The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was founded in 1971 as a place for young artists and performers to study their disciplines and to prepare for the challenges of competitive arts programs at universities and colleges. As one of the first magnet schools in HISD, HSPVA paved the way for other non-comprehensive high schools to emerge and to offer alternative high school experiences. HSPVA prides itself on fostering creativity and independence while also emphasizing loyalty and responsibility to the community.
As a magnet school within HISD, HSPVA has no religious affiliation. Students’ religious convictions do not factor into admissions, and the curriculum does not include theological material. While there is no institutionalized prayer in the school, there is a daily minute of silence during which students may choose to pray. Additionally, absences due to religious holidays do not count against a student's record, though the student is still responsible for make-up work.
Location and Facilities
Currently located in Montrose, HSPVA occupies the site of the former Montrose Elementary School. HSPVA moved there in 1981 from its previous location at the corner of Austin St. and Holman St. The current building is two stories and is broken into different sections separating the various arts. HSPVA's facilities include a recital hall, a black box theater, and a traditional theater, as well as a dance studio, an art studio, a jazz room, an orchestra room, and a choir room. Numerous practice rooms are spread throughout the school, but students will also practice in the hallways from time to time.
Construction is underway on a new building for HSPVA at the corner of Austin and Rusk, in the heart of downtown near the arts district. The new campus is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2017-2018 school year. The new facilities will include a mini theater, a black box theater, and an 800-seat main theater, as well as a recital hall, a garden, and indoor and outdoor art studios.
The HSPVA admissions process includes both an application and an audition. All students must fill out the application and submit the following information with it: their most recent report card, the previous year’s final report card, a copy of their transcript/permanent record, two years of standardized test scores, a copy of their immunization record, and proof of HISD residency. For the Creative Writing category, a portfolio with ten original pieces is also to be submitted with the application.
For the audition, students can choose up to two of five possible categories: Creative Writing, Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Instrumental and Vocal Music, and Dance. Students must rank their choices. The student will have an audition in his or her first choice and will only have an audition in his or her second choice if there are enough available audition times. If the student makes it through the first audition, he or she will be called back for a second audition. A callback is not an offer of admission.
Academic Tracks and Curriculum
HSPVA offers two tracks - On-Track and AP. Dual enrollment classes are also available to supplement either track.
In the AP track, Pre-AP classes lead to 9 classes from the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum. HSPVA offers the following AP courses: AP English Language, AP English Literature, AP Calculus, AP Biology, AP Physics, AP U.S. History, AP Government, AP Economics, and AP Music Theory.
Students now matriculating will graduate under the new Foundation High School Program. (Students who matriculated in 2013 or before may choose to graduate under this program or the old requirements.) The Foundation High School Program’s basic requirements are as follows: four credits of English, three credits of math, three credits of science, three credits of social studies, one credit of PE, two credits of the same language other than English, one credit of fine arts, and five credits of electives, for a total of 22 credits.
Most students who graduate under the Foundation High School Program will take one or more “endorsements” in addition to the basic curricular requirements. An endorsement is essentially the high school equivalent of a college major. Students who take an endorsement must complete 26 credits, including a fourth credit each of math and science and any additional credits needed to fulfill the endorsement’s curricular requirements.
There are five possible endorsements: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary. HSPVA offers all but Public Services.
To earn an endorsement in STEM, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses from CTE courses within the STEM cluster, computer science, math, science, or any two of these four.
To earn an endorsement in Business and Industry, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses from a focus area in CTE, or English electives, or technology applications, or a combination of any of these three.
To earn an endorsement in Arts and Humanities, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses in social studies, a language other than English, two levels in two languages other than English, ASL, the fine arts, or English electives not counted under Business & Industry.
To earn an endorsement in Multidisciplinary, a student must complete a coherent sequence of four courses related to preparation for entering the workforce; or one advanced course in each of the four core areas; or four AP, IB, or dual credit courses from the core areas, economics, languages other than English, or the fine arts.
A student who qualifies for at least one endorsement also qualifies for the Distinguished Level of Achievement supplementary endorsement, which is a necessary prerequisite for in-state college admission under the top 10% rule. Students may also earn Performance Acknowledgements for noteworthy career-focused or academic achievements, including qualifying scores on AP and IB exams and the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.
Accommodations are available for students with special needs who meet the requirements for admission. If the parents already have documentation about the student’s special needs, the school will need a copy of that documentation. After receiving the documentation, the school will set up an annual ARD meeting that the parents, the student, an administrator, a core subject teacher, a special education teacher or 504 representative, and an HISD advocate will attend to discuss the specific modifications necessary for the student and to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for the student. Every teacher will receive a copy of the modifications for the student after they are set in the ARD meeting.
If the parents want to request modifications for their child, then the special education teacher will give the student’s teachers paperwork to document the student’s behavior and any modifications the teacher uses for the student. After 6 weeks of documentation, the teachers will turn in the paperwork, and the special education teacher or 504 representative will call a meeting similar to an ARD meeting. If the meeting determines that the student needs accommodation, then the school will have documentation of the student’s special needs and will follow the same procedures as above.
HSPVA students must complete at least two years of a foreign language to graduate—three years if the student wishes to earn a Distinguished Diploma. The school offers courses in two languages, French and Spanish, both of which are offered through level IV.
HSPVA students must audition and be admitted in one of five fine arts concentrations: Creative Writing, Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Instrumental and Vocal Music, and Dance. Each area has its own requirements. For the Creative Writing Department, the student will take classes in multiple genres, such as poetry, short stories, and drama. The Visual Arts Department includes courses in traditional art media, such as sculpture, as well as computer graphics techniques, such as animation. The Theatre Arts Department offers classes acting, but also in theatrical production, directing, and playwriting. While the Instrumental and Vocal Music Department focuses on a variety of instruments and singing, it also offers music literature, music criticism, and music theory classes. The Dance Department offers courses in ballet, modern dance, tap, and jazz.
HSPVA has one computer lab with thirty computers; however, the only classes allowed to use it are the computer classes. For other subjects, students may use the library, which holds sixteen desktop computers, or one of two laptop carts, each of which has thirty laptops with wireless internet connectivity. HSPVA offers Business Communication Information Systems as a part of its career and technical education department, but a technology credit is no longer required to graduate.
HSPVA offers a number of different clubs and activities to its students in addition to its excellent fine arts program. Some examples include Anime Club, Red Cross Club, Literary Magazine, Radio PVA, Hootenanny, Business Professionals of America, Bite and Bike Club, Newspaper, Spanish Honor Society, and National Honor Society. Since the clubs are student oriented, the offerings change over time depending on student interest.
Since HSPVA’s fine arts curriculum demands a considerable time commitment beyond the regular school day, HSPVA does not have any official sports teams.
The school’s PTO provides parent volunteers, makes meals for faculty, publishes a newsletter and student directory, and provides financial assistance to the school. In order to volunteer through the PTO, parents must first undergo training through HISD's VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) program.
The school also has a Shared Decision Making Committee, through which interested parents can join with teachers and community members to advise the principal on important administrative matters.
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4001 Stanford St., Houston, TX 77006
*Many of the HISD schools we profile are among the most selective, popular, and coveted magnet schools in the district. For schools which rank in the top 10 in their level, we have presented the ranking alongside the data.
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