By Ben Thaler | UCLA Daily Bruin
Tuesday, September 2, 2008 -- The UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies has partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create the Bruin Community School, one of six pilot schools that will be implemented by the district.
The pilot schools will operate independent of district regulations on hours and scheduling.
The program was developed to reduce overcrowding and busing among LAUSD schools, said Karen Hunter Quartz, a researcher at the graduate school of education who is also director of research and development for the Bruin Community School.
“(LAUSD) has decided to operate three high schools and three K-12 schools under the pilot program,” Quartz said. The Bruin Community School will open in September 2009.
UCLA will partner with the Bruin Community School at a deeply involved level, said Aimee Dorr, dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
“We do lots of work with schools in LAUSD: training teachers, sending students for outreach and having students serve as mentors, Dorr said. “With the Bruin Community School, we will be able to concentrate our resources in one place.”
Dorr added that many departments at UCLA besides the school of education plan to get involved at the school.
“We have faculty from physics, math, theater, world arts and cultures, and much more who will be assisting with teacher training and curriculum development,” she said.
Quartz said one major benefit of the Bruin Community School will be its proximity to the mid-Wilshire community it serves.
“Many kids start busing to schools in other neighborhoods from kindergarten,” she said. “At the Bruin Community School, students will be local residents.”
The educational model of the pilot school will closely follow the principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools, an organization aimed at school reform that stresses project-based learning and small classes.
Dorr said students may be placed together across different grade levels and that the curriculum will focus more on project-based collaborative learning rather than traditional examinations. “Every student will have an individual-based learning plan with close interaction from faculty,” she said.
Quartz added that the school will also feature an advisory program, which consists of small groups of students under the tutelage of a teacher for a year-long period. The adviser will serve as a mentor and guide for the students, helping each student construct a learning plan and follow it during the course of the academic year. Students will be assessed through exhibitions and gateways, which are year-end oral presentations of student progress and the work they have completed.
Dorr said another key component of the Bruin Community School is its internship program, which may bring many of the high school students over to the UCLA campus to learn about their fields of interest.
Richard Alonzo, the local superintendent for LAUSD Local District 4, said the partnership between UCLA and LAUSD is innovative and ground-breaking.
“We’re making history in terms of embedding university research into the daily operation of the school,” Alonzo said, also pointing out that there will be multiple opportunities to reproduce the partnership process elsewhere in LAUSD.
“We’ll learn from the multitude of ideas developed in the school and hope to replicate it elsewhere,” he said.