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Startup Funding for Right Brain Initiative

With City financial support secured by Adams,[i] a program initiated by RACC, and Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington, the goal of the Right Brain Initiative (RBI) is to bring local artists into the area schools to help kids learn better through more discovery, collaboration and creativity into the classroom. It is based on the premise that creative thinking underlies a young student’s ability to solve problems, innovate and think critically. And that by introducing new ways to learn, kids will become more engaged at schools.

Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington also played a central role in initiating Right Brain. It was based off the program model of Big Thought in Dallas, which is the Young Audiences affiliate there. YA, as I understand it, brought the idea to the community here, though the program model was then tweaked to have RACC as the Managing Partner. YA has remained the Implementation and Residency Partner.

BRI trains educators how to integrate creative thinking into core subjects like math, writing and history; Connects local artists and K-8 teachers; and, trains artists and educators how to empower kid’s sense of inquiry, expressing, imagining, creating to their full potential.

In 2014, in a study tracking student progress over a 5-year period, researchers identified a strong correlation between Portland’s program and an increase in student test scores. Dennie Palmer Wolf of the national consultancy Wolf Brown, worked with the Portland State University Center for Student Success at standardized test scores from all 18,711 students who attended Right Brain partner schools between 2008-09 and 2012-13 school years. [ii]

They looked at the average increase in scores for these students before working with the Initiative and found the rate of increase jumped dramatically after their schools joined the Initiative, and scores continued to rise the more deeply engaged a school became with the program. Schools that had embraced The Right Brain Initiative found a meaningful and quantifiable link between integrated arts education and student learning,[iii] specifically:

  • Student’s reading, and math scores increase at least 2.5 times more than the average annual rate of increase.

  • Students attending the most engaged Right Brain schools scored over 6 points higher in reading and nearly 9 points higher in math than they did before they began working with the Initiative.

  • This growth is even greater for English Language Learners. Students' scores increased 10 times more after schools partnered with Right Brain, with scores continuing to rise as schools engaged more deeply with the Initiative.

The researchers were quick to point out that these finding do not prove that Right Brain drives test scores. But it suggests a strong correlation that when arts education is woven into the teaching of other subjects it helps drives over all learning. [iv]

In 2017, nearly 29,000 students in 70 Portland metro schools in eight school districts are partnered with the Right Brain initiative.[v]



[i] It was called, at the time, “Arts Partners”. We got $100k in 2007/08 and $200k in 2008/09: [ii] Burell, Rebecca (September 9, 2014). "Right Brain linked to an increase in student test scores." Regional Arts and Cultural Council. Retrieved 2018-18-2. [iii] Eger, John M. (September 7, 2014). "Arts Integration Works Says Portland’s “Right Brain Initiative.” Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-20-2. [iv] Eger, John M. (September 7, 2014). "Arts Integration Works Says Portland’s “Right Brain Initiative.” Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-20-2. [v] RBI website (Undated). "About the Right Brain Initiative." Regional Arts and Cultural Council. Retrieved 2018-18-2.


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