Dems: Arts education is good for kids & communities

February 2, 2016

Fine arts advocates talked with legislators about fine arts instruction in Iowa schools and asked us to add fine arts to the Iowa Core Curriculum during this year’s Fine Arts Advocacy Day at the Statehouse.


The Senate Education Committee heard from Sarah Dougherty, coordinator of the Turnaround Arts Program at Findley Elementary in Des Moines. Findley is participating in an arts education initiative to help turn around low-performing schools.


The Turnaround Arts initiative is a public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and improve student engagement through the arts. The effort was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council.


Kalpen Suresh Modi, known professionally as Kal Penn, is an actor, writer and producer. He shared with the Senate Committee his work at Harding Middle School in Des Moines as part of the Turnaround Arts program.


Penn studied at UCLA’s prestigious School of Theatre, Film & Television. As an actor, he is known for his role portraying Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the show “House,” as well as the character Kumar Patel in the “Harold & Kumar” film series. In 2013, he was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities.


Research shows that:

  • Arts-engaged students are three times more likely to have excellent attendance records and four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
  • At-risk students cite arts engagement as a reason for staying in school.
  • High-poverty arts-engaged eighth graders score higher on reading and science assessments.
  • Students in the arts outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT by 91 points.
  • Arts-engaged students are more likely to be active in their communities.
  • Arts contribute to heightened ambition and an overall improvement in school environment.


We have done much to increase reading and math scores, but education should focus on the whole child. Arts education is a great place to start.

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