Stacia Crenscenzi, Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA)

Posted by on Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 in Blog

Reported by Patrick Van Haren

After the “business” portion of our luncheon meeting, Past President Harold Ingersoll introduced our guest speaker.

Stacia Crenscenzi is the Principal at Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) which is currently ranked as the 7th best school in Texas, and 43rd in the nation. Ms. Crenscenzi gave an overview of the school’s history and evolution, and how the school came into being to address the needs of the local technology companies at that time (IBM, Texas Instruments, etc).

The Science Academy (SA) was initially started with 25 students in 1985 at LBJ High School to help address issues of student retention, loss of students to private schools, and issues resulting from desegregation, as well as provide a rigorous high tech and science curriculum. In 1988, pressures were mounting to help the program evolve beyond STEM only focus. Around this same time, the Liberal Arts Academy (LAA) was started at Johnston (now East Side Memorial) with programming that focused on humanities.

While politics forced kids to pick between SA and LAA, a movement tried to support “we want them to have it all”. Further, the top 10 students at Johnston were all LAA kids, creating further issues. In 2002, the two programs merged creating LASA (still located on the LBJ campus, however). In 2006-07 a Gates Foundation Award for $2 million was awarded to LASA. The grant forced AISD to separate the LASA program from the LBJ Campus.

LASA now enrolls approximately 350 students per year, and last year graduated 250. LASA provides every advanced placement (AP) course that is allowed, and then some! For example, it’s now possible for a high school student to earn an undergraduate degree in math at LASA.

Ms. Crenscenzi is proud of the cutting-edge work at LASA and highlighted classes such as the Wicked Problem Project, Hitchhikers Guide to Sci-Fi, Model UN, and teaching seven different languages. To push students harder, LASA has created the magnet endorsement program in which students complete the state standard for graduation prior to completing their sophomore year. This endorsement includes learning multiple languages, studying four years of science and math, completing signature courses, etc.

Finally, Ms. Crenscenzi emphasized how important it is for students to “hit the wall” while in LASA, so that they learn how to overcome adversity prior to going to college. Students must learn how to study, manage time and find a professor mentor. She also teaches students basic skills such as learning how to get a long with a roommate and doing laundry.

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