Building upon an existing partnership, UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to design a new community school, their second joint effort aimed at unifying Los Angeles neighborhoods and fostering a college-going culture in the city.
The public Horace Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles is envisioned as a cornerstone for a rigorous, personalized college-prep education. UCLA and LAUSD are collaborating to design the school, which aims to expand the current Horace Mann Middle School and reverse years of declining enrollment there. The MOU, approved at a Feb. 14 school board meeting, formalizes a partnership to operate the school. The former Horace Mann Middle School, which currently serves sixth, seventh and eighth grades, will gain a ninth grade in fall 2017, with full enrollment in grades 6 through 12 slated for 2020. If feasible, the goal is to add elementary grades starting in fall 2020.
The school would be tailored to the needs of the neighborhood and informed by the success of the original UCLA Community School at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Koreatown, which serves grades K through 12, and where the college-acceptance rate has more than tripled to 99 percent since the school opened in 2009.
“We are proud and excited about the ways that our growing partnership with LAUSD can unify the neighborhood and prepare all students to graduate from high school ready for college, careers and civic life,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This is a natural extension of UCLA’s long-standing commitment to public education and community involvement, and a reflection of our perseverance to drive social change.”
As a public school — not a charter or private school — the school would not have a selective application system or charge tuition. Current students would continue to attend the school, with local children zoned to the campus, and the Mann UCLA Community School would help increase pathways to college for all students and end the need for busing to magnet and charter schools. Over the past five years, Horace Mann Middle School’s enrollment declined by 50 percent.
Since 2015, a team of teachers, students, parents and UCLA educators has been meeting to design the new school, developing relationships, providing resources and building a long-term commitment. Early indicators show improvements at the school: 87 percent of boys passed math in 2016 compared to 49 percent in 2015; 78 percent of students in 2016 reported using a computer in class weekly; and 29 percent more students reported feeling safe at school in 2016 than in 2014.
“This partnership brings engaging extracurricular programs, a college-focused curriculum and expanded grade levels to give local students a place to call home for many years,” said Orlando Johnson, principal of Horace Mann. “UCLA is an established leader in the community school reform movement with proven success increasing college-going rates, and we are delighted to join them in building a neighborhood school that will be a cornerstone of high academic achievement, empowering students to succeed in their post-secondary endeavors.”
Currently, 53 percent of the school’s students are black and 46 percent are Latino. Only 6 percent of the neighborhood’s residents have graduated from college.
Starting in spring 2016, UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies began partnering with Mann to offer pre- and after-school enrichment programs, including a free seven-week summer institute with instruction in martial arts, Chinese language and culture, coding and math, an arts program, UCLA mentoring and tutoring, and other subjects. UCLA volunteers provided over 14,000 hours of service during summer 2016, and in a survey, more than two-thirds of the students said they wanted to participate again in 2017, and that they wished similar programs were offered year-round.
“We are pleased to support the partnership with UCLA and Horace Mann Middle School,” said George McKenna, the LAUSD board member whose district includes the school. “UCLA’s past success in establishing K-12 community schools and partnerships have been known to produce outstanding results. UCLA’s investment in the local community and K-12 education is to be commended.”
Cheryl Hildreth, LAUSD local district west superintendent, said, “We appreciate the commitment UCLA has demonstrated to Mann and the community. We are excited by the support and the impact they will have on our students.”
Faculty and graduate students from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies are collaborating with Mann UCLA Community School faculty to help design the curriculum and provide support, as they do at the community school in Koreatown. Each year, approximately 100 UCLA volunteers contribute more than 10,000 hours at the RFK campus — more than 75,000 hours since the school opened, said Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, the Wasserman Dean of GSEIS. GSEIS faculty and students are also involved at UCLA’s elementary lab school and at four public schools near UCLA.
“UCLA’s network of diverse schools is emerging as a laboratory where we are learning and sharing solutions to 21st century educational challenges,” Suárez-Orozco said. “Public universities should be at the forefront of partnering with local teachers in diverse schools to learn together how to solve thorny problems. With this second community school, UCLA is emphasizing its long-term commitment to improving education in the community.”
The UCLA Community School at RFK serves approximately 1,000 students from the Koreatown and Pico-Union neighborhoods. In 2015-16, the students were predominantly Latino (78 percent) and Asian (13 percent), and largely from low-income families (90 percent).