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Portland Art-Focused School Shows Gains

A Portland elementary school has been recognized for its success in narrowing the achievement gap through the arts.

Courtesy of Portland Public Schools

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Northeast Portland is part of a federal initiative to boost test scores among at-risk students. The federal effort, Turnaround Arts, provided some cash for materials, but primarily technical support.

The school also worked intensively with the regional arts council’s Right Brain Initiative over the same period.

Rachel Goslins heads the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. She says reading proficiency went up 41 percent at King over three years when the arts blitz was underway.

“You look at the fact that they outperformed their districts, and comparable turnaround schools in their city and state,” Goslins said, “and you can’t make the argument so many people do, that ‘Of course the arts are good for kids, but first we have to teach them to read and write and get them to behave, and then after that we can think about the arts’. This research shows it’s not a zero sum game.”

Right Brain intends to maintain its work with King. The federal Turnaround Arts project concluded at the end of last school year.

Turnaround Arts Initiative: Final Evaluation Report

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