Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts

Our Insights

What’s Special

A focus on performing arts

The Downside

Metal detectors, poor attendance

Founded in 2006 in the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Education Complex, the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (UASPA) offers dance, theater, theater tech and vocal music, in addition to typical high school academics. Students do not need to need to audition or have previous experience in the arts. They showcase their work in dance, vocal music and theater performances during the year.

They practice in a renovated basement called the performing arts wing that has fresh, bright paint on the walls and also houses a history classroom and staff offices, according to parent coordinator Elizabeth Whitaker. The dance studio has mirrors, a ballet barre and floors suitable for dancing.

Students at UASPA seem happy with the variety of ways they can develop talents in the arts outside of academics, and most say they feel academically challenged in their classes, according to NYC school surveys. They participate in assemblies, plays, concerts and jam sessions in the school’s auditorium and in a larger space at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus near Lincoln Center.

A partnership with College Bound has helped more students graduate on time and to find colleges that are affordable and a good fit.

Principal Meghan McMahon is a dancer who pursued a career in education and received her master's from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was a founding history teacher at the school and served as assistant principal for four years before becoming principal in 2015. Teachers give McMahon high marks on NYC school surveys; under her leadership, the climate at the school has slowly become safer and teachers stay longer. “I adore her,” says Whitaker. “She is compassionate. She listens. She cares. It’s not above her to get her hands dirty.”

A thorny problem the principal has not yet solved is attendance. It remains stalled at roughly 80 percent, and many students miss more than 18 days of school. When they miss lessons, teachers need to spend extra time helping them catch up.

Whitaker says that when parents go to work early, teens may sleep in and come to school late or not at all. Some deliver younger siblings to school first, which results in tardiness. Teachers and staff make phone calls or use an app to let parents know if their child is missing or late. Students win incentives like “dress down day” or a trip to Madame Tussauds wax museum for good attendance.  

Students meet in small advisory groups with a staff person every day. They discuss social and emotional issues that come up. The school’s yearly plan states that the goal is to bolster relationships in school as a way to improve academics and attendance. “We try to build a strong community,” says Whitaker. “We’re getting there.”

The building is shared with two middle schools, Success Academy Harlem North West Charter School and IS 286 Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders, and high school Academy for Social Action

Students must pass through a metal detector to enter the building.

ADMISSIONS: Students do not need to audition. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, April 2018)    

School Stats


How many students graduate in 4 years?
How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
Average daily attendance
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
From the 2019-20 School Quality Guide and 2020-21 NYC School Survey


Number of students
644 Citywide Average


Low-income students
Students with disabilities
Multilingual learners
From the 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

How many students were suspended?
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
How many students say that some are bullied at their school because of their gender or sexual orientation?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey and 2019-20 NY State Report Card

Faculty & Staff

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
Years of principal experience at this school
7 Citywide Average
Number of students for each guidance counselor or social worker
157 Citywide Average

Teachers’ Race/Ethnicity

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
Are teachers effective?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey, 2019-20 School Quality Guide, 2019-20 NY State Report Card, 2021 Guidance Counselor Report and this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Advanced Courses

Which students have access to advanced courses at this school? Learn more


Not offered in 2019-20

Computer Science

Not offered in 2019-20


Not offered in 2019-20

Advanced Foreign Language

Not offered in 2019-20

AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science


AP/IB Math or Science



From unpublished, anonymized data from the 2019-20 school year provided by the New York State Education Department, brought to you by

College Readiness

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
From the 2019-20 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
From the 2020-21 FAFSA data released by Federal Student Aid, brought you by
How many graduates of this school received Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding to attend a NYS college?
How many of those TAP recipients made it through college? Learn more
From unpublished, anonymized student-level data for the class of 2011-12 provided by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) in coordination with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), brought to you by
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

From the 2021 High School Directory

Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts

Admissions Method: Ed. Opt.


From the 2021 High School Directory

Language Courses


Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English Literature and Composition, AP United States History, AP English Language and Composition, AP Statistics, AP Psychology

Boys PSAL teams


Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Softball

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on NYCDOE’s MySchools

NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location


509 West 129th Street
Manhattan NY 10027

Trains: 1 Line to 125th St; B Line, C Line to 135th St

Buses: Bx15, Bx33, M10, M100, M101, M104, M11, M3, M4, M5, M60-SBS


Principal: Meghan Mcmahon

Parent Coordinator: Elizabeth Whitaker


Other Details

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the building with Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders and Success Academy Charter High School of the Liberal Arts Harlem

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? Yes

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