April 2 2010
[caption id="attachment_8522" align="alignnone" width="468" caption="Image Courtesy of: Nick Vlcek (via City Pages)"][/caption]
Before I moved to Milwaukee, I spent a good part of my 20's and early 30's in the Twin Cities. I met some great people, and got involved heavily in the music scene, especially the hip hop and electronic scenes. I saw a lot of talented artists. However, what if a young kid wanted to learn how to produce, dj, sing, or mc? Where could they possibly go? A school in St. Paul is one possible solution. The High School for The Recording Arts is a unique learning opporunity for the under-served youth in the Twin Cities. I saw this article in the City Pages (the local weekly) about the school, and I was blown away. I actually blog about their Support for Haiti song and video they did a couple of months ago.
High School for Recording Arts has morphed into a project-based charter school where students take traditional classes and work on independent assignments to earn their high school credits. The reward for finishing early is access to two professional studios to record their original music.
The school's 225-student population represents a hodgepodge of problems. School administrators call them "overage and under-credited," but that doesn't begin to account for all that they are up against. Ellis says the school represents "every child left behind."
Nine in 10 of its students live in poverty. They typically arrive at 17 years old and at least one year behind in credits. Their academic ability is usually at least two years below grade level in basic skills; many possess only elementary-level knowledge in at least one subject.
By the time they get to Hip-Hop High, 39 percent have been kicked out of their previous school and nearly two-thirds have been involved in the criminal justice system. Half don't live with a parent or legal guardian and more than 70 percent are involved in gangs. About 20 percent of the female students are teen moms and nearly half of the male students are already fathers.
It is great approach to education, and it should be used as a model for schools across the country especially when schools are cutting arts programs. Cutting these programs will do more long term harm to our future than the short-term budget issues.
"What traditional schools don't realize is that creativity is important to academics," he says. "We take the core essence of who they are, and their energy in school is fed around their creativity." - Tony Simmons
Check out this mini-documentary on the school.