At the Renaissance Arts Academy in Los Angeles, California, students spend their days learning math, science, English, history, and music. Unlike many traditional public schools, however, RenArts students spend an equal amount of time on each of these disciplines. RenArts puts as much emphasis on music as it does on academic subjects to give students a well-rounded education.
RenArts is an open-admission public school, which means that they use a random lottery to fill their enrollment. As a result, the majority of students start out with no prior arts experience. Students practice every day after school and complete their classwork during study halls. RenArts maintains an impressive API score of about 897 and performs well academically, but the main goal of the school’s innovative academic program is to break down departmental and disciplinary barriers.
In addition to teaching music theory, RenArts works with students, from the beginners to the experienced, to build a robust performance program. In the physical school space, in order to foster and encourage interdisciplinary learning, there are no walls between the different classes. As a result, in the school’s Hart Vision Charter School of the Year video, one student mentioned the magic of “being able to hear string quartets while you’re practicing an algebra problem.”
Co-Directors P.K. Candaux and Sidnie Gallegos Myrick founded Renaissance Arts Academy “to provide equitable arts training to public school students in the belief that arts achievement and academic excellence go hand in hand,” according to the school’s program overview. Their vision has paid off. RenArts was named a California Distinguished School in 2009 and 2013. In 2010 and 2011, RenArts was a recipient of the state’s Title 1 Academic Achievement Award, which recognizes schools that have demonstrated success in significantly closing the achievement gap between high and low-performing students
Students at the school have no homework, as they complete their classwork within study periods during school hours. This way, students can devote their afternoon hours to rehearsal. RenArts’ founders wanted to create an environment where music is treated with equal esteem as other subjects, and along the way they have modeled the great possibilities in building a unique public charter school.
At the Renaissance Arts Academy, students are exposed to a truly classical education, with curricular balance between the arts and academics and a unique opportunity to get a different kind of education. RenArts does exactly what charters should be doing: boldly educating students in non-traditional ways and serving a diverse set of students who prefer and elect to learn differently than the rest.
About #ChartersWork: The Pacific Research Institute’s Center for Education is showcasing success stories from charter schools and individual charter school students to promote the benefits of school choice. To view more stories, visit www.pacificresearch.org/education/.