The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) has been at the cutting edge of education, featuring supportive teachers and staff, rigorous academics, creative experiences and numerous opportunities for its nearly 730 students.
“I’m a firm believer that when you make space for kids to do what they love they will succeed,” said CAPA principal Joanne Beaver. “Our attendance is through the roof. Our kids come to school and they don’t want to leave at the end of the day.
“CAPA is a place where children can really be who they are,” she added. “It’s a lot of hard work to maintain everything that we’re doing here, but it’s so worth it because we’re preparing our kids for their future.”
CAPA is among eight School District of Philadelphia high schools named on the “Best High Schools in Pennsylvania” ranking by U.S. News & World Report. The high school also ranked third among all district schools in the city.
“We’re extremely focused on college readiness,” Beaver said. “We have a 98.69 [percent] graduation rate, and out of that graduation rate, about 99 percent of our students are enrolled in some kind of college, program or post secondary education.
“We already have over 100 students at this point who have been accepted to college already,” she added. “One of the things we instituted this year for our seniors is an early release program where our seniors have the option to do one of three things including community service, an internship or part time job, or take a course at Community College of Philadelphia.”
Students who attend CAPA, which is at 901 S. Broad St., can choose from seven majors including visual arts, creative writing, theater, dance, vocal music, instrumental music and digital media arts.
The school also offers more than 12 advanced placement courses including biology, English language and composition, English literature and composition, music theory, world history, American history and government.
“We have an LGBTQ+ history course and we’ve done a queer history course as well,” Beaver said. “All of our classes are rigorous but the focus in our classrooms is around higher level questioning and engagement.
“That is what is embedded in every class because that’s what makes a culturally responsive, equity based classroom,” she added. “We use a lot of literature that kids see themselves in.”
Adding to CAPA students’ enthusiasm is the high-caliber of teachers. Beaver praised her staff for their hard-work and dedication.
“I have the most magical staff in the world,” Beaver said. “They’re highly dedicated and strategic in the way they teach and meet the needs of our students. We do a lot of community meetings and communicate with kids about what their needs are.
“There’s a lot of grace that we give our kids because we know they’re balancing a lot of things,” she said. “You need to be able to balance your academics with rehearsal schedules and all of that kind of stuff and our teachers are super flexible.
“To me a huge part of a successful school is the teachers. If students don’t feel seen and heard by adults all day, there’s an issue. We really focus on that and our teachers do a great job of building relationships with the kids; they’re just amazing,” she added.
Beaver said she wants students to leave CAPA being amazing people.
“We can teach them how to be better dancers and vocalists,” Beaver said. “We can teach them science, math and everything academic related, but the most important thing for me is what kind of person they are.
“I want them to be kind, thoughtful, caring, and [to] fight for what they believe in. I tell my kids all the time it’s my job to teach you everything you need to know to get your diploma and prepare you for your future,” she added.
“However, it’s also my job to know that when I handed that diploma to you, that you are the best person you can be when you leave here and that you spread that and give that to other communities.”