FLATBUSH, Brooklyn —Art programs are often the first ones cut when schools are forced to trim the budget, even though these programs have been shown to help students learn better in the core subjects like math, science, and reading. For this reason, the White House started the initiative Turnaround: Arts, and now it's here, at several Brooklyn schools.
"We treat it like an elective, like a bonus, like something you get if there's room and time, even though it's demonstrably one of things that makes children want to engage in learning," said actor Edward Norton.
Norton is one of the big-name actors and artists lending their support to the Turnaround: Arts program led by the President's Committee on Arts and the Humanities. All of the schools chosen to participate in the program are in the bottom 5 percent of schools in their state. Norton and others like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kal Penn hope investing in the arts will help the schools and students turn those scores around by emphasizing the arts in core subjects.
"The public-private partnership that put these programs back into schools really focuses on increasing full-time artists who are teaching full-time, but also working in an integrated space with science teachers, reading teachers, math teachers, so that you're seeing results overall beyond just the arts for arts sake," said Penn.
Through the program, students will learn the importance of reading skills in acting or the importance of math in music and dance — and hopefully get excited about learning, too. Each of the schools will receive $125,000 to fund the program.
Norton hopes they can use the money to get a taste of the rich art resources right here in New York.
"Most of the kids in my school have never been into Manhattan, let alone gone to see a play. So I'm going to work with Principal Daniel at my school to get the kids to some matinees, get them to some screenings at a film festival, and get them in to see and be exposed to the richness that's in the City and those experiences because that had a huge impact on me when I was that age," Norton said.
"It's just a different level of engagement that's going to help not only the school community, but the greater community," said Daveida Daniel, principal of the East Flatbush Community Research School.
The program is scheduled to run for three years at all of the New York schools. Educators hope that if it's a success, they'll find the funding to continue it.