UCLA in the Community

UCLA Community School reaches milestone with a top-level accreditation

Pilot school in underserved neighborhood has seen college-going rates skyrocket

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UCLA Community School
UCLA

UCLA Community School

The UCLA Community School, launched in 2009 to provide the best quality education for children in one of Los Angeles’ poorest, most densely populated and underserved neighborhoods, has been awarded a top-level accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

A unique partnership among UCLA, the Los Angeles Unified School District and several community-based organizations, the school, which serves a largely low-income Hispanic and Asian immigrant community in the Pico-Union Koreatown area, has in just five years made impressive strides in engendering educational success and promoting a college-going culture.

"The UCLA Community School exemplifies our commitment as a public institution to applying a broad range of university resources and working with others to help address society's difficult challenges — in this case, how to ensure that every child has access to a good education," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "I commend the dedication of UCLA Community School students and their parents and teachers, as well as our LAUSD and community-group partners. I'm extraordinarily proud of the role so many people at UCLA are playing to help these young people strive and excel."

"The UCLA Community School’s WASC accreditation award is very significant and gratifying and recognizes the high quality of student learning and engagement that so many people have worked so hard to foster," said Karen Hunter Quartz, director of research for the school and for Center X, which houses several professional programs within UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. "Our biggest achievement noted by the WASC team is the dramatic increase in the college-going rates of our students, who largely come from groups that have historically been marginalized in higher education."

The rigorous five-year accrediting process assessed how well the UCLA Community School is organized to ensure student learning and achievement, the quality of its curriculum and instruction, the support it provides for students’ personal and academic growth, and the management and development of its resources. To be accredited, the school was required to demonstrate ongoing self-improvement and a capacity to meet or exceed all the accrediting commission’s qualifying criteria.

The award is a major milestone for the school, which brought together LAUSD teachers and administrators with a UCLA team of education faculty who trained many of them and helped develop the school’s instructional programs. The recognition highlights this work and UCLA’s long-term commitment to public school improvement, said Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and a distinguished professor of education.

"The WASC data tell the story of how the UCLA Community School is moving the needle in public education," he said. "Educating ever more diverse cohorts of immigrant-origin students is an imperative in our era of great demographic change. It is our responsibility and fundamental obligation to public education to prepare all students today to meet the demands of a 21st-century workforce."

Making quality education and college opportunities available to all

When it opened in 2009, the UCLA Community School served a racially and ethnically diverse population of 340 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Today that number has grown to more than 1,000 students in grades K–12 who speak English, Spanish and Korean. This year, nearly half the students were considered "limited English proficient" or English-language learners. More than three-quarters are economically disadvantaged.

The school’s highest priority has been increasing college-going rates among its students, said Quartz, who noted that only 6 percent of parents whose children attend the UCLA Community School are college graduates. In that regard, she said, the school has had tremendous success.

The school’s first senior class entered as high school juniors in 2010 and graduated in 2012, and the first group of students who entered as high school freshmen, in 2010, will graduate in June 2014. From 2012 to 2014, the percentage of seniors admitted to one or more four-year colleges increased from 31 to 55 percent, with the proportion admitted to a UC campus climbing from 9 percent to 25 percent. The percentage of those admitted to a CSU campus tripled, from 18 percent to 54 percent. In addition, almost all the students in the Class of 2014 not admitted to a four-year institution still plan to attend community college, bringing the overall college-going rate up to 95 percent. 

The numbers are even more impressive, Quartz said, when considering the school is located in Congressional District 34, where in 2009 just 4 percent of high school graduates entered a UC campus, 9 percent entered a CSU campus and 21 percent entered a community college, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

The WASC accreditation commission awards a school one of six levels of accreditation. The UCLA Community School achieved the second highest level after exceeding the standards of all the qualifying criteria.

Block praised Aimée Dorr, former dean of the graduate school, for her vision and efforts in establishing the UCLA Community School. Dorr is currently provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for the University of California. 

UCLA has sought to harness the full resources of the university to address some of the most critical issues facing the public today, including improving educational opportunity and access for students from immigrant and low-income families in Los Angeles. As part of the UCLA Community School initiative, more than 25 of the UCLA’s top interdisciplinary departments and initiatives were tapped, including the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Center X, the School of the Arts and Architecture, the Center for Community Learning, the Office of Government and Community Relations and many others.

Each year, more than 200 UCLA faculty, staff and students engage in activities at the UCLA Community School. Over the past five years, UCLA has contributed more than 30,000 hours of service and facilitated more than 30 research studies. The school is one of six Robert F. Kennedy community schools built on the site of the historic Ambassador Hotel, where the U.S. senator was assassinated in 1968.

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