Liberal Arts and Science Academy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Liberal Arts & Science Academy
7309 Lazy Creek Drive
Austin, Texas 78724
United States
TypePublic Magnet
MottoDucete Auctoritate Benefacete Comitate
("Leading with authority, kindness, and brotherhood")
School districtAustin Independent School District
CEEB code440069
PrincipalStacia Crescenzi
Enrollment1,191 (2017-2018)
Color(s)     Purple
USNWR ranking27th[2]
Average ACT scores30.5[3]
LBJ and LASA High School Main Entrance

Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) is a selective public magnet high school for liberal arts, science and mathematics in Austin, Texas.

In 2014, Newsweek ranked LASA #8 among the nation's best high schools,[4] and ranked the school #1 in the state of Texas.[5][6] The Washington Post ranked LASA #30 in the nation in 2011.[7] In 2013 U.S. News and World Report ranked the school #1 in Texas and #28 nationally.[2] 35 out of the 203 students in the LASA Class of 2011 (17.2%) were National Merit Scholars.[8]

Although LASA is open to all Austin residents and charges no tuition, competition for admission can be intense and is contingent on submission of an application, prior academic record and the Cognitive Abilities Test.


The LBJ Science Academy, Austin’s first magnet program, was created in 1985. The Liberal Arts Academy at nearby Johnston High School (now Eastside Memorial High School) opened in 1987. The two programs were merged in 2002 and became the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), housed on the LBJ High School campus. For the next five years LASA remained an advanced academic program within LBJ High School until the school board voted in 2007 to make LASA a separate high school.[1][8] Although each school has its own principal, administrative staff, academic faculty and yearbook, the two schools share the same campus and have combined fine arts and athletics classes, including a shared school newspaper (The Liberator[9]). LBJ and LASA compete in UIL events as one school, usually as Johnson High School. In 2011-2012 the total student enrollment at LASA High School was about 870,[10] while that at LBJ was about 1000. According to, LASA grew to 1016 students in 2017. [11]


LASA shares its campus with Lyndon B. Johnson Early College High School: LASA is on the second floor while Johnson is on the first floor. Melissa B. Taboada of the Austin American-Statesman stated that some members of the Austin community "say the division is a constant blemish on the campus".[12]


Directors of the Science Academy at LBJ High School:

  • Dr. John Friedrick (1984–1989)
  • Suzanne Sinkin (1989–1994)
  • Mary Long (1994 - June 1997)
  • Carol Hovland (August 1996 - February 1997)
  • Daniel Gohl (February 1997 - February 2002)
  • Dr. Betty Stapp (Feb. 2002 - August 2002)

Director of the Liberal Arts Academy at Johnston High School:

  • Dr. Paula Tyler (1987–2002)

Directors of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy at LBJ High School:

  • Dr. Betty Stapp (August 2002- June 2004)
  • Dr. Gregory Foley (August 2004- September 2006)
  • Rene Sanchez (September 2006 - August 2007)

Principal of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School:

  • Rene Sanchez (August 2007–December 2010)
  • Scott Lipton (Interim Principal, December 2010 – July 2011)
  • Stacia Crescenzi (July 2011 – Present)


As of 2018 19.56% of LASA students are Hispanic and Latino and 2% are black. As of 2015 11.9% of the LASA students are low income. The percentages of low income, black, and Hispanic students at LASA decreased circa 2010-2015.[12]

The school spends $3,665 per student for academic programs and $5,919 per student for all school functions as of 2010.[13]

Academic performance[edit]

Admission is based on multiple criteria including grades, standardized test scores, essays, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, awards earned, and an admissions exam (currently the Cognitive Abilities Test).[14] As of 2015 high ranking universities often attract people graduating from LASA.[12]


Traditions vary depending on the class, club, and time of year. One can begin with the Magnet Showcase in January, in which all of the classes, as well as many clubs and sports teams have representatives stay afterschool one night to show what LASA has to offer to prospective students. There is often a friendly rivalry among classes and clubs over who can attract the most attention.

In early April, Coffeehouse occurs. The event, which originated at Johnston and was brought over by former English teacher Matt Kelly, is a talent show where students perform music, drama, poetry and prose.

The last tradition of the year is the Senior Salute. The Salute, sponsored by the Parents and Friends of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (PFLASA), is the new senior recognition ceremony that replaced the Science Academy Senior Banquet. Its main purpose is the recognition of the LASA Senior class and is where students are awarded their magnet certificate. The event is filled with multimedia presentations, readings, music, skits, student speeches, and at the end a senior class photo. There is also a smaller interclass gathering on the last day of school: the LASA picnic, usually held at Zilker Park and organized with students arranging transportation and times.

