As part of a desegregation order in 1976, Ravenswood High School - East Palo Altos only public high school - was shut down. Earlier this year, the Ravenswood City School District approved a new charter high school for East Palo Alto. A collaboration of SUSE and Aspire Public Schools, the school will serve as a professional development school for Stanfords Teacher Education Program (STEP) -- collaborating in the development of state-of-the-art practice, teacher training, and research. The school will provide an opportunity for the development and wide dissemination of innovative strategies in secondary education. Look for more information on the new school in a future issue.
|In the fall of 1996, Eastside College Preparatory School opened its doors in East Palo Alto. That community had been without its own high school for 20 years (see sidebar). The vision of its founders was to reestablish a high school in East Palo Alto that would prepare the communitys youth to attend four-year colleges and universities.
Spring 2000 was a time of joy and excitement for all those connected with the school. All of our original cohort of students graduated and were admitted to top-notch four-year colleges and universities around the country. Having known most of these students for the past nine years, I often reflect with respect and admiration about the choices they made to stay on track against the odds.
There was a time not so long ago, however, when I was just a high school kid with little interest in making education my career. Back then my main preoccupation was looking for a good place to play basketball. The best game in town just happened to be at the Onetta Harris Community Center (OHCC) in East Menlo Park, so I quickly joined in. After I had been playing there for a while, I began to realize that some of the friends on my team were struggling in school and had not thought much about their futures. They wanted to go to college but found out too late that they were not academically prepared.
This experience caused me to think deeply about issues much larger than basketball and myself. How could this situation have been prevented? What could I do to stop it from happening again to teenagers I knew? Many of the answers came during the next five years that I spent at Stanford, first as an undergraduate and later as a masters student in STEP, the Stanford Teacher Education Program.
During my freshman year, I was motivated to take several education courses. Classes with SUSE faculty members David Tyack, Michael Kirst, Richard Valencia (a visiting professor), and Magdalena Fittoria (coordinator of the East Palo Alto Stanford Summer Academy or EPASSA) proved to be the most interesting and most practical of all my coursework that year. They helped me to gain a better understanding of the history of U.S. education and the role that schools traditionally have served in shaping our society.
I continued to take education courses both as an undergraduate and through STEP. These provided me with a theoretical framework to better understand the forces that shape our public school system today. I had the good fortune to take classes from Guadalupe Valdés, Al Camarillo (history), Ray McDermott, Amado Padilla, and John Baugh. I became thoroughly engrossed with the topics covered in these classes. Even more significantly, these professors became my greatest sources of inspiration as they encouraged me to connect my experiences in the schools with what I was learning in their classes. John Baugh became my advisor for my undergraduate honors thesis in education. Together, we worked on a proposal to start Shoot for the Stars, a non-profit organization to prepare East Palo Alto students to go to college. The idea behind Shoot for the Stars was to use participation in a competitive, intensive basketball program to motivate students to excel in school. The year-round program included a summer component of morning academics combined with afternoons on the basketball court. After completing the proposal, we received a summer fellowship to start our program from the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford.
During the following three years, I taught in the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto while continuing my involvement with Shoot for the Stars. It was largely through the hard work of the Shoot for the Stars board and involved parents that we were able to open Eastside Prep in the fall of 1996.
Helen Kim (MA 93) played a key role in the development of Eastside Prep: she has created and taught the social studies curriculum and served as our assistant principal during the last four years. She has been instrumental in mentoring younger teachers and helping to develop the curriculum in all of the disciplines.
Eastside Prep offers students a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Required are fours years each of mathematics, science, English, history, and language so that all students have the prerequisite courses to gain admission to the University of California system and other excellent universities. Thanks to the generosity of foundations, corporations, and individuals, all students receive full scholarships.
To ensure student success, we have developed a very supportive infrastructure at the school: small classes averaging only 14 students; a five-to-one student-faculty ratio; and an extended school day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. that affords many opportunities for working with teachers in and out of class. Besides the academic program are numerous opportunities for student leadership including various clubs and classes in the arts.
Today, Stanford faculty, students, and alumni continue to play major roles in the development of Eastside Prep. Four of the 11 board members are affiliated with Stanford, while eight of our 15 faculty members graduated from Stanford. We hope to attract even more faculty members in the future by becoming a professional development school for STEP. STEPs faculty advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond, serves on our advisory board, lending her expertise in teacher education.
I am grateful to Stanford for providing me with the opportunity to meet faculty members and fellow students who share a genuine interest in trying to provide equal educational opportunities for all students. Most importantly, I want to thank the original Eastside students who believed enough in themselves to persevere through lifes challenges, and to work hard to achieve their goal of going to college. For everyone involved at Eastside, our students have beenand always will beour greatest inspiration.
More information on Eastside can be found at: www.eastside.org