Spotlight on Los Angeles High School of the Arts

We are excited to highlight Los Angeles High School of the Arts (LAHSA) for our first school spotlight of 2018-2019. LAHSA is a teacher-powered LAUSD pilot school co-located on the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools site in Los Angeles, California. LAHSA started as a small learning community over a decade ago. A group of teachers submitted a proposal to turn into a high school with a focus on the arts.

A demonstration site for Linked Learning
LAHSA was one of the first schools to pilot Linked Learning and now is a demonstration school for schools and districts. Linked Learning combines academics to relevant, work-based learnings. LAHSA offers two pathways (acting and design) both culminating in a Senior Defense.

Making learning come alive through Senior Defenses
Every senior participates in a 45-minute long senior defense where they must stand in front of a panel and showcase their growth. Students bring three artifacts related to their pathway along with reflections about their growth over time.

Implementing Senior Defense
LAHSA started implementing senior defenses about five years ago. Here is how they did it:

  • The idea started with the teachers. A group of teachers saw the benefits of doing senior defenses and wanted to try it out.
  • The first year of senior defense implementation was made possible when the English and Government teachers decided to just go for it. While the senior defense started in these two classes, it soon shifted the culture of the school. During PD time, one student presented to the entire staff. That is when other teachers saw the benefits of this process.
  • Since then, the leadership team has been working to revise the process by asking for student feedback, spending time calibrating with each other, and figuring out the best way to share the workload.

Since implementing Senior Defenses, LAHSA has seen increases in graduation rate and college-going rate. Last year, 64% of the seniors were accepted to a four-year university and 100% of the seniors graduated with post-secondary plans.

Click here for a short video explaining the purpose and value behind LAHSA's Senior Defense.

Want to learn more about Linked Learning or Senior Defenses? Email Lead Teacher Elizabeth Mora at or visit LAHSA's website. To learn more about the LAHSA's teacher-powered autonomies, visit their profile page on our website.