Liberal Arts and Science Academy

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Liberal Arts & Science Academy
7309 Lazy Creek Drive, Austin, Texas
Type Public
Established 2007[1]
School district Austin Independent School District
Principal Stacia Crescenzi
Grades 9-12
Color(s) Purple and White
Athletics conference UIL 25-AAAAA
Mascot Jaguar
USNWR ranking 28th[2]

Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) high school 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,[3] and ranked the school #1 in the state of Texas.[4][5] The Washington Post ranked LASA #30 in the nation in 2011.[6] In 2013 U.S. News and World Report ranked the school #1 in Texas and #28 nationally.[7] 35 out of the 203 students in the LASA Class of 2011 (17.2%) were National Merit Scholars.[8]

Run by the Austin Independent School District, LASA is open to all Austin residents and charges no tuition. Competition for admission can be strong and is contingent on submission of an application, prior academic record and an exam (currently 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 (as LBJ or "Austin Johnson"). In 2011-2012 the total student enrollment at LASA High School was about 870,[10] while that at LBJ was about 1000.[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 2015 21% of LASA students are Hispanic and Latino and fewer than 2% are black. As of the same year 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]


One tradition that several LASA students participate in very often involves incoming freshmen and the entirety of the student body. They play a prank on them every year by telling them that there is a green hallway that has some of their classes. In LASA there is a yellow, purple, and white hallway but no green hallway. They often say that it is on the next floor. In recent years, the administration has had to tell incoming freshmen that there is no green hallway and tell the upperclassmen not to do that.

Traditions vary depending on the class, club, or time of year the campus is observed. For the academy, one can begin with the Magnet Showcase in January, in which all of the magnet classes, as well as many clubs and sports teams stay after school one night to show what LASA has to offer. 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 English teacher Matt Kelly, is a talent show where students perform music, drama, poetry and prose. There is also Car Bash which is held before the big rivalry football game, students pay $1 for an unlimited number of hits for 30 seconds or $5 for unlimited hits for 5 minutes to smash a donated car with a sledgehammer. The Car Bash is hosted by LASA's Robotics team led by Anthony Bertucci. The car is often spray painted either with the rival's name or with random teachers' names. This annual event ran every year until 2008, when students inadvertently destroyed a nearby car of the same color, make, and model, mistaking it for the donated car. A lawsuit was filed, in which the Austin Independent School District was forced to pay $12,500 to the car owner for financial compensation. Throughout the year there are Communal Lunches. Frequently held on the first or last Friday of a grading period, Communal Lunch is a gigantic pot luck lunch and stress reliever as students are seen bringing pogo sticks, guitars, and blowing bubbles to the lunch.

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, 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 in the end an academy senior class photo. There is also a smaller interclass gathering on the last day of school: the LASA picnic, usually held at Zilker Park, it usually student organized with students arranging transportation and times, it's bring your own lunch, and then joining other students at Barton Springs Pool, time for talking and yearbooks, and just general camaraderie.

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 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.[16] The school offers, as a whole, 15 sports. These are:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Color guard/Winter guard
  • Cross-country
  • Dance
  • Diving
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Lacrosse
  • Marching Band
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Track
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Wrestling
  • Volleyball

Fine arts[edit]

  • Band
  • Theater — Alley Cat Players
  • Choir
  • Art
  • Dance — First Ladies
  • Orchestra

Clubs and Student Organizations[edit]

LASA offers, on average, more than 70 clubs and student organizations. These vary from year to year, and students may apply for a new club each school year. Current clubs include:

