UCLA, LAUSD partner to open pilot school
UCLA Community School ensures quality education in high-need area
UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District on Sept. 9 opened UCLA Community School, an innovative pilot school partnership committed to providing high-quality education in one of the city's most underserved neighborhoods.
Pilot schools have charter-like autonomy over curriculum, budget and staffing but participate as full members of the district. They have a strong track record of boosting achievement levels, test scores and graduation rates through personalized instruction and engagement with the community in a small-school setting.
Led by the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), which specializes in educational equity and preparing teachers for urban schools, UCLA experts helped to develop UCLA Community School's instructional programs and train teachers. The school is governed by a board that includes representatives from UCLA, LAUSD District 4, community groups, the teachers union, parents and other stakeholders.
"UCLA is uniquely positioned to help address one of our country's most challenging issues — ensuring a high-quality public school education for all students, no matter where they live, and preparing them for college," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "UCLA Community School is just one example of the university's long-term commitment to serving society through engaged scholarship and partnerships with others to improve society at large. We are pleased to be working closely with LAUSD and community groups on this critical endeavor."
"UCLA Community School combines the resources of the nation's second-largest school district and a top university and harnesses the energy of motivated community groups to help deliver a high-quality education — something every child deserves," LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said. "I'm proud of our work together, and I think it will serve as a model for years to come."
Located in the mid-Wilshire area on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, UCLA Community School serves students from Wilshire Center/Koreatown, Pico-Union and neighboring communities, which together constitute one of California's more densely populated areas. The school-age population is predominantly Latino (91 percent) and low-income (89 percent), with about half classified as English-language learners. Unlike charter schools that recruit students from across the city, UCLA Community School serves families in the neighborhood, thereby relieving overcrowded schools nearby.
The school will open with 360 students in grades K–5 and expand to 780 students in grades K–12 next fall.
The instructional program draws on extensive research by UCLA and other scholars about how students learn best — when they feel part of a supportive, family-like group. Working together, teachers, parents and students develop individualized learning plans that build on students' interests and needs. Students are grouped into three multigrade "dens," each overseen by a lead teacher responsible for learning activities in classrooms in his or her den.
To promote trusting relationships, students will learn together with the same teacher for two years. All teachers are fluent in English and either Spanish or Korean, and several are fluent in all three languages. Instruction will be dual-language immersion, with students graduating with the ability to communicate in at least two languages.
"We believe strongly that it takes a community to educate a child, and UCLA Community School is an innovative response to that maxim," said Georgia Ann Lazo, the school's principal and a graduate of UCLA's Principal Leadership Institute. "We are committed to graduating students who have a high degree of academic achievement, take pride in their home cultures and languages, and develop as global citizens."
Aimée Dorr, dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, noted the graduate school's emphasis on reforming urban school practice and policy. "UCLA Community School is a new and very exciting venture that reflects GSE&IS's ongoing mission to support equal access to high-quality education and information in a multicultural society," she said.
LAUSD Board President Mónica García, a strong advocate of pilot schools, praised community leaders for advocating for them at the Ambassador site. "UCLA Community School would not exist without the vision and the hard work of community groups," she said. "With the support of our UCLA partners, and through the strength of our teacher leadership, this new pilot school is sure to give our students the excellent education they deserve."
To view a video about UCLA Community School, please visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhilQr0kp48.
UCLA Community School is one of six LAUSD pilot schools planned for the Ambassador Schools Complex, also known as Central Los Angeles New Learning Center No. 1. The schools are united by a social justice philosophy that honors the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 323 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.