PORTLAND – Actress Sarah Jessica Parker visited Northeast Portland’s King Elementary School to support arts education Wednesday.
Parker's appearance was a show of support for a White House and Department of Education initiative to turn around low-performing schools. She adopted King Elementary last year, in an effort to help boost its arts program.
Since then, she's been Skyping with students and getting to know them. Wednesday, she was sitting in the front row as some of them put on a performance.
"I couldn't possibly imagine the extraordinary and special things I've seen today, and especially the teachers," Parker said.
The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities created the Turnaround Arts initiative as a pilot project for eight schools, including King Elementary. The goal: To demonstrate new research that shows how arts can help reduce behavioral problems and increase student attendance, engagement and academic success.
The chosen schools were among the lowest-performing in each of their states and had qualified for about $14 million in federal School Improvement Grants from the Obama administration.
Research shows arts education can improve graduation rates and school climates. But a recent Department of Education study said high-poverty schools are 50 percent less likely to offer arts and music classes -- affecting millions of students.
King Elementary School is located at 4906 Northeast 6th Avenue in Portland. It is a predominantly African American and Latino school and more than 90 percent of the students are from low-income families.