Many education leaders lament the current state of American high schools and say we need to redesign them to do better at teaching creativity, design thinking, forming and defending ideas, collaboration and effective communication, and STEM skills. But there’s a school in Boston that’s already doing all that right now: Boston Arts Academy.
In fact, as delegations of U.S. educators travel to Scandinavian countries to study their education systems, a team from the Netherlands is coming to BAA this winter to learn best practices for organizing a school around creativity and innovation.
Tucked behind Fenway Park, BAA was founded in 1998 as the city’s first public performing and visual arts high school. Its 457 students specialize in either dance, music, theater or visual arts.
The school is routinely recognized for its excellence in arts education, with awards in the last few years from the Grammy Foundation, the Arts Schools Network, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and more. Notable alumni include dancer/choreographer Kirven Douthit-Boyd, actress Diane Guerrero and singer Brittany Butler, who’s competed on “The Voice.”
BAA seeks to offer equal opportunity and access. All Boston students can apply, and admission is not based on prior test results, GPA or attendance histories. As a result, BAA’s students represent a diverse cross-section of the city. Forty-two percent are African-American, 39 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white, and 5 percent Asian. Further, as designated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 51 percent are “high needs,” 64 percent are economically disadvantaged and 14 percent have disabilities.