he President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) released the results of an independent study that shows substantial gains in student achievement at schools participating in its Turnaround Arts initiative. The eight schools’ in the pilot phase of the initiative, showing increases in reading and math scores, as well as an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions, demonstrate that the program’s use of the arts is having a measureable impact on low-performing schools by increasing student engagement and narrowing the achievement gap.
The researchers found that, between 2011 and 2014, students at Turnaround Arts schools demonstrated significant progress in student achievement. Of the eight observed schools, seven improved their overall reading proficiency rates and six improved their math proficiency rates. All eight schools improved in at least math or reading. Half of the observed schools improved their attendance rates significantly. And more than half of the schools dramatically reduced suspensions. The schools performed materially better in math and reading scores than comparable schools in their state or district going through a turnaround process but not using the arts.
Over the last three years, Turnaround Arts has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts as part of their reform strategy. Schools participating in Turnaround Arts have hired new art, music, dance and theater teachers, brought in teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools and supported arts integration into other core subjects such as reading, math, and science. In May 2014, the program announced a four-fold expansion, and now works in 35 schools in 25 school districts and 10 states and the District of Columbia.