First Lady endorses arts education

First Lady Michelle Obama recently joined the stage with middle- and high-schoolers who performed in the first ever White House Talent Show, created to celebrate the importance of the Arts in American education. At the opening of the show, the First Lady emphasized the need for arts programs to be a part of all school curriculum, and not something that comes secondary to other academic pursuits like reading, math and science.

“Arts education isn’t something we add on after we’ve achieved other priorities, like raising test scores and getting kids into college,” said the First Lady. “It’s actually critical for achieving those priorities in the first place.”

The Talent Show celebration comes two years after President Obama introduced the Turnaround Arts program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the program is to see if strong arts programs aid in other strong student academic outcomes. In the original eight schools where the program has been implemented, reading and math scores have improved, and so has behavior. Two of the schools have shown so much progress that they are no longer considered in need of a “turnaround.” In each case, big-name artists or performers like Alfre Woodard and Sarah Jessice Parker have adopted the turnaround schools and provided guidance in the programming.

At the show, the First Lady announced that the program will expand to 35 schools in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

An estimated 6 million children have no access to arts education, and another 6 million have a “minimal” exposure, the First Lady said.

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