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Chester Charter School Makes Art a Priority

Chester Charter School for the Arts is turning the traditional school curriculum on its head. Empowering more than 400 students through arts and culture, the school is cultivating tomorrow’s leaders using a creative approach.

Although a new school, Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) is making an impressive impact. Not only does every teacher double as a literacy instructor and offer five-day-a week small reading classes, it’s mandatory that every CCSA student cycle through different art courses such as: dance, music, theatre and the visual arts. 

CCSA’s  journey began with Dr. John Alston, a Swarthmore College music professor who established the Chester Children’s Chorus in 1994. His contagious enthusiasm for creating exceptional learning opportunities for children has come to life in the Chester Charter School for the Arts

School officials attest integrating art as more than just an extra-curricular activity drives the students to perform better on standardized testing. Consider this: CCSA currently holds the highest School Performance Profile – the state measurement of achievement- in the district and the third biggest increase, from 46.7 to 71.7, in the Philadelphia region.

No other Chester school, traditional or charter scored a 70, which Pennsylvania defines as adequate.  

However, the school isn’t resting on its laurels; the success of the k-8 program is just the beginning. Starting next year CCSA will add high school, one grade at a time. “Arts encourage the kind of creative and critical thinking that allows children to develop self-efficacy and success in other academic disciplines,” asserts principal Akosua Watts. 

Under the model that a high-quality education represents a well-rounded academic setting, the school comes fully equipped with an art studio, a newly renovated gym, a cafeteria, and a large classroom big enough to accommodate dance classes or plays.

Bustling with energy, most would be surprised to learn that in 2011, the school was on the brink of closure. CCSA initial charter application was denied but in 2012, the decision was overturned by the state Charter School Appeal Board. The school currently receives funds from the Chester Fund for Education, which raises $600,000 to $750,000 a year.

Click here for opportunities on how to help Chester Charter School for the Arts continue this tremendous endeavor.