The traditional "Senior Assassins" game was finally ended in 2014 after word of the game leaked to the media. The game began in 2006. Seniors would collect an entry fee, then chase each other in hallways during class breaks, trying to mark and "tag" each other with markers. A student who got marked was "dead." The last survivor claimed the cash prize. In 2013, students were injured in the hallway by running seniors. Walls were rammed and holes had to be repaired. The game finally ended that year when a male student chased a female into the women's bathroom and she complained. In 2014, the administration helped organize the game, setting additional rules. A parent alerted the media and the subsequent attention caused the district to order the principal to shut the game down.[15]

The official LASA mascot is the Nautilus, although it shares LBJ's mascot, the Jaguar, in UIL and other collaborative events across the schools.[16]


The sports that academy students are most likely to participate in are: ultimate frisbee, golf, lacrosse, swimming, cross-country, and tennis. As with the fine arts wing, the sports offered are shared between LBJ and LASA students.[17] The school offers, as a whole, 15 sports.

Fine arts[edit]

  • Band
  • Theater
  • Choir
  • Art
  • Dance — First Ladies
  • Orchestra

Clubs and Student Organizations[edit]

LASA offers more than 70 clubs and student organizations. These vary from year to year, and students may apply to create a new club each school year.

Many of LASA's clubs are award-winning. LASA's Quiz bowl club won national titles at NAQT's High School National Championship titles in 2013 and 2014, as well as the PACE NSC in 2014. They have also had numerous top 4 finishes at both tournaments.[18] LASA's robotics club regularly qualifies for the FIRST Championship, and won 2nd place in 2015. The Science Olympiad team won 8th place at the 2017 national tournament. Members of LASA's Science Expo Club also regularly compete and win awards at both regional fairs and at Intel ISEF.[citation needed] LASA's Policy debate program is successful and is considered unique. Unlike most successful schools, LASA doesn't have a class for debate during the school day but instead meets during lunches. LASA also does not fund this program, and is reliant on participant donations. LASA's debate team has made it to the Tournament of Champions several years in a row.


To graduate with LASA's magnet endorsement, students must complete a minimum of 15 magnet classes, including a minimum three years of one language, four years of English, four years of social studies, four years of math (unless they complete multivariable calculus), and four years of science. Course offerings include Advanced Placement (AP) courses covering 30 Advanced Placement tests; students may begin taking them their freshman year.

Additionally, LASA offers specialized electives in all core subjects, such as How To Be An Adult, Amateur Radio (students may apply for a HAM radio license while taking the course), and a Modern Physics course. Roughly 75% of the LASA senior class graduates have taken calculus.[citation needed] As of 2017, LASA has 18 elective science classes, which encompass astronomy, forensic science, and engineering. Electives for humanities include creative writing, women's literature, amateur radio, and constitutional law.


The LBJ/LASA Orchestra travels every year, and in recent years, has even travelled to places such as Carnegie Hall, in New York.[19]


LASA's math classes range from Algebra I to Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, Number Theory, Statistics, and Logic courses.


LASA offers seven languages: French, German, Latin, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, American Sign Language, and Italian. Every fall the language clubs come together to play broomball with the French, German, Latin and Japanese clubs teaming up to take on the massive Spanish club.[citation needed]

Computer Science[edit]

LASA{CS}, the computer science program at LASA, offers courses that cover Java, C++, data structures, Python, web and mobile applications, and digital circuits. Additionally, there is an independent study class to allow more advanced students to work on their own projects.[20]


LASA publishes its own newspaper every six weeks, The Liberator, as well as its own yearbook, Stetson. Stetson was previously LBJ's yearbook. When LASA and LBJ began to share a campus, LASA produced the book for both campuses. In 2016, LBJ began its own yearbook again, and LASA kept the Stetson name.

