Orchard Gardens School Tapped by White House for Arts Program

Orchard Gardens K-8 School, a City Connects School in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, was tapped yesterday to participate in the Turnaround Arts Initiative, an effort of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Turnaround Arts Initiative launched in eight persistently underperforming, or “turnaround,” schools across the country. The two-year initiative pairs celebrities with schools to encourage creative expression like art, music, and dance in the school’s improvement efforts. Schools will be provided art supplies, musical instruments, and community engagement events, as well as professional development for school staff. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and dancer Damian Woetzel are paired with Orchard Gardens.

Securing arts and enrichment activities for students is a crucial aspect of the City Connects model.  Katy Baker, the City Connects School Site Coordinator at Orchard Gardens, said:

We are so proud of our school! Orchard Gardens truly values the arts, and it shows in so many areas of our students’ development. The arts can be such a powerful tool in engaging students.

NEA ReportResearch supports art education as a means of advancing academic achievement in schools. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released a report in May 2011 about the state of arts education in US schools, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools” [pdf]. The report showed that availability of arts education schools varies widely, with disparities especially present in high-poverty schools. In March 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts published a report, “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies” [pdf], that showed students who had a low socioeconomic status but were involved in the arts had better academic outcomes, higher career goals, and greater engagement in their communities.

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Three Massachusetts Groups Awarded “Promise Neighborhood” Planning Grants

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded 21 “Promise Neighborhood” planning grants to nonprofit organizations and universities across the country, three of which are based in Massachusetts. The one-year grants of up to $500,000 are designed to help these groups create plans to provide comprehensive “cradle to career” services for children.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”

The Massachusetts winners are Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc. in Lawrence, the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston.

As reported in the Boston Globe, “the $500,000 grant to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-based organization, represents a major milestone in replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone locally. For years, different groups of city leaders, philanthropists, and community activists have toured the Harlem program, returning each time to Boston energized, but unable to sustain the momentum.”

One of City Connects’ schools, Orchard Gardens, is located in Dudley Street’s target neighborhood of Roxbury, which is also part of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’sCircle of Promise,” a 5-square-mile area in where the Mayor and Boston Public Schools have been trying to set up a coalition to provide wraparound services for children. Dudley Street will partner with the City of Boston, nonprofit groups, philanthropists, after-school providers, religious leaders, and universities to advance this agenda.

Next year, the President has requested $210 million in his budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.

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