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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Committee On The Arts And Humanities Announces Expansion Of Turnaround Arts Program


Washington, D.C. –The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) will expand its successful Turnaround Arts initiative, a program designed to help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts, announced the committee’s co-chairs, George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion today.

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.  Local program partners will provide an additional $12 million and the money will be used to hire new arts and music teachers, bring teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools and support arts integration into other core subjects such as reading, math and science.

Additionally, the President’s Committee announced a number of new “Turnaround Artists,” who will work to support individual schools’ arts education curriculum: Chad Smith, Clarence Greenwood (aka Citizen Cope), Doc Shaw, Elizabeth Banks, Elton John, Frank Gehry, Jason Mraz, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Groban, Marc Anthony, Rashida Jones, Russell Simmons, the Silk Road Ensemble, Tim Robbins and Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty). These artists join PCAH members who are currently working with the program, including Alfre Woodard, Chuck Close, Damian Woetzel, Forest Whitaker, John Lloyd Young, Kal Penn, Kerry James Marshall, Kerry Washington, Sarah Jessica Parker and Yo-Yo Ma.

In May 2012, the President’s Committee, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, launched Turnaround Arts as a pilot program 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 last two years, Turnaround Arts has brought arts education resources into pilot schools. Interim evaluation results show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement and improved culture and climate.

The expanded program will be working in 35 schools in districts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C., with plans to expand to up to 60 schools across the country. Studies show that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPA/SAT scores, are more 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.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair of the President’s Committee, said, “The Turnaround Arts program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams.  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.”

“During the two-year Turnaround Arts pilot, we have seen notable progress in school culture, improved academic performance and increased parental engagement at each of our original eight schools,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “As the Turnaround Arts program expands into 35 schools across the nation, I congratulate the President’s Committee on its success and thank all of our partners for contributing to the U.S. Department of Education’s reform efforts and goal to make sure all children receive a well-rounded, high-quality education.”

“We are proud of the progress Turnaround Arts schools have made so far and thrilled to be able to expand the program into more schools across the country,” said PCAH Vice-Chair Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Thanks to the hard work of our artists, program partners and school educators, we have been able to demonstrate that high quality arts education can positively change young lives and turn around failing schools.”

All schools participating in Turnaround Arts will receive training and resources to address their individual needs. Resources will include a summer leadership program, in-school professional development, partnerships with community arts education and cultural organizations, art supplies and musical instruments.  Participating artists will “adopt” Turnaround Arts schools for the length of the program, working with students, schools and communities to highlight their success. 

“It’s an honor to be part of this program,” said actress and PCAH member Kerry Washington. “Through my work in Turnaround Arts schools over the past two years, I have witnessed the power of integrated arts education to move the needle on some of our toughest educational challenges, and to give all students the chance to excel and to shine.”

National partners in Turnaround Arts include the  U.S. Department of Education, National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford  Foundation,  the  Herb  Alpert  Foundation,  the Rosenthal Family Foundation,  the Keith Haring Foundation, Crayola  LLC,  the  National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation and Music Theater International. The program is administered in partnership with Americans for the Arts.  Local program partners include:  Academy of Urban School Leadership, Chicago, IL; Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA; CREATE CA, Los Angeles, CA; Des Moines Public Schools, Des Moines, IA; George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, Baton Rouge, LA; and Perpich Center for Arts Education, Minneapolis, MN.

About the President’s Committee on The Arts and The Humanities

Created in 1982 under President Reagan, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. The PCAH works directly with the three primary cultural agencies—National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to address policy questions in the arts and humanities, to initiate and support key programs in those disciplines and to recognize excellence in the field. Its core areas of focus are education, cultural exchange, and creative economy. Under the leadership of the First Lady and Honorary Chairman, and through the efforts of its federal and private members, the President’s Committee has compiled an impressive legacy over its tenure, conducting major research and policy analysis, and catalyzing important federal cultural programs, both domestic and international. For more information, please visit