Signature Courses[edit]

Students must take two "Signature Courses" in both their Freshman and Sophomore years. These Signature Courses are semester-long, "double-block" period classes designed to make well-rounded students. Freshmen must take Introduction to Engineering ("SciTech") and Graphic Design and Illustration ("E-Zine"); sophomores take Introduction to the Humanities ("Great Ideas") and Biogeology ("Planet Earth").[21]


SciTech is hands-on science and engineering, which will prepare students to perform in industry and university work environments with industry level evaluation. Students are given a mechanical engineering challenge to complete. The course is based in general on a "four step" design process: conceptualization, design, layout/construction, and evaluation. One of the Highlights of SciTech is Kickoff Day when the semester's challenge is announced: former students are often heard asking the current students "What is the challenge this semester?" Or later after kick off, taunting them with, "my challenge was harder than yours", or equally terrorizing, "Man, yours is the hardest I have ever seen!" The exact challenge parameters and the course itself are the "best kept" secrets at the academy until Kickoff. The class celebrated its 50th semester (25 years)in the Fall of 2011.[21]

Planet Earth[edit]

Planet Earth examines the relationship between life and the physical planet throughout geologic history. The objectives range from recognizing cause and effect relationships to collecting and analyzing data for a long-term research project and then presenting the results. The students participate in two large projects during Planet Earth: The KT (Cretaceous-Tertiary) Debate and the Biodiversity Project. The KT Debate covers the various theories discussing the mass extinction of dinosaurs at the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods and the possibility that the cause of the dinosaurs' mass extinction poses a threat to humanity today. The debate takes place over a week with students taking the role of senators, lobbyists, reporters and experts. The Biodiversity Project consists of students designing and completing a field study in which the relationship between the physical environment and the biodiversity of the Austin area is analyzed. Students working in pairs, trios, or solo select an organism and a city park to study.[21]


E-Zine (Graphic Design and Illustration) was created in the 2005-2006 school year in order to give the liberal arts students more humanities exposure. Students are grouped based on common interest and learn various skills necessary for creating a magazine, such as Adobe Creative Suite software, interviewing and other journalism skills. Visiting professional graphic designers often serve as mentors to student groups, providing professional feedback for the publications. The 2009 fall class was the first of the E-Zine classes to add podcasting to multimedia product. Students apply their knowledge to writing several types of articles for the magazine and designing the magazine. Magazines are published in print and online at the end of each semester.[21]

Great Ideas[edit]

To balance Planet Earth with a liberal arts course, an additional signature elective was added to the curriculum in the 2007-2008 school year, known as Introduction to the Humanities, or Great Ideas. While previously bearing much similarity to the structure and design of a standard English class at LASA, Great Ideas was modified to place an overwhelming emphasis on both ancient and modern philosophy and philosophical movements, topics barely covered in normal English classes. At the end of the semester, students are required to pick a philosophical question that interests them and write a research paper on it (given some minimum requirements).[22] After Great Ideas was added as a signature elective, the aspect of signature electives at LASA was reshaped to accommodate the functionality of four signature electives.

See also[edit]

  • LBJ High School - LASA and LBJ students share the same campus and many programs.


  1. ^ a b Finn, Jr., Chester E.; Hockett, Jessica A. (2012). Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools. Princeton University Press. pp. 88–95. ISBN 9780691156675.
  2. ^ a b "Best High Schools in the U.S." U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  3. ^ "LASA School Profile" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ "America's Best High Schools - The Daily Beast". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  5. ^ "America's Best High Schools - The Daily Beast". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  6. ^ "America's Top Schools 2014". Newsweek. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  7. ^ Mathews, Jay. "Ranking America's High Schools 2011 - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  8. ^ a b "LASA Online - School Profile". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  9. ^ "The Liberator". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  10. ^ "LASA High School, Austin, TX". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  11. ^ "LBJ High School, Austin, TX". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  12. ^ a b c Taboada, Melissa B. "Poor, minority students missing out on Austin’s popular magnet programs" (Archived 2015-12-30 at WebCite). Austin American-Statesman. Sunday February 8, 2015. Retrieved on December 30, 2015.
  13. ^ "Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School". 8 December 2015.
  14. ^ "LASA Online - Prospective Students". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  15. ^ Cargile, Erin (March 17, 2014). "Austin ISD shuts down "Student Assassin" game". KXAN. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  16. ^ Saul, et. al. "JagMag". Issuu.
  17. ^ SWARTSELL, NICK; JUKAM, KELSEY (May 3, 2013). "Even alternative schools created to promote integration are racially divided in Texas". Dallas News. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  18. ^ "2014 HSNCT".
  19. ^ "music". music. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  20. ^ "LASA Computer Science". Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  21. ^ a b c d "LASA - Course Guide". Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  22. ^ Graeber, Lauren. "Great Ideas". Great Ideas- Class Information. Weebly. Retrieved June 11, 2015.

External links[edit]