The Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA) is a small learning community at Santa Barbara High School with 200+ students in 9th-12th grades. VADA is a unique "school-within-a-school" that integrates rigorous academic coursework with project-based, career-focused art and design instruction, in a supportive and creative environment.

Since 1999, VADA has been a California Partnership Academy funded in equal parts by the California Department of Education, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and the Friends of VADA, a 501 ©(3) nonprofit organization.

There are currently over 500 California Partnership Academies throughout California. The model, originating with the Philadelphia Academies in the late 1960s, spread to California in the early 1980s. Academies incorporate many features of the high school reform movement that includes creating a close family-like atmosphere, integrating academic and career technical education, and establishing viable business partnerships. Emphasis is also placed on student achievement and positive post-secondary outcomes. Academies have been carefully evaluated and shown to have positive impacts on school performance.