Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise (LAAAE) is a public charter school which largely serves the west downtown Los Angeles community. The founding of LAAAE originated with Moctesuma Esparza, a motion picture industry leader who has received over 200 honors and awards, including an Emmy Award, Clio Award, an Academy Award nomination, and a Golden Globe nomination. In addition to movie making, Esparza has been active in the community, including previously serving on the Board of Directors of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) which is located on the California State University, Los Angeles campus. This experience led Esparza to envision a charter school as an option for students unable to access LACHSA, but have dreams and talents that need to be nurtured and developed. He wanted all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, to have access to a college preparatory curriculum with an emphasis on visual and performing arts and entrepreneurship. Thus, LAAAE was founded and continues to develop into a viable public education option for students and families.
On August 24, 2004, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) authorized LAAAE to open its doors in September 2005. Upon initial authorization, LAAAE only offered sixth grade. Adding one grade each subsequent year, LAAAE graduated its first senior class in June 2012. LAAAE has now graduated eight senior classes. LAAAE is currently collocated with Roybal Learning Center at 1200 West Colton Street, Los Angeles. Previously, LAAAE was based at 600 South La Fayette Park Place, Los Angeles from 2006 to 2016 and at 3119 West 6 Street, Los Angeles from 2005 to 2006. LAAAE’s charter has been renewed by LAUSD on multiple occasions, most recently in March 2015. That same year, LAAAE was bestowed with the True Grit Award by Educators 4 Excellence for making significant academic growth. LAAAE was also recognized with a Best High Schools Bronze Medal by U.S. News and World Report.
Since its founding, LAAAE has served a predominantly minority, immigrant, and socially and economically underserved population. With an average enrollment of 341 for the past five years, LAAAE has historically been a small school. In school year 2018-2019, LAAAE’s enrollment was 287. Over 98% of students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of LAAAE’s students are minorities and 89% of the students are, or have previously been classified as, an English language learner.
As is implied in its name, students have access to a wide variety of courses in the arts (dance, music, theater, and visual arts) and business. Middle school students receive arts and enterprise instruction through an exploratory wheel which enables them to learn different related topics each quarter. The exploratory wheel content changes annually to provide students a broad exposure across the arts and entrepreneurship throughout their middle school experience. The 2019-2020 exploratory wheel includes: introduction to business, instrumental music, computer science, and visual arts. (The computer science materials and curricula are provided through the Verizon Innovative Learning grant.) Advanced middle school students may enroll in high school or college level classes.
High school students follow an A-G curriculum and complete coursework in both the arts and business to graduate. Current high school academic course offerings range from intervention to college level and include 43 University of California / California State University A-G approved courses. Six of these are also currently authorized on the College Board’s AP Course Audit Ledger and include: AP 2-D Art Design, AP Calculus, AP Computer Science Principles, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish Language and Culture, and AP Spanish Literature and Culture. One hundred percent (100%) of the 18 students who took the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam in May 2019 earned a passing score.
Through a partnership with Los Angeles City College (LACC), students can take LACC courses at LAAAE. In 2019, LAAAE launched another dual enrollment pathway with LACC through the K12 Strong Workforce Program. These on- and off-campus dual enrollment classes focus on design, visual and media arts, and incorporate computer graphics and animation. Students can then transition to post-secondary education that leads to a career pathway or attain employment upon graduation. In addition to the Visual Arts department growth, the Dance department has also increased opportunities for students.
In February 2019, students not only saw the world-renowned dance company from Matthew Bourne perform his innovative adaptation of Cinderella, but also participated in a two-day workshop with company members. Students then choreographed a dance in response to the performance they viewed and performed their dance for the members of the company. Students rehearsed in the Music Center studios in downtown Los Angeles and performed on the Ahmanson stage! During the 2017-2018 school year, LAAAE collaborated with Ballet Hispanico, including participating in a company residency with one of their teaching artists. LAAAE hosts a semiannual showcase (December and May) to feature the visual and performing arts students’ talent.
