Academic Program Overview
City Arts and Tech High School employs the best practices of high school design along with an innovative model that emphasizes the following characteristics:
At CAT, we make sure our students understand that opportunities, incomes, and quality of life can improve dramatically for those who earn a college degree. That is why CAT’s requirements for graduation match California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) system eligibility requirements (A-G approved). We also believe that getting into college is only the first step; The CAT curriculum is also rigorous so that once enrolled in college, our students have the skills, strategy and mindset to thrive.
Our dedicated College Advisor works closely with all students, beginning in grade nine, and more intensively in grades 11 and 12, to help them to navigate the complex path to college admissions. To learn more about the college-going culture at CAT and how we strongly encourage all students to attend, see our college prep page.
Portfolios and Defense Exhibitions
Before graduating from City Arts and Tech, students must prove their true readiness to succeed in college through the College Success Portfolio. All 12th grade students work hard throughout the year to assemble a portfolio of their work and must give a formal presentation and dissertation-style defense in front of a panel of their teachers and peers. Similarly, 10th graders complete and defend a portfolio to demonstrate they are ready for the 11th grade. Through these capstone activities, our students develop 21st Century Leadership Skills including: Productive Collaboration, Effective Project Management, Clear Communication, and Critical Thinking, skills essential for success in the real world.
Arts and Technology
CAT is not a school that specializes in art and technology; You don’t have to be a computer expert or an artist to attend. Rather, teachers use art and technology as tools for expression and engagement in the classroom; it’s woven into all aspects of what they teach. A student might use art to demonstrate understanding of principles or geometry, or create a video on iMovie to show what they have learned in Social Studies. We also offer several extra-curricular arts and technology classes.
At CAT, students in the 9th grade take a full year of Digital Media Arts (DMA) where they learn to use Photoshop, iMovie, and other digital applications. As 10th graders, students are enrolled in a full year of traditional visual arts, and as seniors they have the opportunity to take an advanced visual arts course. New this year, students in the upper division grades (11th & 12th) will have the opportunity to enroll in an online elective course in our new FlexLab. We are hoping that by expanding our offering of electives, students will have even more flexibility to pursue deeper learning and understanding in areas of personal interest.
Small, Supportive Tight Knit Communities
CAT prides itself as a place where students are well-known, individual student preferences are honored, and close communication and mentoring characterize student-teacher relationships. Students learn in small classes and often keep the same teachers for two years. Students describe the school as being “like a family,” and celebrate being on a campus where they can truly be themselves without fear of judgment.
Rather than being assigned one guidance counselor to check in with once or twice a year, every student at CAT has an Advisor who they meet with four times a week. Advisors work with groups of 15-20 students and serve as their advocate at school. Advisors help students stay organized, set college goals, and they act as the primary contact between the school and families. Students often refer to their Advisory as their “family” at CAT.
Project Based Learning
We believe that students learn most effectively when the coursework is engaging and relevant to their lives. Through Project-Based Learning (PBL), our students put their knowledge to work while tackling complex, real-life problems and questions. Throughout each project, they demonstrate mastery of academic content and essential skills in many subjects including: art, math, literature, science and more. Many of these projects conclude with a public exhibition in which students present their work to their peers, teachers and families.
For example, in 2012, CAT seniors hosted a film festival entitled “American Lockdown” that focused on current issues facing the U.S. Prison System. Students created original documentary films that connected to their learning about the Bill of Rights and court precedents, the use of rhetorical elements in speeches and propaganda, and the role of art and media in driving an awareness campaign.
Students at CAT also participate in our unique “workshop week” held during the final 2 weeks of the school year. Each teacher develops a workshop topic that becomes the focus for students during the entire 2 week period. Students get to choose the workshop that most interests them, and it concludes with a public exhibition of student work and learning.
Workplace Learning Experience
In 11th/12th grade, all students participate in the Workplace Learning Experience, or WLE. One day a week for three months, instead of coming to school, they go to an internship site for the entire day. To secure the internship, students write resumes, cover letters and practice interview skills. We encourage them to seek an internship in a field of interest, and the WLE helps many students identify their ideal career (or one they don’t want!) During the internships, students work with a mentor and complete a project with measurable outcomes. At the end of the three months, they present their experience in a public exhibition. It’s a powerful experience that equips students with job search practice, self-confidence and first-hand exposure to a career field.
21st Century Leadership Skills
In all classes, CAT students build connections to specific 21st Century Leadership Skills that are critical toward college and career success. They are to:
- Communicate Powerfully
- Collaborate Productively
- Complete Projects Effectively
- Think Critically