2019 Grants Challenge
🎉 Finalist

Turnaround Arts LA

Turnaround Arts California (TACA) supports and guides communities in reexamining their approach to improving chronically underperforming schools by using the arts as a core element of intervention. TACA seeks funding for a second year in partnership with two schools: Garfield Elementary in Alhambra, and McKinley Elementary in Compton. We will leverage the arts in these schools to increase teacher capacity, improve school culture and climate, and increase student and family engagement.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

P.S. Arts

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

“All of the research points to the success of schools that are “arts-rich” - in which students who may have fallen by the wayside find themselves re-engaged in learning when their enthusiasm for film, design, theater, or even hip-hop is tapped into by their teachers.”

-Reinvesting in Arts Education, Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools; President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, May 2011

Turnaround Arts: CA was born out of a dual recognition by President Obama and his President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH): our education system is in crisis, and reinvesting in arts education, which has been on the decline, is perhaps our most promising solution. Began as a pilot of PCAH, Turnaround Arts truly turns inspiration into impact.

One of our program partners, Get Lit, brings poetry to our students. A sixth-grade student at one of our partner schools found his voice through their poetry-spoken word curriculum. What follows is his powerful response poem to Langston Hughes’s Dream Variations:

The Dream and the Highest Peak, By: Erik Lopez

Racism feels like looking at a box of colored pencils without every color, full of emptiness

And it tastes like all the bitterness of the world put in one lemon

Racism is an on-going nightmare that has not yet ended

Racism is the train that’s been going since 1807 that only carries depression

It's just like numbers, it doesn’t seem to end.

Langston Hughes’ unfulfilled dream will hopefully one day become a reality.

So that anyone can fling their arms wide

Enjoying the vibrant sun’s smile

And being allowed to dance

Till the wonderful day is done

As they watch the beautiful stars come on lightly like a warm blanket

Then sleeping without worries and only comforting dreams.


And the highest peak

The peak that all civil rights activist want to reach

But if they want to make the dream a reality,

Then they have to pick up the pace to pass the point of the peak in stopping the painfulness of the racist to re-paint the picture of the passionate world with more colors than just white.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​​

Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math

Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools

Student education pipeline

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

San Gabriel Valley

South LA

How will your project make LA the best place to LEARN?

The “Turnaround Arts Los Angeles” project will build the capacity of two local, high-need schools, Garfield Elementary and McKinley Elementary, to use the arts to fuel school community change. Through a process of reflection and creative envisioning, each school will create a Strategic Arts Plan which identifies challenges to be addressed through the arts, and outlines an action plan for implementation through partnerships with local and national arts organizations.

Resulting activities will include training and coaching for teachers on how to integrate creative movement, drama, and visual arts into the classroom in order to spark student curiosity and learning, enhance family engagement, and increase students' readiness to learn. We will provide opportunities for school and teacher leaders to meet and exchange with their peers in other Turnaround Arts schools across the state, to build a sense of community and shared advocacy for using the arts to provide a well-rounded, high quality education for all students.

In addition, through the Turnaround Arts Los Angeles project, we will support our partner schools with: financial grants to support whole-school staff training in a primary arts integration strategy, as well as Strategic Arts Plan projects; School support through a dedicated regional coach partner, P.S. Arts, providing weekly coaching and support in creating arts-integrate curriculum and hosting a Family Art Night; and a visit by a high-profile Turnaround Artist to to raise visibility and foster intergenerational exchange around creativity, the arts and resilience.

Our school partners for the Turnaround Los Angeles project are in disparate parts of our community, with unique demographics and distinct community challenges. Both have been identified as priority underperforming schools. Garfield Elementary School is located in Alhambra. The student population is majority Latino and Asian. Nearly 70% of the students are eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch, and another 17% are English Language Learners. McKinley Elementary School is based in Compton. The student population is Latino and African American. 100% of the students are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch and 20% are English Language Learners.

This project will make measurable progress toward making LA the best place to LEARN by increasing teacher collaboration, leadership and arts integration in order to provide all students with creative ways to access learning. This will contribute towards improving the student education pipeline, increasing proficiency in Language Arts and Math, and reducing truancy, suspension and expulsion rates in our partner schools.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Turnaround Arts Los Angeles will focus on five key indicators of success with our partner schools:

-Evidence of discrete arts education at every grade level;

-Implementation of arts-based instructional strategies in the core subjects;

-Successful launch of a school musical or showcase;

-Improved school culture and climate celebrating creativity, as evidenced by a year end survey; and

-Increased family engagement through attendance of school events (e.g. family art nights), volunteerism with the arts or otherwise.

The above key indicators are foundations upon which the following success measures are built: attendance and suspension rates, and changes in student proficiency in math and language arts. Turnaround Arts LA will also assess these measures, which we would not expect to change dramatically in one year, but more likely over a two-three year period.