After a three-year pursuit with the Federal Communications Commission, LAAAE in consortium with the National Hispanic Media Coalition and other agencies, was granted broadcasting rights on 101.5 FM in late 2016. Radio classes were launched in August 2017 to teach students requisite skills for broadcasting. There is a timeshare agreement among the broadcasting partners and each collectively contribute to the signal’s transmission. In August 2017, LAAAE partnered with the Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project. In that program, students engage deeply in all elements of filmmaking and create their own short film. Students are mentored weekly by active members of the entertainment industry. In the culminating activity, students debut their films at the Linwood Dunn Theater – a screening facility for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 2014, the “D” letter grade was eliminated in both the middle and high school educational program. All students are expected to earn at least a C in order to successfully complete a course. Beyond academics, LAAAE’s educational program has a holistic approach and includes providing multi-tiered systems of supports. These systems of support include: positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery, and a targeted at-risk tutoring program. The California PBIS Coalition awarded LAAAE Silver recognition in 2016, 2017, and 2018 and Platinum recognition in 2019, for its systems of tiered interventions. LAAAE is the only California charter school to earn Platinum recognition in the award’s history.
LAAAE has a robust student services team which includes an onsite counselor, social worker, school psychologist, and college services. The student services team also collaborates with community-based organizations which provide onsite and offsite individual and group therapy, family therapy, gang prevention, and gang intervention. LAAAE has also partnered with Youth Policy Institute to provide comprehensive after school and extended break programming and services.
To ensure no child goes hungry, LAAAE students are provided with breakfast-in-the-classroom (BIC), lunch, afterschool snack, and supper (for students who stay afterschool). To promote attendance, LAAAE students are provided with transportation. Most students are issued a transit access pass (TAP card) to ride the public bus (LA Metro and DASH) to school. Alternatively, students may participate in the school-operated transportation services before and after school.
In 2010, LAAAE initially applied for and received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In November 2014 and March 2018, WASC reaffirmed LAAAE’s accreditation until June 2021. In 2012, LAAAE became an associate member of the California Interscholastic Federation. In 2015, LAAAE was admitted as a full member. LAAAE’s athletic program offers boys’ and girls’ sports each season. Interested student athletes may participate in any team.
LAAAE is incorporated as a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and is recognized as a 501(c)(3) entity with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Financial statements are independently audited annually. The audit reviews compliance in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards; the standards applicable to financial audits contained in Government Auditing Standards, issued by the Comptroller General of the United States; and the Guide for Annual Audits of K-12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting, issued by the California Education Audit Appeals Panel as regulations. LAAAE’s 2018-2019 unaudited financial statements report over one million in net assets. The 2019-2020 fiscal year budget balances nearly five million dollars.
LAAAE was awarded a Verizon grant
In May 2019, the Verizon Innovative Learning (VIL) program awarded LAAAE with a grant for materials and curricula. LAAAE is one of 70 schools nationwide and one of five California schools selected to participate. VIL is a virtual reality STEM based program developed by the Verizon Foundation and Arizona State University to teach students about: emerging technology, design thinking process, entrepreneurial thinking, and sustainable development goals.
LAAAE was recognized with a Bronze Medal from U.S. News and World Report
U.S. News and World Report annually evaluates and recognizes the best high schools in the United States. In their 2015 recognition, LAAAE earned a Bronze Medal.
LAAAE was awarded a K12 Strong Workforce grant
In April 2019, LAAAE was one of three Los Angeles high schools selected to participate in a dual enrollment pathway with LACC through the K12 Strong Workforce program. These on- and off-campus dual enrollment classes focus on design, visual and media arts, and incorporate computer graphics and animation. Students can then transition to post-secondary education that leads to a career pathway or attain employment upon graduation.
LAAAE's Accreditation was Reaffirmed
In April 2018, WASC visited and reaffirmed LAAAE’s accreditation until June 30, 2021. LAAAE has been accredited since 2010.