Et Tu, CCA?: The Issues with the Arts Magnet Program

Kayla Xu, Staff Writer

Irvington High School has the largest arts program in the FUSD. Eighteen years ago, our school’s award-winning arts program even earned IHS magnet status from the Federal Magnet School Assistance Program, meaning students from other schools could transfer to Irvington for the arts. To attract more arts-oriented students to IHS, teachers at Irvington decided to create a new family for these transfer students, Center for Creative Arts (CCA), focused on teaching core curriculum through artistic instructions. However, today the Arts Magnet Program doesn’t give CCA students any significant advantage, academically or artistically, despite what the program promises its students.

For one, the CCA family is almost same as any other family. That doesn’t sound like an issue, but IHS advertises the program very differently. The CCA page on the Irvington website boasts a “core curriculum… intergrated [sic] with arts-based activities and instruction that target the students’ artistic interests.” However, though most teachers do try to fulfill this promise, “arts-based activities and instruction” is usually a loose term for lectures and simplistic poster projects that make the norm in CCA classes. CCA teachers also fail to “target the students’ artistic interests” by restricting assignments and projects to only the visual arts, ignoring the performing and literary arts.

CCA students are also finding themselves in an unexpected predicament: not getting placed in the very arts classes they joined CCA for. An arts elective is a requirement for the Arts Magnet Program’s students, but for some reason, the administration doesn’t allow CCA students priority for arts classes. IHS has thirty-two different art classes, and CCA only has around 100 students, all with different artistic interests. Even with more students, the possibility of entire art classes only comprised of CCA students isn’t very high. Some CCA students are even enrolled into art classes they’re uninterested in, purely to fulfill their art class requirement, which makes little sense. This happened to a few students in CCA Honors; one in particular was denied both her requested art class (it was full) and language class, and instead was placed into an arts class she never applied for, Sculpture and Ceramics.

These issues were mainly the result of a lack of clear information about the Arts Magnet Program. Most CCA students didn’t even know that an arts class was mandatory for them every year of high school until after registration. They also didn’t know that Freshmen CCA Honors didn’t contain honors science. While this information was on the Irvington website, it wasn’t located on the Arts Magnet Program page, but instead in a single sentence under Counselors/Registration in a question about regular families. The lack of clear information was even more detrimental since, according to CCA co-coordinator Mr. Tully Minty, 2 out of every 3 magnet students are from schools outside of the Irvington area. The only place most these students were getting their information from was the poorly organized Irvington website and the CCA application form, which didn’t contain much useful information about CCA itself. CCA coordinators and administration do encourage students and parents to attend event like the Freshmen Open House to ask question, but they should still make this information easily accessible on their website, because once these transfer students have joined the program, they systematically have no choice but to remain in CCA for all four years of high school, effectively trapping them in an academy they don’t necessarily want to be in.

It’s not that CCA is bad in theory. The program itself was founded eighteen years ago on very solid ideals: build a family around the artistic interests of its students with IHS’s new status as a magnet school. When the CCA program first started, there were even field trips to art museums and performances about the visual, performing, and literary arts for the program. But since then, the number of CCA students has shrunk from 340 students to only about 100, which reflects how the Arts Magnet Program is failing to live up to its former glory. Today, events like the CCA Zombie Run are showing that the faculty is putting more effort into the Arts Magnet Program, but in the long run, it probably won’t be enough. If the administration wants to continue to attract more arts-oriented students to CCA, they should make the classes themselves more arts-oriented and give the CCA student more availability and preference to arts classes. To avoid unnecessary discontent and confusion, they also need to be more upfront about the limitations of CCA. For example, the CCA website page should clearly state that there’s no honors science for freshmen, instead of a misleading “Honors course options are also available.” The coordinators and administrators also need to make it clear that arts classes are mandatory every year, and that students are expected to be in the core family classes. By making this information easily accessible, only students who are truly interested in the program will apply. And by giving these dedicated CCA students more opportunities to explore their artistic interests, they will stay, and more will follow.