‘Modernizing’ Schooling In Lincoln Heights


A new charter school in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights is promising students a more “modern” learning environment, akin to what one might expect at a college rather than a high school.

Sonia Aguilar said she first heard about USC East College Prep charter school from her older daughter. Aguilar’s daughter and granddaughter have started 9th grade this week.

Lea este artículo en Español: ‘Modernizando’ la Enseñanza en Lincoln Heights

“My [older]daughter is always trying to find the best school for the girls and she found this one,” Aguilar told EGP. “She said the academic part of the curriculum is very advanced, much better for the students’ education,” she said while at the school last week to pick up the girls’ uniforms.

USC East College Prep is located at 3825 N. Mission road, near Lincoln Park. This semester the school welcomed 120 students to the first freshman class; the only grade level opening this year.

Staff volunteered their time to clean up and have the school ready for the fall semester. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Staff volunteered their time to clean up and have the school ready for the fall semester. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The new charter school will add a new grade each year – offering 9th through 12 grade by the fall of 2018.

Tteachers, students and parents said they are excited for the new school year to get underway this week. We’re looking forward to the “college like” ambiance and more personalized attention to students, several people said.

The classrooms at East College Prep are unconventional, big rooms with sofas, cushions, stools and chairs replacing traditional desks. Smaller classrooms and offices all have big windows, giving the school an open feel. It’s the type of workspace popular these days with many young, entrepreneurial workers and start up companies.

“We want students to feel comfortable and to enjoy the shared space,” explained Assistant Principal Dorenyse A. Diaz.

The school’s academic and architectural design were developed by the USC Rossier School of Education in partnership with Ednovate—a charter school management organization. East College Prep is a tuition-free public school where students are selected for admission through a lottery system. Most students enrolled in the school live in Lincoln Heights or other nearby neighborhoods, but a few, most of whose parents work in the area, come from as far away as El Segundo, Diaz said.

East College Prep is Ednovate’s second charter school; the other is USC Hybrid High School in Downtown Los Angeles. Both schools are chartered through the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Students are predominantly Latino, but there are students of other ethnicities, such as African-Americans and Asians, according to Diaz. The mix gives students opportunities to not only excel academically, but also to engage in a multicultural experience.

“I’m really excited to attend this new school,” Aguilar’s 14-year-old daughter Rossi Flores told EGP. She had considered attending the Environmental Science and Technology High School in Glassell Park but felt the Lincoln Heights school’s connection to USC gives it more prestige.

Opponents to charter schools often complain scores at those schools are higher because they enroll fewer special needs students. Diaz did not say how many special needs students will attend East College Prep this year, but said the school does accept students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), an assessment and personalized roadmap of sorts that is intended to help the special needs student achieve academically.

East College Prep’s philosophy is one of inclusion, according to Diaz. “There is co-teaching specialized with regular teaching,” she said. “The school is for everyone.”

Observing that about half of students’ parents are monolingual or feel more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, Diaz said the school will make headset translation devises available to parents at school meetings, starting with last week’s first parent orientation meeting.

Like its sister school in downtown LA, USC East College Prep expects to serve first-generation, college-going, low-income students.

“USC Rossier built these schools with the intention of not only learning what works and what doesn’t in personalized learning, but also sharing that information widely to impact the work of teachers and administrators, and therefore the success of students,” said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of USC Rossier in a statement.

The school’s main objective is that 100 percent of students are accepted into a selective four-year university, starting with the first graduating class in the spring of 2019.


Twitter @jackieguzman


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