Bring Fame Back to the "Fame" School!
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What if Jennifer Aniston, Adrian Grenier, or Robert DeNiro didn't have the chance to study drama at a high school for the arts?
What if Ben Vereen or Desmond Richardson weren’t able to study dance; or Nicki Minaj and Pinchas Zuckerman, music; or Milton Glaser, art?
The world would be a poorer place without their enormous contributions. Fortunately, they went to the best high school in the country for artistically gifted students - Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in NYC. Unfortunately, the next generation of talented artists may not have the same opportunity to develop their skills.
Since the 2013 arrival of principal Dr. Lisa Mars, LaGuardia's admission process has been radically altered in favor of academic scores and attendance records. With these new admission criteria, talent counts for only 14% of the admission decision.* As a result, hundreds of qualified and gifted students have been denied admission.
This change not only defies the 80-year-old mission of the Fame school, it also violates the Hecht-Calandra Act of 1971, which gives specialized high schools the unique power to choose their students based on a specific set of criteria.
We demand that the Department of Education return the admission criteria to those consistent with the law and the original mission of the school.
- The Hecht-Calandra law provides that candidates for a specialized arts high school be required to “pass competitive examinations in music and/or the arts in addition to presenting evidence of satisfactory achievement.” However, since 2013, applicants who do not have at least a grade of 80 in every core academic subject are rejected, regardless of their audition score. So a student can receive a perfect 100 on their audition but be rejected because of a 79 they got in junior high school math.
- According to the 2015/16 Department of Education School Survey:
- only 25% of LaGuardia's teachers say they trust the principal
- only 28% of teachers say the principal communicates a clear vision for the school
- only 32% of teachers say the principal understands how students learn
- 73% of teachers feel disrespected by the principal
- According to the DOE’s framework for successful schools (which includes 6 categories) LaGuardia continues to decline in areas relating to leadership. In the most recent DOE School Dashboard, Dr. Mars received a stunning 1.76 for Trust and 1.2 for Effective Leadership (the scale is 1.00 - 4.99). LaGuardia is not meeting target in any of the 6 categories!
- Since the arrival of Dr. Mars, there has been an unprecedented exodus of teachers and staff. This year alone nearly 18% have left. Dr. Mars, who has had little experience in educating artistically talented students, has hired questionable replacements – for example, she replaced the Assistant Principal of Art with a middle school English teacher.
- The DOE and UFT are both aware of these issues, but have chosen to ignore them.
The esteemed legacy of LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts must continue. By our signatures below, we demand a return to admission requirements consistent with the Hecht-Calandra law and effective leadership for the school.
* This percentage was for the 2013/14 school year, provided by a Freedom of Information Law request. Requests for subsequent years’ admission statistics have gone unanswered.
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