WINONA, Minn. — Winonan Michael Charron, dean of the School of the Arts at Saint Mary’s University and chair of the Minnesota State Arts Board, was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to attend a White House function Tuesday, May 20.
During the occasion, Mrs. Obama announced the expansion of the Turnaround Arts program — an arts education initiative to help improve low-performing schools. The program launched as a pilot program in April 2012 in eight schools across the country and was developed through the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council.
The Turnaround Arts initiative is a public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. Working in some of the nation’s lowest-performing elementary and middle schools, this program will test the idea that high-quality and integrated arts education boosts academic achievement, motivates student learning and improves school culture in the context of overall school reform.
Minnesota is one of three states (the others being California and Louisiana) chosen to participate in Turnaround Arts educational programming for the upcoming year. Following an application process, four Minnesota schools will be chosen, according to Charron.
“We will not replace subject matter or teachers, but we will provide training; we work with the school to integrate arts into their curriculum,” Charron said. “A direct correlation has been made between the arts and a wide range of benefits to students including academic achievement, school involvement, and social and emotional development. We will be working with current school staff and provide expertise from arts education specialists and will incorporate local artists and at least one nationally known artist to assist the school. We’re not there to replace, but to add to what schools are doing.”
In fact, he said, every school in the pilot program showed improvement in math and reading scores after just one year.
“I’m just so moved by the work that is being done,” Charron said. “And I’m honored to be a part of it. Visiting the White House has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The Minnesota State Arts Board is acting as the program’s fiscal agent at the state level, partnering with the Perpich Center for Arts Education.