Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Rashida Jones Join White House’s Turnaround Arts Initiative

Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Rashida

The Obama administration is expanding its Turnaround Arts program, an initiative designed to bring arts programs to failing schools in an effort to boost student achievement.

The program is a public-private partnership funded in part with $5 million from the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation, among others. The program has been in pilot mode for the past two years in eight schools around the country, where the coin supports the hiring of arts instructors and the integration of arts into core subjects such as reading, math and science.

The expanded program will extend Turnaround Arts funding to 35 schools in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C. To promote awareness of the effort, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has enlisted a number of showbiz notables to serve as “Turnaround Artist” reps, including Kerry Washington.

Washington put Turnaround Arts in the spotlight last year when she was feted by Variety with its Power of Women award. 

New recruits for the promotional effort including 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).

“The Turnaround Arts program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams,” said first lady Michelle Obama, honorary chair of the committee. “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.”

(Pictured: Kerry Washington visits a Washington, D.C. school participating in the Turnaround Arts program in 2013.)

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  1. This program seems to be ideal to inspire youth in economically deprived areas where art is not offered. In education, we must continue to find creative ways to strengthen literacy and numeracy skills besides “drill and kill” and teaching test items. I hope E. St. Louis Schools (District 189) is included on the list of schools to receive this program. These deserving students are some of the most deprived students in the US. District 189 should be at the top of the list to get this innovative program.

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