Turnaround Arts and Why It Works

Posted by Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, May 27, 2014 0 comments

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Here is a recipe for success. Take a failing elementary school, invest time and treasure in professional development, help them develop a strategic plan; assist them in maximizing their budget with expert technical assistance. Bring in the non-profit arts providers, credentialed specialists, teaching artists, universities, the local community, and parents. To top it all off, add in a famous artist - as a mentor, as an advocate, and to bring in the media. With a potent combination of discrete arts education in all four disciplines and arts integration, this program proves that the so-called achievement gap is indeed an opportunity gap: an opportunity gap for the principals, teachers, students, and their parents - but also for their communities and for our society. As John Dewey said, what the best and wisest person wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and unchecked, destroys our democracy.

Arts education is included as core content in the federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) and is required content in California Education Code sections 50210 and 50220. Turnaround Arts has tested the hypothesis that strategically implementing high-quality and integrated arts education programming in high-poverty, chronically under-performing schools adds significant value to school-wide reform. We believe that arts education provides school leadership with powerful tools to improve school culture and climate and increase student and parent engagement, which contribute to improved academic achievement and successful reform efforts.

Turnaround Arts is a national program by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in coordination with the White House, the U.S. Department of Education and several foundations, to bring arts education and resources to struggling elementary and middle schools across the country, and in its second phase will be expanding into other states, with California being the largest affiliate program.  We are launching ten new Turnaround Arts schools across the state, with almost 6,082 students, in both urban and rural communities. These schools will receive arts supplies, musical instruments, licensing rights to perform school musicals, professional development in the arts and arts integration, strategic planning assistance, coaching, and the involvement of high profile artists in their schools, as well as some funding for individual projects. This is a program about access: access to materials and expertise from some of the leading arts education organizations in the country, and a network of schools going through similar reform efforts.

So how do we maximize the power of the arts to engage students - especially those under-served students for whom, research indicates, the arts have the most significant impact in personal exploration and acquisition of all core content? There are hurdles to be negotiated; a generation of teachers who matriculated through a system that did not include or value arts education, the new pedagogical demands of Linked Learning and project based instruction, the sheer size of the educational workforce, and the fundamental paradigm shift of moving from an isolated instructional model to a collaborative, integrated, design based instruction. Success requires diligent focus on both resources for direct arts instruction as well as training in new strategies for integrating curriculum. Fortunately, resourcing these instructional shifts will support the transition to common core instruction and new more comprehensive methods of assessment. Integrating the arts will support the goals of both college and career readiness and acquisition of 21st century skills. Arts integration will increase collaboration, foster critical thinking, and nurture the creativity that will prepare our students to be leaders in the new global economy.

So keep an eye on California.  Keep an eye on Turnaround Arts as it grows, as it attracts media attention, and impacts policy. In California, we have the support of the California Arts Council, the California Department of Education, CREATE CA, foundations, the business community and high profile artists.  We are investing in change. We are investing in equity and access for all students, regardless of their zip code.

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver is Americans for the Art's 2014 Arts Education Honoree. Every year, we honors individuals, organizations, and programs committed to enriching their communities through the arts at our Annual Convention. This week, we are featuring a series of blogs by our award recipients on their projects or an arts policy issue of their choice. Follow the tag Annual Awards 2014

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