UCLA will help expand a middle school in South Los Angeles under an agreement signed with the Los Angeles Unified School District last month.
The Graduate School of Education and Information Studies will partner with Horace Mann Middle School to add grade levels nine through 12, develop a revised curriculum and improve after-school programs, UCLA officials said in a press release. Under the partnership, the school will be renamed the Horace Mann UCLA Community School.
The partnership is meant to improve enrollment rates at the school, which have dropped by 50 percent over the past five years, and improve college matriculation rates, according to the release.
Horace Mann Middle School Principal Orlando Johnson said including more grade levels was not an option before the school district partnered with UCLA.
“We are shifting to the current state of public education, where parents have more choices in education,” Johnson said.
GSEIS faculty and students will test teaching practices they developed in their research at the Horace Mann UCLA Community School and observe which are most effective.
The school will function as a research site for GSEIS faculty and a location for students to gain teaching experience, said Karen Quartz, the research director of community schools in GSEIS.
UCLA’s partnership will also improve Horace Mann Middle School’s access to Center X, a UCLA initiative to improve quality of instruction at low-income schools, and MOBILIZE, a National Science Foundation-funded program that increases technology in classroom learning, said Jody Priselac, the associate dean for community programs in GSEIS.
Quartz and Rebecca Cooper Geller, a graduate student researcher on the partnership project, said they conducted interviews with members of the community to determine their needs and better inform the development of the partnership.
Johnson said since the partnership began unofficially in 2014, student classroom performance has already improved.
LAUSD approached UCLA after the university’s successful partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown. The community school is a collection of six pilot schools that operate similarly to charter schools but are under district supervision.
Johnson said the Horace Mann UCLA Community School has added algebra courses, improved its summer programs and generally improved student pass rates since the unofficial start of the partnership in December 2014.
“We had a passing rate of male students in math (going) from 49 percent previously to 87 percent this year,” Johnson said.
Since 2014, the school has had access to technology that is 17 percent higher than the district average.
Cooper Geller said the teaching method used at the community school emphasizes learning academic content in the classroom first and then learning real-world applications outside of class. Students then go on to work on capstone-like projects.
“I feel strongly that every child (should have) the opportunity to the best education that we can provide, so I feel that we as university have an obligation to connect with our partners,” Priselac said.
Quartz said there are currently no plans for a third community school site.