Specialized urban high schools of the arts: A comparative study

Paul Richard Saronson, Fordham University


The concept of special schools to serve students with special talents is not new. The most recent offshoot of this idea is the magnet school, which is organized around a theme. One of the most popular themes in recent years has been that of arts education, and a variety of schools with this theme have appeared on the scene. This focus on arts programs is in keeping with the consensus of many that the arts should be an integral part of the curriculum. The purpose of this study was to examine examples of specialized schools of the arts that provide a pre-professional, pre-conservatory program. Specifically, the study examined New York's LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, a school that, in some departments, interweaves studio and academic classes throughout the day (the combined academic/arts model); the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a school that "pulls out" its students from other schools for half-day studio instruction (the "pull-out" model); and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, a school that separates the school day between studio and academic classes (the separated academic/arts model). The study's major findings included: Establishing the need for these schools of the arts in urban settings; demonstrating the success of these schools and of their audition processes; identifying the separated academic/arts model as the most effective method of organization; identifying the need for flexibility in staffing the arts departments; establishing the schools' need for close relationships with their cities' cultural community. The research design for the study was a comparative case study. Data from a variety of sources were collected and analyzed. Included were archival records, interviews, school visits, and observations. The study recommended that schools of the arts be organized with the separate arts/academic model; that these schools be provided with flexible staffing policies in arts areas, and that this staff should continue their work in the arts; that these schools establish strong links to their artistic communities for programmatic and funding support; and that these schools bear a special responsibility to their communities. Little attention has been given to the many specialized schools of the arts that have been established throughout the nation. This study, hopefully, helped fill the gap.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Art education

Recommended Citation

Saronson, Paul Richard, "Specialized urban high schools of the arts: A comparative study" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9136333.