Turnaround Arts: Des Moines Public Schools
Turnaround Arts is a partnership among the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) and private foundations and organizations that uses the arts to help narrow the achievement gap, increase student engagement, and improve culture and climate in the country’s highest poverty schools. In 2011 PCAH published a landmark report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools. It was the first federal report in more than a decade to survey the challenges and opportunities in providing arts education to our nation’s children. The findings of this report inspired the development and design of Turnaround Arts.
In 2011 Findley Elementary was designated a Tier I Persistently Lowest-Achieving School. As part of the “Transformation” improvement model building administration was replaced and Findley was awarded a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) to spur a “turnaround” in school performance. With the support of district leadership, Findley applied for the national pilot cohort of the Turnaround Arts initiative. Along with seven other schools across the U.S., Findley was selected, given material supports from NAMM and Crayola, and programming supports from national trainers and Turnaround Arts implementation staff. Guidance and structure around leveraging SIG funding to deploy arts assets for overall school improvement was provided over two years of implementation.
After seeing tangible gains in academic achievement, behavior management, attendance, parent involvement, and overall school climate and culture, Des Moines Public Schools was invited to apply for a place in the second cohort of Turnaround Arts schools. Recognizing the critical achievements made at Findley, the invitation to apply was accepted and four additional schools in Des Moines were selected as a part of the scaled programming. In 2013 Oak Park, Cattell, and Madison Elementary Schools, along with Harding Middle School (all buildings in the North feeder pattern) began their work through the Turnaround Arts.
Des Moines Public Schools is the only school district administering Turnaround Arts in their schools, the only member of the original cohort selected for expansion, and the only entity working in a school feeder pattern to build a pipeline to success through the arts.