Arts Education Initiative to Expand on Des Moines' North Side

May 21, 2014

A Des Moines elementary school that was once on a list of the state’s lowest-achieving schools has been removed, after significant improvements to annual scores and disciplinary issues. As Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reports, an arts education program at Findley Elementary will soon expand to four other schools in the district.

Administrators say math and reading scores at Findley Elementary have improved significantly. Students miss fewer days of school, and parents are more involved.

Data shows Findley improved more quickly than other schools in the state’s largest district. Two years ago, Findley became one of eight schools nationwide to pilot the Turnaround Arts program. The initiative targets low-performing schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, which are eligible for School Improvement Grant funds.

Program coordinator Sarah Dougherty says Turnaround Arts allows teachers to integrate visual and performing arts into traditional classroom subjects.

“Things like using dance to teach math, or drama for reading and fluency. Another part has been strengthening studio courses,” Dougherty said. “Art is everywhere.”

On Tuesday, Findley students participated in a talent show at the White House with other Turnaround Arts students from around the country.

The Des Moines Public School District will now expand the Turnaround Arts program to three nearby elementary schools: Oak Park Elementary, Cattell Elementary and Madison Elementary. In addition, Harding Middle School will enter the program. Although Findley Elementary will no longer be eligible for School Improvement Grant funds, administrators say they’ll continue to participate in Turnaround Arts. 

Since the beginning of the program in 2011, Findley Elementary has reported: 

  • Out-of-school suspensions decreased 50% more than the district average. 
  • Math Proficiency rose from 66.4% to 74.3%
  • Reading Proficiency rose grew from 73% to 80%
  • The rate of students moving in and out of the school dropped from 26% to 17.5%

Data courtesy of Des Moines Public Schools.