UC Berkeley News


Campus, not-for-profit organization to open college-prep charter school
Primary focus of effort will be students 'facing barriers' to higher ed

| 02 March 2005

The Oakland Unified School District has approved a proposal by UC Berkeley and Aspire Public Schools to open a co-designed secondary school to help more students prepare for and succeed in college. Aspire Public Schools is a not-for-profit organization that builds and operates public charter schools in urban areas.

Oakland's Golden Gate Elementary School will become a charter school run by a partnership between UC Berkeley and Aspire Public Schools.
The school, which will be housed at the current Golden Gate Elementary School site on San Pablo Ave. in Oakland, is expected to open in fall 2005. It will initially serve up to 120 to 160 sixth- and seventh-grade students.

The aim of the secondary school is to improve students' skills and ability to prepare themselves for the rigors of college, have students take college courses while in high school, develop a smooth transition for students going from high school to college, and improve educational equity.

The model program will offer a blend of Aspire's charter-school curriculum, which focuses on rigorous, thoughtful college-preparatory education. It also will utilize innovations designed by Berkeley faculty, as well as research they conduct at the site with graduate students and secondary-school faculty, along with parent and community input.

"It is a chance for us to demonstrate that diversity in all of its faces - racial, linguistic, intellectual, and economic - provides the right context for preparing high-school students for the challenges they will face in the colleges and universities of tomorrow," said P. David Pearson, dean of the Graduate School of Education.

Pearson said he envisions the school as a place where future and current teachers and administrators can spend time and learn about innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and leadership.

The secondary school will focus primarily on students facing barriers to college-going in the East Bay. Oakland students in the Golden Gate Elementary School attendance area will receive first priority. The school site is a mile and a half from both the Ashby and MacArthur BART stations and is easily reachable by several AC Transit bus lines.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the campus," said Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor for student affairs. "As a parent, I know how important it is for there to be high expectations and a challenging intellectual environment if we are to be successful in helping students be prepared for a full range of postsecondary options."

"We're thrilled about the charter approval from Oakland Unified and about the partnership with Berkeley," said Don Shalvey, chief operating officer of Aspire Public Schools. "By combining the best of Berkeley's college leadership with Aspire's successful model of opening high-performing schools that prepare students for college, we have created a win-win situation for students and families."

Robert Knapp, professor of classics and chair of the Berkeley campus Academic Senate, said the project is energizing a multidisciplinary, advisory group of faculty that is at once concerned about the shortage of school resources and good teachers for children in underserved communities and sensitive to the need for all children to have access to a college-going culture.

Costs of planning and some related programming are covered by a grant of $400,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Gates Foundation funds several early-college initiatives across the country, while the Woodrow Wilson Foundation focuses on early-college partnerships with four-year colleges and universities.

School operations will be financed primarily through normal public-school financing, with state and federal funds allocated on a per-pupil basis. Berkeley will seek funds to support students for college-transitional activities and college courses taken in high school, and for a permanent facility near campus.

Hiring of a principal and teachers will begin soon, and Aspire and Berkeley will work together to make selections.

Aspire will also begin a charter public school for grades K-5 at the same location. The organization operates 11 schools in Northern California, three of which are in Oakland: Monarch Academy (K-5), Millsmont Academy (K-8), and Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy (6-12). For information, visit www.aspirepublicschools.org.