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Roxbury school gets arts boost

Is one of eight picked by US for ‘turnaround’

 Governor Deval Patrick brought a class from Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury to the White House in February, where they recited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream’’ speech.
Governor Deval Patrick brought a class from Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury to the White House in February, where they recited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream’’ speech. PETE SOUZA/WHITE HOUSE PHOTO/file

The Orchard Gardens K-8 pilot school in Roxbury has been selected to take part in a federal initiative that aims to bolster schools through the arts, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities said Monday.

The school will be one of eight nationwide to take part in the Turnaround Arts program. The public-private partnership is testing the hypothesis that “high-quality and integrated arts education boosts academic achievement, motivates student learning, and improves school culture in the context of overall school reform,’’ according to the committee’s website.

As part of the program, the school will receive additional resources including a summer leadership program, in-school professional development, art supplies, musical instruments, and community events.

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Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and dancer Damian Woetzel will “adopt’’ the school and work with the staff, as well as take part in community engagement events to highlight the school’s progress.

Andrew Bott, the Orchard Gardens principal, said he was honored to be one of the schools across the country selected for the initiative.

“We have a pretty robust arts program to begin with,’’ Bott said in an interview.

“I see this partnership allowing us to really start deepening what we offer. I see this as an opportunity to prove that school turnaround not only works but has a long-term success and long-term viability.’’

“Despite poverty, continual staff turnover, and complicated issues at home,’’ he said in an earlier statement, “these kids want a place to focus and learn. They deserve to have music, art and theater available to them.’’

Between 2003 and 2010, Orchard Gardens was one of the lowest-performing schools in Massachusetts on standardized test scores. The school was led by six different principals in seven years and had a teacher turnover rate greater than 50 percent each year, according to the school’s website.

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But the school has since been showing improvements on several fronts, including rising test scores.

In February, a group of first-graders from the pilot school garnered national attention when they visited the White House to perform Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream’’ speech for President Obama after a similar performance impressed Governor Deval Patrick.


Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com.