Kerry Washington Savoy Elementary

Arts Return to Education: Kerry Washington’s “Adopted” D.C. Elementary School

Kerry Washington at Savoy Elementary

Kerry Washington with students from her “adopted” school, Savoy Elementary in Washington, D.C. (January 2013)

Following years of focus on standardized testing, the power of arts in education is being taken seriously as a way to encourage engagement, teamwork and innovation for students in some of the country’s worst schools.

An example can be seen at Washington, D.C.’s Savoy Elementary, one of eight deemed in need of critical assistance by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities last spring.

That help, the Turnaround Arts Initiative, provided a major funding boost for arts programs ($14.7 million for the eight), and enlisted a few well-known artists to “adopt” the schools for two years.

Savoy lucked up with actress Kerry Washington (pictured above with students earlier this year), who holds Skype chats with her school when she can’t be there in person.

“It’s very easy to treat children like statistics. But when you come into a school and you see how arts programming allows a child to come into themselves and to become the learner they were destined to be…”

Savoy students in the third, fourth and fifth grades get 45 minutes a day of music and movement training in addition to regular arts classes, and the school is phasing in the Suzuki method, an early-childhood music teaching program, next year.