A focus on performing arts
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.”
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)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
CalculusNot offered in 2019-20
Computer ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
PhysicsNot offered in 2019-20
Advanced Foreign LanguageNot offered in 2019-20
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
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
Contact & Location
509 West 129th Street
Manhattan NY 10027
Trains: to 125th St; , to 135th St
Buses: Bx15, Bx33, M10, M100, M101, M104, M11, M3, M4, M5, M60-SBS
This school shares the building with Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders and Success Academy Charter High School of the Liberal Arts Harlem
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Manhattan, NY 10027
Manhattan, NY 10027