The more engaged and connected the kids are, the more they get from their teachers. And they can give quite a lot to the passionate kids! I wish the academic apathy didn't fall through the cracks as much, but I really only know what my son tells me about what happens in those classrooms. I reckon the teachers are reminding him about due dates more than he is actually paying attention! All of that said, he is more alive and engaged with the academic material than he has ever been, and his musicianship and joy of listening and playing has increased so much, I can't even rate it on a scale- he is a different person all together. I am really impressed with how the teachers have influenced his approach towards learning and performing.
So far, our son has had short math and history assignments every day and slightly longer English assignments once or twice a week, peppered with large projects in one or more classes once or twice a month. I'd say he spends less than hour on average per day on homework. The humanities homework has lots of depth- we were really impressed with the English assignments, in particular. The kids are expected to be practicing their talents daily as well, but I am not sure if I include that in their "homework". He wants to study music in college, so he would be doing that at any school!
I think for the kids who have a real inner drive and/or supportive parents, there are fantastic opportunities to hone your skills. There are dozens of kids, or more, in each class, so teachers aren't banging down any doors to ensure they are doing their work, or practicing their talent. I wouldn't say apathy is counterbalanced or rewarded, but definitely the more engaged and connected students are, the more attention and nudging teachers give.
It is a very supportive environment for these performing arts kids. I know our son is gently pushed to practice and improve by his bandmates, which is exactly what you want- everybody looking out for each other and getting better together. Our son has never felt disrespected, only championed.
It is a performing arts school- these ensembles become ad-hoc families. I feel like there should be more service-oriented clubs, like Amnesty International or something that addresses the needs of the community in Astoria. I would like to see a stronger culture of connectedness and selfless service, but that is certainly a comment on our society as much as it is the school.
They have Sinatra Bucks for kids that do good deeds or helping one another out. You can spend them on sitting in on another studio's class, more practice time, and other cool incentives. There are ample opportunities to present academically and in their artistic discipline through their classes, auditions to ensemble productions, and great feedback is given so the kids can improve.
This is a dream school- we moved to NYC from South Florida at the start of our son's sophomore year, and we could not be happier with where he landed. The instrumental studio has such warm, supportive instruction, and the teachers really go the extra mile for the kids, assisting with instrument repair, camp selection, organizing in-school trainings and workshops, and getting them to think about prestigious conservatories vs. less expensive SUNY programs. They get to perform in their totally pro auditorium in totally pro productions at least 5 times a year. Our son was in a consistently top-ten ranked school in the country in Florida where he had 3-4 hours of homework everyday and other horrifyingly "rigorous" responsibilities, and wasn't half as alive and engaged as he is at FSSA. The quality is much more impressive at this school, at least to us. The interaction and projects really help the students dive deep into the comprehension and our dinner-time discussions about what our teenager learned in English or History are so much richer, and he is so much more attune to the nuances and aware and connected to current events and the world around him. They even get to use their talents in those classes- our son has written songs, created books and collages and seen his classmates dance, act and sing their way through their comprehension of literature. We are highly educated parents, so a strong liberal arts foundation is valued and necessary in our household, and is a distinct concern for our performing arts student! So, while there are not a lot of AP options or language classes (the biggest failure is they only go to Spanish II, in my opinion), the classes they do take are with engaging, compassionate and thoughtful instructors. We are in the Band Parents Association and part of the PTA, so we are around the school a lot- it really feels like everybody there knows how lucky they are to be there. There was one instance of cyber bullying which the kids totally self-regulated- dozens of kids came to bat and made the situation right, so the groupthink is definitely on the right side of humanity. We thank our lucky stars almost every week that our kid got into this school. The culture these kids get to be a part of- creation and success- and the access they have to the tools of their trade, and lovely mentors, is like nothing I have ever seen.
I am currently a senior in this school. Yes most of the kids are nice but it is really the teachers and administration that is the problem in this school. There is extremely bad communication between administrators. It is easy to feel as though you have no voice in the school because no teachers or administrators listen to the students unless a parent calls. The teachers aren't good. I feel that my level in writing has gone down since I have been in this school. The teachers also do not care about the students. I have asked for extra credit before and the teachers don't allow it. They have favorites and if the teachers don't like you they make it obvious and will try to fail you which is very unproffessional. There's not many clubs, they aren't helpful with the college process, and the guidance couselor is a joke.
I have a freshman drama major, and so far, so good. The students are very artsy and friendly and supportive of each other. No HS will be free of friend "drama". The academics are good; there are no honors classes (but a few AP options) but this is NOT an academically focused school. Grades are not handed out; they have to work for them from what I can see. Some of the classes give out very creative assignments, taking advantage of the kids' talents. I have met all of her teachers, so far I don't see any major issues. PupilPath is great; you can see grades and missing assignments. The Parent Coordinator provides TONS of information on a daily basis. Regarding the drama program, it is intense, disciplined, and not just about 'putting on plays'. They do a lot of prep work in freshman year that some may feel has nothing to do with theatre. Also, not everyone gets 90's (there is a play writing course in Freshman year too, not an easy A either). It may not be for everyone; if your child just wants to be in school plays, they can do that in a regular HS. So far my child loves it, and appreciates the work that needs to be done before they feel you are ready to perform.