Secondary education: It’s back to school for neighborhood
children. But some might find their classes have changed a bit – with
more grade levels, new technology and instructional programs to help
guide them toward a better future – all courtesy USC.
With USC’s help, two neighborhood schools are expanding their
programs from kindergarten through the 12th grade, offering advanced
learning methods aimed at preparing their students for college
The new LAUSD/USC Math, Science and Technology Magnet High
School opened last week, sharing the campus of the 32nd Street/USC
Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School. The school – which enrolled
about 120 ninth and 10th graders, with 11th and 12th grades to be
added in succeeding years – is one of several new magnet high schools
in the Los Angeles Unified School District that concentrate on
integrated science and math instruction.
As part of the evolving partnership between 32nd Street School and
USC, the university has agreed to allow the magnet high school
students to use classroom space and laboratories on the University
Park Campus, located across the street from the school. USC faculty
members are helping the school provide a more demanding, advanced
science curriculum by voluntarily working with its science teachers.
Faculty will also give special lectures to the high school students on
a regular basis.
“A vision shared by USC and LAUSD administrators for the past
eight years has become reality,” said Greta Pruitt, principal of the
32nd Street schools. “The Math, Science and Technology High School
represents the last piece in the ‘educational park vision,’ which
makes it possible to matriculate from preschool to Ph.D. within a
A few blocks southwest of the University Park Campus, Foshay
Middle School is now the Foshay Learning Center, having added a small
kindergarten-through-fifth-grade elementary school and a high school
for ninth and 10th graders. Like the 32nd Street Magnet High School,
Foshay plans to add 11th and 12th grades in the next two years.
As one of the two Los Angeles Learning Centers, Foshay received a
$2.5 million grant from the New American School Development Corp. for
new services and equipment needed to develop a model for public
education in an urban, multiethnic community. The curriculum is being
restructured to reflect a new concept in education, emphasizing
advanced technology and an interdisciplinary curriculum, said Howard
Lappin, the school’s principal.
“The goal is to try some things that are different,” Lappin said. The
idea of the Learning Center is that “if we provide the proper support,
our youngsters can learn to succeed the same as any others in the
country. Then we can model this for other schools.”
Foshay students will find computers in all of their classrooms.
Teachers will have lap-top computers and new videotape recorders,
laserdisc players and other equipment with which to develop multimedia
lessons. The entire school will be networked with fiber optics and
eventually linked to the Internet via USC, Lappin said.
The expansion of both schools is exciting for USC and the surrounding
area, said Guilbert Hentschke, dean of the School of Education. It
provides new opportunities for students in the School of Education to
student-teach while improving the quality of neighborhood schools
available to the children of USC employees as well as other area
According to Pruitt, one of every nine students at her school – about
100 children – has a parent involved at USC. At Foshay Learning
Center, Lappin said, he has made special arrangements to enroll any
school-age child of a university employee.
“These two schools are key parts of President Sample’s plan
to strengthen the community,” Hentschke said, and the School of
Education can provide the bridge to them. Although only the 32nd
Street high school students are using the university campus this year,
Hentschke hopes that, eventually, students from both schools will have
access to USC facilities, such as the intramural field and libraries.
The university is committed to working as a partner with the
two schools, said Jane Pisano, vice president for external relations.
“Because we’re in the education business, we have faculty resources
and a special responsibility to help our neighborhood’s schools,” she
said. “In doing so, we know that we are helping to develop the
potential of students who can make a real contribution later in life
as USC students and leaders in their community.”
The schools also play an important symbolic role. They show
that “innovative and quality education is possible in the inner city,”
said Alvin S. Rudisill, associate vice president for civic and
USC already has numerous programs linking students, faculty and other
resources to both schools. Among those longstanding efforts is the
Joint Educational Project, which sends USC student volunteers to the
schools to work as tutors. Many students from the School of Education
have also student-taught there.
Lappin said he will expand the number of student teachers working at
Foshay. In addition to hosting students from the School of Education,
Foshay and the 32nd Street schools provide training grounds for
students in the Latino Teacher Project, a special program that helps
Latino teacher assistants enter the teaching profession.
USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative, under the direction of James
Fleming, has been a model program for Foshay and has been embraced by
the school’s teachers. Through the program, students from Foshay
attend the USC Pre-College Enrichment Academy, which grounds them in
the academic and social skills they will need to succeed in college.
Those who fulfill the requirements are guaranteed full scholarships
throughout their undergraduate education at the university. The NAI
also features outreach components such as the Family Development
Institute, which provides parenting programs.
Lappin said the NAI inspired the model for the Learning Center. The
instruction at Foshay is now considered a pre-college curriculum. In
addition, Foshay has developed a Parents Center, using USC emeriti
faculty as teachers, and expanded its tutoring programs.
Foshay also is offering social services at the school through another
USC program – the Inter-Professional Initiative, in which
interdisciplinary teams of graduate students serve as interns at
various sites. Lappin said he has freed a full-time coordinator to
work with the IPI team of students, who represent the schools of
Social Work, Education, Public Administration and Dentistry and the
departments of Nursing and Pediatric Medicine.
The programs USC offers are critical to Foshay’s success,
Lappin said. “The partnership between this school and USC has been, I
hope, beneficial for USC, and it’s certainly been beneficial for us.”
When Lappin initiated the partnership with USC six years ago,
Foshay was one of the lowest-ranking schools in test scores and
attendance. “Now, our attendance is close to 97 percent. Our drop-out
percentage was down to 4 percent. Our kids’ writing scores were above
the state average in the last test, and we’re reading close to the
“We have made some real changes, and it’s working,” Lappin said. “We
couldn’t have done it without ‘SC, and I hope we provide a way for
them to be part of our success.”
As a math, science and technology magnet, 32nd Street high school is
open to all students throughout the district interested in
concentrating in those fields. Students engage in a demanding
curriculum that requires math, science and English courses every
Last spring, Pruitt and Kim Thomas-Barrios, who is coordinating the
high school magnet, began meeting with Robert Douglas, then dean of
the math and natural sciences division of the College of Letters, Arts
and Sciences, to find classroom space at USC for 120 new high school
students. The 32nd Street school added a 10th-grade high school level.
Pruitt did not have enough classroom space for the new students,
however, because the school district’s extra bungalows were all being
used for victims of the Northridge earthquake.
The university has allowed the school to use space in the Von
KleinSmid Center, the Mark Taper Hall of Humanities, the Social
Sciences Building, Waite Phillips Hall of Education and the Science
Building, Thomas-Barrios said. Students also use the intramural field
for their physical education classes.
All of the science labs and large lecture classes are being conducted
at USC. Thomas-Barrios said no more than 60 youngsters are on campus
at any given timel. They must wear picture-identification cards around
their necks and follow the school’s dress code.
Biology professor Michael Appleman and geology professor
James Lawford Anderson, along with other faculty and staff in the
sciences, have been working with the 32nd Street administrators and
the school’s new science teacher to help improve the level of science
instruction and iron out the logistics for using USC laboratories and
“We’re trying to help the local high schools offer a more demanding
science program,” Appleman said. “Often, [high school students] get
here and are shocked. They’re not prepared for the demands of USC
science classes. We see the magnet school as a way of having a hand in
upgrading students’ education from the ground floor up.”
Anderson said the students will benefit from using the university’s
geology materials, such as fossils, mineral and rock samples and maps,
which are kept in the Science Building.
“We’re very glad to see this happen,” he said. “Who knows? The same
students might walk through our door some day as a science major – and
that’s what we want.”
[Photo:] Foshay Middle School principal Howard Lappin with
eighth-grade Neighborhood Academic Initiative scholars (from left)
Lorena Wright, Zineye Tadesse, Hector Valdez, Lesly Mendoza and Lehman
[Photo:] USC biology professor Michael Appleman with 32nd
Street schools principal Greta Pruitt. Appleman: “We’re trying to help
the local high schools offer a more demanding science program.”