Leadership Public Schools Makes College Possible for Those Who Thought It Impossible

June 17, 2016

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When 97 percent of the graduating high school class is accepted to college and its alumni include two Gates Millennium Scholars, clearly the school is on to something!

Leadership Public Schools (LPS) is a network of public charter high schools located in Richmond, Oakland, Hayward and San Jose. The schools currently serve more than 1,500 ethnically and economically diverse students located in near low-income urban neighborhoods. LPS' mission is to prepare traditionally underserved students to succeed in college and become leaders in their communities, while at the same time, developing replicable practices that can improve urban education across the nation.

The goal of LPS is to support all of our kids with a post-secondary plan. "We want to ensure they have a range of college options and those that go top schools can succeed," said Alexandra Creer, Principal of LPS Oakland R&D.

The plan is working. One hundred percent of LPS graduates meet or exceed the University of California academic entrance requirements. And nine percent of LPS' students are the first in their families to attend college.

This is accomplished through the LPS Personalized Pathways to College program, which uses diagnostic data and computer-assisted support to provide each student with a roadmap to graduating high school and preparing for college success.

"What makes us stand out is that as educators, we are committed to meeting students where they are and create individualized programs that help them meet their goals and succeed," said Creer. "We allocate the right resources to make sure the whole child is served and not just academic needs."

Additionally, the LPS Signature Experiences program helps students see themselves studying and working on a college campus. This is done through activities include the Freshmen Leadership Retreat and the yearly "Week Without Walls," as well as college tours and clubs and activities.

Building the College Ready Culture
From the beginning, LPS' vision has been to build future leaders with the skills, dispositions, and credentials to make a difference in their communities. The schools' academic philosophy is founded on three distinguishing characteristics: College Ready Curriculum, College Ready Support, and a College Ready Culture.

Their average teacher to student ratio is smaller than a typical high school and provides a level of support not usually available to traditional public high school students in California. The small class structure is a key component of the College Ready Supports program, which is designed with the goal of knowing every student by name and need.

Students also work one-on-one with instructors to create personalized learning plans and Learning Lists, a teacher-built innovation used in the schools' 9th grade math acceleration courses. Learning Lists combine personalization with an emphasis on self-directed learning in order to help students master content and develop essential academic skills like time management, goal-setting, self-advocacy, and growth mindsets.

"No matter what their learner profile is, we provide students the social and emotional support for them achieve," said Creer. "We help kids grow as people beyond academics."

Claudia Rios experienced this success first-hand. As a member of the LPS Richmond Class of 2012, Rios now attends the University of California, Davis. "I started my freshmen year timid and afraid of challenges," said Rios. "Today I am emerging as a leader that is outspoken for what I believe in. LPS provided me with the tools to take on challenges, and the positive learning environment has molded me into the college ready student that I am today."