $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.

Turnaround Arts began two years ago as an experiment to test the theory that arts education can help improve student outcomes and create more positive learning environments. These programs bring teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools and support arts integration into core subjects like reading, math and science.

“The Turnaround Arts program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, the committee’s honorary chair. “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.”

The Ford Foundation’s More and Better Learning Time initiative regularly incorporates arts and creative expression into redesigned school programming, providing students in areas of concentrated poverty with enriching and engaging opportunities. One such program is coordinated between the Children’s Aid Society and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which pairs artists with New York City middle schools.

“We know firsthand that the arts can inspire, motivate and transform the entire life of a student,” said Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. “We are so proud to support the Turnaround Arts program in its efforts to bring integrated arts education to even more of the students who stand to benefit from it the most—and to support their academic success by tapping into their abundant creativity.”


Watch a video snapshot of Batiste Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans, a Turnaround Arts school.

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.