When Universities and Schools Partner for Success-Cal Prep

Aspire Public Schools and Cal have done something special for East Bay kids.  They have given them more than hopes and dreams, they have given ways and means, through an innovative and robust early college partnership; Cal Prep.  This should be a model for higher education involvement in K-12 and I hope we see more not just from Cal but from other colleges and universities.

This partnership and its successes, are chronicled in a new book,

“Achieving College Dreams: How a University-Charter District Partnership Created an Early College High School,” which looks at the more than 10-year partnership of the two organizations to create and nurture Aspire Richmond California College Preparatory Academy, known as Cal Prep. The book shows how a partnership between community members and scholars used collaborative research to find and use what works best for students.

And these schools are having outstanding results, as described in one article,

(M)ost of the 300 students at CAL Prep come from families where no one graduated from college, the secondary school founded by UC Berkeley and Aspire Public Schools in 2005 has seen all or nearly all of its seniors accepted to four-year colleges in recent years. Early data indicates that they are not only enrolling in college, but also staying in school once they get there.

Being an old timer, I was there at the start, and even before.  Years ago the Office of Partnerships at Cal approached me and asked about doing a charter school.  There were a lot of challenges, would it be unionized, how nimble can a large university be, and what did they really know about running an actual school?

They sought partners, and worked through these issues, and did something special.

So often, when you deal with large organizations (or districts), there is an inertia to say no.  These snags on tough issues, turf wars, risk aversion, and otherwise busy staff, leave great ideas to rot on the vine.

Not this time.

And it wasn’t easy, I remember year 1 meeting with my colleague from Cal, who was lamenting how hard it was to get children up to grade level when starting in middle school, asking how other schools did it so successfully.

It’s never easy.

But if you want to hear the real story, from students, faculty and founders, there is a book release at the Alumni House at Cal on May 12th.

This is a great model of what happens when we work together and draw partners into k-12.  I hope that others are paying attention.

What do you think?

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