Rossier opens second LA charter school this fall

Hands on at Hybrid High · A charter school student learns through experimentation during her class at the school’s downtown L.A. campus. - Photo courtesy of Chris Shinn

Hands on at Hybrid High · A charter school student learns through experimentation during her class at the school’s downtown L.A. campus. – Photo courtesy of Chris Shinn

The Rossier School of Education plans to open its second charter school, USC East College Prep, this month. The school will serve students in the Lincoln Heights area, where USC’s Health Science Campus is located.

USC East College Prep is the successor to USC Hybrid High, Rossier’s charter school in downtown Los Angeles. This fall, USC Hybrid High will serve 450 students, grades 9-12, introducing its first senior class.

Ednovate, a charter management organization, operates both schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Karen Gallagher, dean of Rossier, said that the charter schools strive to enhance urban education.

“Our mission is to improve learning in urban education, locally, nationally and globally,” Gallagher said. “We felt that this was an opportunity to bring in kids . . . starting in the 9th grade [and] give them high quality teachers, college prep curriculum and . . . individualized learning.”

According to Gallagher, 80 percent of the students attending USC Hybrid High are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Demographically, Gallagher said about 60 percent of the first charter school is Latino and 35 percent is African American, with about 30 percent English language learners.

Gallagher said the charter schools are creating a positive multigenerational change. The aim is to influence students to think ahead about how they will use their careers so they can comfortably support themselves and their potential families.

“Not only will [the students] improve and have a better life . . . but their children and their grandchildren will benefit,” Gallagher said.

Ednovate CEO Oliver Sicat said the charter schools follow their own curriculum, which gives them the opportunity to be more innovative.

“We get to be more innovative because we can take more risks,” Sicat said. “We don’t have to use the district’s curriculum. We take very calculated risks that get to pay off, but we have a lot more flexibility and autonomy in how we prepare our students for college.”

In addition to a need for improved education, L.A. families’ high demand for more schooling options catalyzed the foundation of  the new charter schools. Before the location was set for USC East College Prep, 250 families had showed interest in attending, according to Gallagher.

USC East College Prep is aiming for 140 students in its inaugural 9th grade class, Gallagher said.

The new school will follow the instructional model, continue to integrate technology in the classroom and promote individualized learning.

District 1 Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo said the charter schools are not only helping individual students, but also whole communities.

“I’d like to commend USC for helping improve the communities of the First Council District,” Cedillo said in a statement released by USC News. “Some of the communities in my district have been challenged with access to college, either because no one in their family has ever attended college or because they frankly don’t see it as an option. With the establishment of this new school, I hope the pipeline to college will be established for residents in the surrounding communities, creating more access and opportunities for our bright students.”

USC East College Prep will not be the last USC charter school.

“We have plans to open up three more [schools],” Gallagher said. “We hope to open up each year after this next school.”

Sicat said that having more schools means more growth for the schools.

“When you have more teachers trying to attack the same problem . . . we’ll learn faster or innovate faster,” Sicat said.

The USC charter schools help the Rossier School of Education students learn as well.

“We’re studying these [schools] to see not only what we can help the schools to do better, but also how we can do a better job preparing teachers or principals and so on, so it’s a really great relationship,” Gallagher said.