March in New Orleans is often a time of celebration and revelry. Now, a New Orleans institution has another reason to celebrate besides Mardi Gras.
The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) was recently awarded the 2013 Transformation Award. This award is presented by Fuel Education to schools, districts and organizations that have transformed education for their students through innovative online programs. Each Transformation Award winner is selected for implementing programs that improve the overall success of online learning and lead to improved student outcomes.
As a high school dedicated to the fine arts, NOCCA faces some unique challenges that other traditional high schools do not. NOCCA provides the opportunity for students to pursue pre-professional arts training in 11 disciplines: classical instrumental, creative writing, culinary arts, drama, dance, jazz, media arts, musical theatre, theatre design, visual arts and vocal music.
As part of these programs, students complete an integrated academic curriculum in the morning and arts training in the afternoon.
NOCCA recognizes that artistic talent is not connected to academic performance. To ensure that all students gifted in the arts can learn their craft and hone their abilities at the school, NOCCA accepts students based on an audition, not on past academic achievement. As a result of this commitment to supporting each student, regardless of their academic strengths or weaknesses—some students at NOCCA require remediation in core subjects.
NOCCA has implemented a program that uses an online education solution for prescriptive learning and remediation. Through this program, teachers are able to use diagnostic tests to work with students in small groups to address specific skills and objectives. This enables teachers to spend less time finding remediation material and more time providing students the targeted lessons they need to move forward.
In addition to the challenge of helping students catch up, NOCCA also faces a challenge that many education institutions are currently struggling with—providing a comprehensive course catalog on a budget.
World languages can be immensely important for fine arts students. For example, culinary students planning to travel China and learn the country’s cuisine could benefit greatly from taking Mandarin. Drama and musical theater students could better perform an aria—such as Bizet’s Habanera from the opera Carmen—if they understood and spoke French.
NOCCA understands the connection world languages have to the arts, so they use online education courses to offer students a variety of world language options. They specifically offer five languages at four skill levels, something they could not do on their own. In addition, these online language courses give students the flexibility to complete their world language courses in a blended environment—at home and at school—so that they can take advantage of rehearsals and studio space while they are on campus. Students are able to choose languages that interest them and that connect with their disciplines.
And the school isn’t stopping with just remedial classes and world languages. This year, NOCCA is integrating individual online courses into its curriculum by piloting an online health class.
But the most impressive thing about NOCCA’s online programs is their results. Each year, a remarkable 95 to 98 percent of NOCCA’s graduates go on to college and conservatory programs across the country. Now that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating!