BRIDGEPORT - Some struggling schools in Bridgeport have seen increased academic performance by boosting their arts programs, according to federal studies.

The district was among eight chosen in 2011 for the federal pilot program Turnaround Arts. Since then, officials say studies show that performance at those schools increased after two years -- even in classes like reading and math.

The program recently sent Autumn de Forest, a 14-year-old professional painter whose original works have sold for as much as $25,000, to Bridgeport's Barnum School to help struggling students. She met with sixth-graders and offered one-on-one lessons.

Officials says arts programs help lift student performance, which boosts morale in schools. Arts education is good for the brain, they say, and encourages learning and creativity.