COMPTON ( — Students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School are happy and engaged, attendance is up and most importantly – so are test scores.

The turnaround is credited to Turnaround Arts: California – a program of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which uses arts education to help improve struggling schools.

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“What we’re seeing currently with the children in terms of their performance is – its really exceeded our expectations,” said Darin Bradley, superintendent for Compton Unified School District.

Turnaround Arts was started by the National Endowment for the Arts and provides financial assistance for art and music classes for students.

King Elementary’s improvement has been so dramatic that NEA chairwoman Jane Chu and Turnaround artist and famed architect Frank Gehry – who was a founding funder of the program — visited the Compton campus Wednesday to see it for themselves.

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Gehry, who had a learning disability as a child, said he believes the integration of art and core classes is the key to success.

“You gotta open somebody’s mind to it, you gotta show them something that they can engage with, they can touch, be a part of,” Gehry said.

Students like Jekhi Smith seem to agree.

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“I like school a lot and doing art work is so much fun,” he said.