Turnaround Arts: Using the Arts as Part of the Toolkit in High-Poverty, Low-Performing Schools

Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 2:00 EST / 11:00 PST [PASSED]

  • Rachel Goslins, Executive Director, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
  • Tara Owen, Principal, Findley Elementary School, Des Moines, IA

Session 1 of the 10-part 2014 Web Conference Series

A recording of this presentation is available here.

Web conferences are free to the staff and board of GIA member organizations. The fee for nonmembers is $35.


Turnaround Arts is an initiative led by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and an extension of the Obama Administration’s investment in turning around America’s failing schools. All Turnaround Arts schools are in the lowest performing 5% of schools in their state and are using the arts as a part of their basic toolkit in school reform. The Turnaround Arts program is high-touch, providing strategic planning, supplies, training for teachers, community partnerships, and the involvement of high-profile artists, musicians, and actors.

This session will share details of program implementation, best practices, and lessons learned, with a perspective on the program from Findley Elementary, one of the pilot Turnaround Arts schools. After a two-year School Improvement Grant, coupled with a strategic approach to using intensive arts intervention programs, Findley school outcomes have improved across the board, with increases in student attendance, parent participation and significant gains in math and reading, materially outperforming comparable turnaround schools in their state.

Presenters will discuss the design and execution of Turnaround Arts—from the public-private partnership that created it to the instructional strategies that turned Findley around. The presenters will share interim evaluation research conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the University of Chicago. Rachel will also discuss the next phase of Turnaround Arts: an expansion into more schools that will create a legacy of arts-based turnaround in even more communities around the country.

Presenter Bios:
Rachel Goslins was appointed executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities by President Obama in 2009. Prior to her appointment, she worked in the fields of documentary film, arts administration, and copyright law. Her feature films include 'Bama Girl, an award-winning documentary following a black woman running for homecoming queen at the University of Alabama, and Besa: The Promise, a film about Albanian Muslims who saved Jews during WWII. Rachel’s work also includes television productions for PBS, National Geographic, Discovery, and the History Channel. She served as the programming director for the Impact Film Festival at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and as the director of the Independent Digital Distribution Lab, a joint PBS/ITVS project focused on distributing independent films online. Previous to her film career, Rachel was an international copyright attorney in the office of Policy and International Affairs in the U.S. Copyright Office and a litigator for the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. In 2012 she was awarded a Henry Crown Fellowship at the Aspen Institute.
Findley Elementary principal Tara Owen previously served as a school improvement leader with Des Moines Public Schools. She believes arts education strategies have the greatest impact on students living in poverty. In addition, she sees tremendous potential for using the unique ability of the arts with students from high poverty to foster cultural awareness and understanding, create safe outlets, and build self-confidence. Tara has been an educator for more than fifteen years and has three elementary children of her own.