The Tacoma School of the Arts is built around a particular vision: we believe that students make the most of their learning when they take ownership of their education – when students intentionally choose to take on the challenge real learning entails. We further believe that this ownership most naturally develops within a learning community, encouraged by others who share that commitment. It’s that simple.
Creating such a learning community, however, isn’t simplistic. While our common vision has evolved as the school has grown, a few foundational commitments continue to shape our program.
While much of American schooling tends to compartmentalize and overspecialize, we are committed to integration: we want students to see their learning, their world, and their lives whole. Thus we seek to help students make connections within academic disciplines, between the academics and the arts, between their lives now and their lives as they enter the larger global community in a very few years.
With this holistic vision firmly in mind, we also believe students deserve the opportunity to go deep – to develop and pursue a particular passion at increasingly greater depth, guided by mentors in our community who can encourage excellence.
Because such connections take time – and because real community involves relationships – we commit ourselves to this particular group of students over the course of four years. We don’t admit students after the freshman year, and we ask that students make a similar commitment to this learning community.
The Big Picture
Freshmen enter SOTA as full members of the community. They become part of the humanities core. Students take on math and science courses at their appropriate level. They may take Spanish. In terms of art electives, they are expected to build a broad foundation, experiencing a range of essential courses in music, visual art, drama, and dance.
Juniors move deeper into the community. In addition to their academic core classes, they are encouraged to find a focus in the arts and take classes that broaden and deepen their craft.
The Senior year at SOTA should end with a bang, not a whimper. As a culminating experience of their high school education, seniors will be expected to finish strong academically, of course, and pursue their arts focus at great depth.
Finally, seniors must take on the Senior project. This creates opportunities within a student’s daily schedule to pursue a personal, well-defined goal. The Senior project, an individualized plan designed by each student with the help of appropriate faculty, and approved by a panel of staff and community members, may take the form of an internship, an exhibition, a research or community service project, or a production.
Close-Up the fine print
In addition to all Tacoma Public Schools high school graduation requirements (24 credits), students graduating from the Tacoma School of the Arts are advised to complete a full course of study in a particular arts focus (6 credits).
Further, to maintain the integrity of SOTA’s program and each student’s educational experience, students are expected to attend full time; that is, they must enroll in a minimum of six courses each semester, and be part of our school for all four years.
As we’ve said before, Tacoma School of the Arts isn’t for everyone. Still, we sincerely believe that SOTA’s unique learning community provides opportunities for students to take real ownership of their education.
My son graduated in '09 and I am so thankful that he received his education from SOTA. Their forum-based curriculum has prepared him well for a small highly selective liberal arts college and he is destined to become an academic thanks to the exemplary role models that exist throughout the SOTA staff. I have no doubts my son will continue to work toward his PhD - a goal he set while at SOTA. His experience there resulted in developing a great respect for high quality creative and engaged educators. I am in awe of the level of staff engagement as well as the personal responsibility that is instilled in the students. There's nothing more fulfilling than watching your child transform into a wonderful well-adjusted human being. Every school should be like SOTA. - Parent 2010