  • African American Culture
  • Afrocentric Book
  • Alley Cat Players
  • Art
  • Astronomy
  • Bad Movie Club
  • Band
  • Bang! card game
  • Batman Club
  • Biking
  • Bollywood Club
  • Board Game Club
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Club
  • Cake Club
  • Cambio
  • Camping Club
  • Chess
  • Chinese Club[17]
  • Chinese Yoyo Club[18]
  • Club Gen
  • Computer Science Club
  • Creative Writing
  • Cricket Club
  • Debate Team
  • Doctor Who Club
  • Dodgeball
  • Diojax Brigade
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Engineering Club
  • Fencing
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Fiction to Film
  • Fire Academy
  • First Ladies (drill team)
  • French Culture Club
  • Future Business Leaders of America
  • Future Teachers of America
  • GLEE club
  • German
  • Girls Lacrosse
  • Go Club
  • Gun Club
  • Ham Radio
  • Harry Breakdance Club
  • Harry Potter Club
  • History Bowl
  • InvenTeams
  • J Phi J (boys step team)
  • Jam Club
  • Japan Club
  • Japanese Lit
  • Jew Crew
  • Juggling
  • KJAG
  • Knitting
  • LULAC Council 1099
  • Latin
  • LBJ Cares
  • Library Student Advisory Team
  • Madrigal Choir
  • Magician's Magic Club
  • Magic the Gathering
  • Marine Science
  • Math Team
  • Model UN
  • Monopoly/Dominoes
  • National Honor Society
  • Nap Club
  • Oxfam LBJ
  • Peer Assistance Leadership (PAL)
  • Philosophy Club
  • Physics
  • Poetry Slam
  • Pokémon
  • Pole Dancing Club
  • Quiz Bowl
  • Queer-Straight Alliance
  • Rebel Experimental Tea Time
  • Reptile Club
  • Robotics
  • Rock Climbing Club
  • Russian Literature
  • Science Fair Club
  • Science Olympiad
  • Scrabble
  • Sending out Support (SOS)
  • Shakespeare
  • Sharp Appreciation Club (unofficial)
  • SMILE (Students Making an Impact on Lives Everywhere)
  • Snack Club
  • Spades
  • Spanish Club
  • Speech & Debate
  • Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB)
  • Student Council
  • Swing Dancing
  • Taiko
  • Theta Phi Lyte (girls step team)
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Voice in Motion
  • Winterguard
  • Xtreme Martial Arts
  • Yoga
  • Youth & Government
  • Zombie Apocalypse Survival Team
  • Zoology Club (Reptile Club)

Aiming at fostering collaboration among the leaders of strong organizations at LBJ and helping to create stronger leaders at LBJ, the LBJ Student Leadership Consortium (LC) was founded in the 2005-2006 year by student leaders of: Student Council, National Honor Society, PALs, STAC, Band, SMILE, the Liberator, LASA Robotics, African American Culture Club, and Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB). Many other such clubs, including the LASA Latin Club, are award winning and have claimed the top honors in the state of Texas. LASA's quizbowl 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.[19] The Student Council of the Class of 2017 released an iPhone app entitled "LASA Schedules," which tells the user how many minutes there are left in the scheduled block.


In order to receive magnet endorsement LASA students must complete a minimum of 15 magnet classes. They must also complete the Distinguished Achievement Plan or DAP which involves a minimum three years of one language (many students having finished their language will begin another). These classes are college prep level, and all students must complete four years of English, four years of social studies, four years of math, and three years of science, or three years of math and four years of science. 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 Science and Technology ("SciTech") and Graphic Design and Illustration ("E-Zine"); sophomores take Planet Earth and Great Ideas (also known as Introduction to the Humanities).

LASA offers a wide range of electives in all core subjects ranging from The Hitchhikers Guide to Sci-Fi, Amateur Radio (students may apply for a HAM radio license while taking the course) and the state's only Modern Physics course. The math classes at LASA range from Magnet Algebra I to Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Number Theory courses. Roughly 75% of the LASA senior class graduates have taken calculus. The sciences are quite extensive, with its classes ranging from biotechnology to pathophysiology, astronomy, modern physics, and multi-informational engineering. The English and social studies departments also offer many electives, including creative writing, women's literature, amateur radio, and constitutional law. The computer science program at LASA was home to the Student Technology Administrative Council (STAC), a rigorous program designed to train students with moderate computer skill at the freshman level to be professional network engineers by the time they graduate. This is accomplished through practical work-environment experiences, given thorough training on the computer networks that classrooms actually function on, rather than the traditional experimental and theoretical classroom approach. STAC was established in 1995 through a joint effort of students and teachers, and operated as a student run organization through 2002. STAC was discontinued in 2013.

