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Oakland Schools News – Westlake Middle School Joins California Turnaround Arts Program

Oakland – Westlake Middle School is thrilled to be joining Turnaround Arts: California’s statewide network of 26 schools leveraging the arts to support whole-school transformation. As we continue to progress through the pandemic, the arts are being called upon both to boost student engagement and support the well-being of students, teachers and families who have been dealing with significant challenges over the past year and a half.

Westlake 8th grader Duc Le working with art teacher, Genya Rocca-Owodunni.

Under the leadership of Principal Maya Taylor, Westlake is excited to build upon their arts identity and continue working to create a safe, supportive, joyful, and student-centered environment, where the arts are embedded throughout every facet of the school community.
“Westlake is a diverse school community and the arts provide a perfect way to make learning visible and accessible for all while supporting our most vulnerable students in expressing themselves and finding their voice,” said Principal Taylor. “In partnership with Turnaround Arts: California, we hope to strengthen relationships between students and teachers, engage families in student learning, and build student pride in their school community.”

The multi-year Turnaround Arts program provides teachers and principals with individualized coaching and professional development to help them build and implement a school-wide vision for the arts. This includes support and training to help teachers integrate the arts into core academic subjects, providing culturally and linguistically responsive entry points for learning. TACA also provides arts resources, funding, and project planning support to help schools partner with community-based arts organizations to implement artistic residencies, family art nights, school musicals, and other projects to engage the broader school community.

“The arts are such a critical part of every student’s education, and we are excited for this partnership with Turnaround Arts: California,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “This program will help our teachers support our students, bolstering an already strong focus on art in the classroom. One of our primary goals laid out in our Strategic Plan is Creating Joyful Schools, and this more robust emphasis on art is sure to foster joy at Westlake.”

Founded in 2014 by renowned architect Frank Gehry and arts education advocate Malissa Shriver, Turnaround Arts: California is a nonprofit organization now partnering with 26 schools in 17 districts in rural, urban and suburban communities statewide. Based on the pilot Turnaround Arts program launched under the Obama administration’s President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, today TACA is one of nine Turnaround Arts programs across the country working in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“We look forward to working with Westlake Middle School,” said Shriver. “It is now more important than ever to provide culturally responsive arts experiences in which students feel seen and honored. Arts Education empowers students, teachers and principals. It is foundational to learning and enables personalized instruction and promotes social and emotional wellness.”

Turnaround Arts: California, which will now reach schools serving more than 15,000 K-8 students from historically marginalized communities, has seen promising results in its existing partner schools:

  • English language arts proficiency has increased at 70% of partner schools, by as much as 116%.
  • Math proficiency has increased at more than 63% of partner schools, by as much as 200%.
  • The arts have positively impacted student engagement, according to 98% of surveyed teachers.
  • Attendance is up and/or suspensions are down at more than 67% of partner schools.
  • Arts-rich events have increased family engagement at 100% of partner schools.

“We look forward to welcoming these new schools, expanding young people’s access to the arts, and to developing their own distinctive voice,” said Frank Gehry, Renowned Architect and Turnaround Arts: CA Co-Founder.

Participating schools, including Westlake, were competitively selected based on rates of students receiving free and reduced price lunch, strong school leadership with district support, and a commitment to the arts in education.

Post based on press release from Oakland Unified School District to ZENNIE62MEDIA, Inc.

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