Professional Development

Arts Integration (With Celebrity Visitors) May Help School Turnaround, Study Finds

By Liana Loewus — January 22, 2015 2 min read
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Low-performing schools that implemented an arts integration program over two years showed improved attendance, fewer suspensions, and substantial gains in academic achievement, according to a new report.

In 2012, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, a White House advisory committee, launched a pilot arts program in eight so-called “turnaround” schools—those that are among the lowest-achieving 5 percent in their states. Through the program—which is supported by both public and private groups, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Crayola, and the Ford Foundation—schools receive arts education supplies, professional development, strategic planning, and coaching, and are able to hire additional music, theater, and dance teachers. They are not required to follow a particular curriculum.

They also get help from famous artists. Singer Marc Anthony, actress Elizabeth Banks, architect Frank Gehry, and musician Elton John, among others, have “adopted” Turnaround Arts schools, meaning they engage with students through visits, performances, and Skype sessions.

An evaluation of the program, conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and led by researcher Sara Ray Stoelinga of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago,

found that seven out of the eight schools improved in reading proficiency, and six of eight improved in math. Every school improved in at least one of those subjects.

The gains were substantial, too. In math, gains averaged 22.6 percent, and in reading they averaged 12.6 percent.

When compared to other schools that received federal School Improvement Grants, Turnaround Arts schools made larger improvements. They also surpassed average gains in their school districts.

Half of the schools significantly improved their attendance rates. The average attendance rate at Turnaround Schools was 92 percent in 2014.

Five of the eight schools “demonstrated dramatic improvements in disciplinary actions, in out-of-school suspensions, in-school suspensions, and/or overall disciplinary actions,” the report states.

The pilot schools were in New Orleans; Des Moines, Iowa; Lame Deer, Mont.; Portland, Ore.; Denver; Boston; Bridgeport, Conn.; and the District of Columbia.

The program has already expanded and is now being implemented in 35 schools across 25 school districts.

For more coverage of arts education research, see the blog archives here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.