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

There were two levels of curriculum in the core courses - Magnet and Topics. The term Topics originally described the difference between the two levels of math offered by the Science Academy. If a student took Topics math, then they were on track to take BC Calculus before they graduated. Other Science Academy students were on track to finish with AB Calculus. Those confusing names were replaced in 2012 with AB and BC, where the BC courses cover slightly more material at a faster pace. The magnet and topics distinctions have been removed.

LASA offers 30 Advanced Placement courses covering 33 Advanced Placement tests; many students begin taking them their sophomore year with either Computer Science or a language.

LASA's 33 Advanced Placements tests covered in courses:

  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Calculus BC
  • AP Statistics
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • AP Biology
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP World History
  • AP United States History
  • AP United States Government and Politics
  • AP Comparative Government and Politics
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP European History
  • AP Human Geography
  • AP Art History
  • AP Psychology
  • AP Chinese Language and Culture
  • AP French Language and Culture
  • AP German Language and Culture
  • AP Japanese Language and Culture
  • AP Latin
  • AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • AP Computer Science A
  • AP Studio Art: Drawing
  • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
  • AP Music Theory

Although the program's curriculum is heavily based in academics, LASA is home to an extremely creative community. The Liberator newspaper was named the best student newspaper in the South by TIME Magazine; it and the Stetson yearbook have been ranked regularly at the state and national level. The recently created literary magazine (not to be confused with E-Zine), The Composer, was created when the two academies merged. The theatre program is highly celebrated with its fall play and spring musical. The LBJ Jaguar Band also brings attention to the school with its tradition of high performance. The 165 member band has performed all over the world.

LASA requires that students graduate under the Distinguished Achievement Plan (DAP) as defined by the State of Texas. The DAP requires additional years of foreign language study, mathematics, and the completion of at least four "Advanced Measures." The following are considered Advanced Measures:

  • An Advanced Placement test score of at least 3 or higher
  • Completion of a dual credit course with a grade of 3.0 or higher
  • A PSAT score that qualifies the student to be a National Merit Finalist, semi-finalist, or commended, a National Hispanic Scholar, or a National Achievement Scholar finalist or semi-finalist
  • An original research project, judged by a panel of professionals or directed by a mentor and reported to an appropriate audience (Up to two of these projects can be applied toward completion of Advanced Measures)


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 that they will have 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.

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 witnesses. 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.


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.

Great Ideas[edit]

Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, an additional signature elective was added to the curriculum, known as Introduction to the Humanities or Great Ideas. The class was designed to encompass the Liberal Arts, in an attempt to make the curriculum less focused on Math and Science. 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 ancient and modern philosophy and philosophical movements, topics barely/tangentially 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).[20] 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. As of the 2007-2008 school year, Freshmen are required to take both Sci-Tech and E-Zine, while it is mandatory for Sophomores to take Planet Earth and Humanities. Only one Signature elective can be taken by a student per semester, and the length of class time allotted to a signature elective course is twice that of another class per week.

See also[edit]

  • LBJ High School - LASA and LBJ students share the same campus, newspaper, yearbook, band, theatre, orchestra, choir, and many other curricular and extracurriclar programs


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  3. ^ "America's Best High Schools - The Daily Beast". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  4. ^ "America's Best High Schools - The Daily Beast". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
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  6. ^ Mathews, Jay. "Ranking America's High Schools 2011 - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
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  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. ^
  14. ^ "LASA Online - Prospective Students". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. Retrieved 2012-05-08. 
  15. ^ Cargile, Erin (March 17, 2014). "Austin ISD shuts down "Student Assassin" game". KXAN. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "LASA Chinese Club". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. Retrieved 2016-02-22. 
  18. ^ "LASA Chinese Yoyo Club". Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. 
  19. ^ "2014 HSNCT". 
  20. ^ Graeber, Lauren. "Great Ideas". Great Ideas- Class Information. Weebly. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]